▲ Hammington answers to GT reporter’s questions. Photographed by Lee Yun Mi.
“With a red hat on my head I am a clown, always smiling. Behind that laughter, there are tears that no one knows of.” This is part of the lyrics from a famous song named “Pierrot Smiles at Us.” Sam Hamington is one of the Korean’s most loved comedian, for he entertains viewers with his witty remarks. If you think that is what defines him, however, you are completely mistaken. Hamington is an attentive learner and a father, one critical about social issues.
GT: You developed an interest in the Korean language while you attended university in Australia. Then in 1988, you visited Korea to attend Korea University (KU) as an exchange student. Was there a special reason behind your choice of schools?
Hammington: There were three choices available for me: Yonsei University (YU), KU and Pusan National University (PNU). I talked to the professors and they told me not to go to PNU since a high level of Korean is necessary to understand the dialect used in Pusan. Therefore, I was left with two schools, and I believed that KU was the better option for me because it provided a better educational environment. There were a variety of international students at KU while most exchange students at YU were English. Moreover, YU is located in Sincheon and has Hongdae nearby. Because there are too many distractions at YU, I would not have studied much there.
GT: Do you have any episodes to share with us while you were attending KU as an exchange student?
Hammington: In Australia, it is rare to find dormitories in universities. Hence, living in a school dormitory was a whole new experience for me. I had a lot of fun, often times drinking alcohol with my friends. Back then, dormitories were coed and there was no curfew, so every night was like a party. The only problem with this was that I could not go to classes the next day. Naturally, my grades were so poor that I almost got kicked out from my university in Australia.
GT: You could have chosen other professions in Korea such as an English teacher. Why did you decide to become a comedian? Had it always been your dream job?
Hammington: No, I did not wish to become a comedian, but I had an opportunity. In Australia, I appeared on television programs at an early age as a child actor. I was influenced by my mother, who has been working in broadcasting for a long time. Naturally, I was used to such an environment. Later, I was offered to work in an office, but I did not enjoy sitting behind a desk. I realized then that the entertainment industry was the right environment for me, so when I had the opportunity to work in the broadcasting field again, I did not let the opportunity slip by.
▲ Hammington and his wife at wedding held in Australia. Provided by ifamily.co.kr
GT: You already took part in two television programs this year. Why do you think Korean viewers continuously want to see you on television?
Hammington: I think it is mainly because of my honesty. Traditionally, on Korean television shows, everything was so nice. People said positive things to each other and they were all happy. But I do not intentionally say things that viewers want to hear. Whenever I am on a reality show, I show anger if I am angry and cry if I am sad. I do not have a single friend who is always happy. By speaking what is on my mind and acting as I wish, I show viewers that I am vulnerable.
GT: Recently on the “Infinite Challenge” program, you confessed that you fell into a slump. What was giving you a hard time?
Hammington: The biggest change in my life at the moment is that I have become a father. Having a family from two people to three people is a huge change. There is so much to think about such as economic issues and my child’s education. I was freaked out because everything was all so new to me. In retrospect, I just needed someone to talk to, but I did not ask for any help. When things became worse, I then talked with my wife and friends who alleviated all the pressure within me. Communicating with people is important, but we do not do that as much as we used to. Through this experience, I learned to communicate.
GT: Although you are physically and mentally exhausted from your job and private life, you attend KU Korean classes regularly. Why are you studying Korean so passionately when you have no problem in speaking Korean with others?
Hammington: There are times when I feel like I have reached a plateau in my Korean. I want to take my Korean skill to the next level. Living here in Korea, I understand a great amount of information. However, to get to the next level, where I can talk about current issues in Korea with my family and friends, requires an even higher Korean capability. If I decide not to make any improvements, but be satisfied with my current Korean skill, I will be stuck in a bubble. I live by the philosophy of “You study till you die.” You should continuously make an effort to become a better person. Otherwise, what is the point of life? We can never be perfect, but we can always be better.
▲ Hammington won the MBC Entertainment award for Best Male Newcomer for Real Men. Provided by imbc.com
GT: Is it not hard for you to withstand the strains of public life?
Hammington: I am actually very serious by nature. I like to sit down and talk about social issues and run a business. There are too many other things to consider other than joking all the time. But I entertain people on television because being a comedian is my job. I have to deal with it even if it is hard.
GT: Lastly, is there anything you would like to say to KU students?
Hammington: Just generally, I want to point out the direction society is heading towards. Many people are pessimistic about things that are going on today. Your life will get worse if you dwell on negative thoughts. It is time to get a new pair of glasses and appreciate small things in life. Everyone wants to work at Samsung and LG, yet there are more important things in life than getting a great job and earning a great wage. If you think positively, good things will occur eventually. Enjoy life as a student because once you graduate, life will get even harder (chuckles).