Comedian Troy Hammond cashes in laughs to save home

Erica Thompson

Local comedian Troy Hammond has approximately 30 years of experience. He has performed in over 30 states, appeared inRolling Stone and worked as a voice-over artist. He also happens to be blind.

"You can't really overcome adversity," Hammond said. "You can adapt and make it through, but the only way to overcome blindness would be if I were to be able to see."

Hammond has spent his life making adjustments during challenging situations. When told his presence in a college video production class was unfair to the "normal" students, he switched his major from telecommunications to public relations. When asked to cover his eyes at comedy shows, he began wearing "funky and interesting" sunglasses, like a 3-D-inspired pair featuring one blue-green lens and one red lens.

And now, facing the potential loss of his Westerville house where has spent the last 20 years, he will host a benefit concert on Thursday, July 28, at Villa Milano, to help raise money to bid on the property at the upcoming short sale.

The house was titled in the name of Hammond's wife, Patti, and ended up in jeopardy following her death in 2012. Although she had an accidental death policy to pay off the mortgage, the bank sold the house note as delinquent. And because Hammond and Patti's common-law marriage is not recognized in Ohio, ownership of the house - and the insurance funds - were transferred to Patti's late mother's estate.

"The court wouldn't allow the funds to be used to pay off the note but allowed a court-appointed administrator to make payments to keep the house from going into foreclosure," Hammond said. "So I am like the old 1940s Mickey Rooney movies with Judy Garland. 'Hey kids, let's put on a show. We can save pop's farm and he won't have to move.'"

Hammond hopes to raise a portion of his $20,000 goal with the benefit concert, which will feature music by Bryce Hitchcock and Dan Orr, and standup by several comics, including Hammond and Stephanie Hodge, from '90s sitcom "Unhappily Ever After."

"And she is bringing Mr. Floppy," Hammond said, referring to the TV show's talking toy rabbit.

"With comics … you don't get insurance, you don't get retirement, you don't get a regular paycheck," said Charlie Wiener, another comedian participating in the show. "If somebody needs help in any way, we will always be there for them."

Hammond incorporates his experiences as a blind person in his material but refuses to be self-deprecating.

"I talk about some of the different accommodations like how all the ATMs have braille buttons, which is a convenient feature for the drive-thru, don't you think?" he said. "I used to joke about those signs on High Street that say 'blind cross here,' hanging 20 [or] 30 feet above traffic, right where we're gonna know about them."

But he doesn't limit his subject matter to blind jokes because "there's so much more to life," he said.

And though there are club owners who don't want to book him, most audiences are welcoming. "They get over the idea that I can't see and they realize I'm just some guy [and] I have funny things to say," he said.

Through all of life's trials, Hammond has remained optimistic and dedicated to putting forth the most effort possible.

Born with cataracts and glaucoma, the New Lexington, Ohio, native went completely blind at 14. "If nothing else, I had to try a little harder, which made me a little more extroverted," he said. His outgoing personality came in handy when he took a comedy writing course from acclaimed writer and Ohio University professor Melvin Helitzer, and became one of his prized students.

From there, he started doing standup around Columbus before getting regular gigs nationally in the '90s. "Two out of five weeks, I would be in Michigan or the Dakotas or Mississippi," he said.

For much of that time, Patti was by his side. "We were 'team blind guy,' she used to joke," Hammond said. And his house is full of memories with her: watching DVDs in the living room, making venison stew in the kitchen and exchanging rings. And it was Patti's wish that Hammond remain in the house if something ever happened to her.

"She wanted to make sure that I was safe and not living in a cracker box like she met me in," he said.

In addition to the benefit show, Hammond may use Patti's IRA to save the house.

"I'm far from out of the woods, but the light is coming through the trees," he said. "We can hear the river."

Troy Hammond

Age: A youthful 54

Day Job: Comedian

Hometown: New Lexington, Ohio

Current Neighborhood: Westerville

Currently listening to: CD102.5 and Bryce Hitchcock

Favorite Restaurant in Columbus: The Blue Danube and Rambling House

Favorite Movie: "Young Frankenstein"

Favorite TV Show: "Doctor Who," "Red Dwarf" and "Family Guy"

What's your favorite part of the Ohio State Fair? "Usually the fries with vinegar, and then the worst ride to go on after that snack."

"Keep Troy Hammond Off the Streets"

Villa Milano

7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 28

1630 Schrock Rd., North Side

troyhammond.com