Chris Kattan knows he looked pretty stiff on the season premiere of Dancing with the Stars, but his performance is actually astounding considering he spent the last 20 years recovering from breaking his neck.
“I broke my neck and I had four surgeries regarding that the last 20 years basically. One in my back, one through the throat … I had to be careful for a really long time,” the former Saturday Night Live star, 46, told reporters after Monday’s episode of the ABC reality dance competition.
The actor revealed the injury was the result of “a stunt thing” but he declined to share any more details. “I can’t get into it,” he explained.
Kattan did open up about what it was like having to spend much of the past two decades in recovery.
“When you have surgery, you’re out of commission for months. It’s embarrassing. You cant go out in public,” said the comedian, who made headlines in recent years for erratic behavior that he has at least partially blamed on painkillers he was prescribed after surgery.
Now the star is embracing his moment on DWTS — and admits this season was not the first time that he was approached to be a part of the show.
“They asked me twice,” said Kattan. “At that time I wasn’t ready for it yet, physically. I had to be at the right level of health and spirit and all that.”
“[Now] it’s perfect timing,” he told PEOPLE. “I wouldn’t have been able to do this 5 or 10 years ago.”
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Still, Kattan knows his injury limits him.
“One of the judges said, ‘Try not to be so stiff.’ But it’s hard for me to not be stiff,” he told reporters of receiving a 17 out of 40 on Monday’s show after he and pro dancer Witney Carson danced to “What is Love” by Haddaway, the song he and Will Ferrell made infamous as part of their SNL sketch–turned–big-screen film, A Night at the Roxbury.
“It’s definitely concerning because breaking your neck is a serious injury,” Carson told PEOPLE. “I’m a little scared, but I want to push him so the judges see that he is a contender. It’s a hard balance. The first two weeks [of rehearsal] have been a lot of test and trial to see what he’s capable of. But he’s fearless.”
Adds Kattan: “It’s the perfect way to jump on the horse.”
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.
How Former SNL Star Chris Kattan Broke His Neck: The DWTS Contestant’s ‘Embarrassing’ 20-Year Health Battle – PEOPLE.com