Edited by Elaine Ramirez (elaine@groovekorea.com) COvER STORy Finding a niche It took him many years and tribulations to be this comfortable with himself, both on and off camera. His time on “Gag Concert” first shot him to fame a decade ago, but once his “World News” skit on the show ended, so too did his time in the limelight. He hit rock bottom, but managed to pick himself up and move on to TBS eFM — a valuable experience but a dead end. After quitting and then putting all of his energy into securing his next break, Hamming- ton was juggling gigs, advertisements and variety show appearances when he landed at his current challenge on MBC’s “Real Men,” a reality show fol- lowing seven male celebrities as they experience life in the military. Looking back on his varied projects, he hasn’t strived to perfect a certain character or perfor- mance. Instead, he draws from experiences of himself and others and observations of things around him to constantly improve. Diversification has been his secret weapon, allowing him to break away from a typecast. Becoming an “all-rounder” gives him more weapons and variety to forge his unique identity on camera. And Korea has been his playground to do so. He’s had to ditch the Western favorites of stand- up, scripted one-liners, racy humor and sarcasm to take on Korea’s word play — no small feat for a foreign speaker — ad-libbing, situ- ational comedy, self-depreci- ation and good old slapstick humor. While it gets mixed results from expats, slapstick is the holy grail of comedy in Korea. Many enjoy the Three Stooges’ simplicity, while others are simply dumbstruck by its obvious and apparently juvenile format. But Hammington says this type of humor is perfect for Korean network television, which is too conservative to take on the racy jokes of Aus- tralia or other Western countries. It’s these bound- aries that force the world of Korean comedy to get creative — and it’s here, in improv and ad-libbing, where Hammington thrives. “For me if it comes naturally. I enjoy it. When I feel like I have to, if it’s forced, that’s when I don’t enjoy it,” he says. “When I was starting out, I didn’t really know Korean humor and I was given a role, and I was always too scared to veer off and do my own thing because I was worried that it would ruin ‘ I t h i n k y o u n e e d t o b e s e l f - a n a l y t i c a l . I f y o u ’ r e n o t , y o u j u s t b e c o m e m e d i o c r e . . . . Y o u ’ r e a l w a y s t r y i n g t o o u t d o y o u r s e l f . ’ S a m H a m m i n g t o n