20Q: Bill Hader

By Rob Tannenbaum Photography by Gavin Bond

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Q1

PLAYBOY: When you were deciding whether or not to leave Saturday Night Live after eight seasons, what were the pros and cons you considered?

HADER: The cons were I wouldn’t be on television once a week and I wouldn’t be getting paid. And the pros were sleep. [laughs] My wife, Maggie, and I were constantly going to California for work. If she had to go to L.A. and I had an SNL week, we needed two babysitters to help with the kids. We realized we needed to move to L.A. This was in February, and I immediately told Lorne Michaels I was going to leave. When I said the words “I’m moving to L.A. and I’m going to leave the show,” the room started spinning. [laughs] I thought I was going to faint. I didn’t cry—other people have told me they cried—but I got light-headed.

Q2

PLAYBOY: You often got light-headed before SNL broadcasts. How bad did it get? Was there vomiting?

HADER: No vomiting, just panic attacks and sweating. During my first two seasons I wouldn’t sleep on Friday night. I’d be up all night. If you look at the Julian Assange sketch I did when Jeff Bridges was hosting [in December 2010], you can see I’m really nervous. I was covering my face a little, thinking, Oh, I’m having a panic attack. Really? Really? Really? Right now? Thanks, comedy gods. I was always self-conscious about the fact that I didn’t have as much comedy experience as other people at SNL, and I kept thinking they were going to realize they’d made a mistake by hiring me.

Q3

PLAYBOY: Getting hired by SNL was a bit of a fluke. You were in a comedy group with Matt Offerman, who is Nick Offerman’s brother­and Megan Mullally’s brother-in-law, and Megan saw your show.

HADER: We were called Animals From the Future, which is kind of a dumb name. Megan saw me and told Lorne, “You’ve got to see this guy.” So Lorne came to L.A. to see our show, then brought us to New York, where we did the same show for Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Seth Meyers and some other people. It was really tense. And the minute I started, Amy laughed. I’ll always be grateful for her laugh. Just by getting an audition for SNL, I got a manager. Then I got an agent. Then I got SNL. My whole career as an actor happened just by getting that meeting with Lorne.

Q4

PLAYBOY: You’re in The To Do List, a comedy written and directed by your wife, Maggie Carey. What message was she delivering by writing a scene in which you have sex with Rachel Bilson?

HADER: We laughed a lot while we were making the movie. During the sex scene I have with Rachel, Maggie said, “Um, I need you guys to fuck harder. Do you know what I mean? Rachel, you really need to ride him.” The crew guys all said, “Man, your wife must really like you.”

Q5

PLAYBOY: Your character in The To Do List is the manager of a municipal swimming pool, and he’s a bit dim and lazy. Is that your niche?

HADER: I tend to play administrative or authority figures who aren’t that smart. The director Greg Mottola always casts me as part of a duo of not very smart people: Superbad, Adventureland and Paul. And in Clear History he cast me and Michael Keaton as two really dumb criminals. Whenever Greg hires me, I’m like, “Who am I teamed up with, and how dumb am I?”

Q6

PLAYBOY: When you moderated a discussion about comedy at the Nantucket Film Festival last year, Chris Rock said, “All funny people were bullied.” Is that true for you?

HADER: I was a spaz kid in Tulsa. I had a hard time focusing in class, and I was always joking around. I remember going to elementary school and having a group of friends who suddenly didn’t want to talk to me anymore because I wasn’t cool and was kind of loud. I remember talking in third grade one day about the scene where the Terminator takes his own eye out, and this kid yells, “Shut up!” It wasn’t like people hated me, but I did have a feeling of not fitting in. I spent all my time watching movies and reading.

Q7

PLAYBOY: Was there a movie that changed your life?

HADER: There were a lot of them. My dad introduced me to Monty Python, the Marx brothers and early Woody Allen movies at a time when my friends were watching Family Ties. He’d wake me up in the middle of the night to watch movies, anything from The Wild Bunch to A Clockwork Orange. I saw Clockwork Orange when I was 10, and I understood the moral—that everybody has evil in them. You can’t see that movie and then watch a normal Hollywood film, the stuff my friends were watching. “Let’s watch The Natural!” And I’m like, “Nah, I’ve seen Clockwork Orange.”

Q8

PLAYBOY: I can see how you would have been a bit of a misfit growing up in Tulsa. How did you get out of there?

HADER: I couldn’t get into any of the top film schools, because my grades were abysmal. The closest I could get was Scottsdale Community College in Arizona. I made some close friends there. We all worked at the same movie theater in Tempe. I wore a purple cummerbund and bow tie, and I had really long hair. It was a college town, so people would get rowdy. For some reason, people were constantly having sex during He Got Game, the Spike Lee movie. Like, “Hey, there’s another couple fucking in the back row.” But we got to see movies for free, and then my friends and I all moved to L.A. together in 1999.

Q9

PLAYBOY: How did you meet your wife?

HADER: She saw me in a sketch comedy show—the same show Megan Mullally saw me in. So from one show I got SNL and a wife. We were doing a show in the shitty backyard of a smelly, shitty house in Van Nuys. I was wearing overalls and holding a mandolin when Maggie saw me. She was in the front row, laughing really loud. I found out she worked with a good friend of mine as an assistant editor. We were all assistant editors in the same area in Sherman Oaks, and we all worked at night. So I called my friend and said, “I’m coming by to say hi,” and he said, “You never come by to see me.” [laughs] When I got there I was like, “Hey, Mark, how’s it going? Where’s Maggie Carey’s office?” I was very conscious of not calling her too much—I’d call only every other day. It’s the most game I’ve ever had in my life.

Q10

PLAYBOY: Do you know about the website Let’s Buy Bill Hader Some New Clothes?

HADER: [laughs] No. That’s funny. What do they want to buy me?

Q11

PLAYBOY: It’s as simple as it sounds: They think you need some new, better clothes.

HADER: Yeah, I don’t put a lot of thought into clothes. When we went to Las Vegas for my wife’s movie, she said, “Can you please bring a blazer to put over your T-shirt and jeans?” People at SNL were always like, “You’re going on Letterman. Wear a suit.” Nah.

Q12

PLAYBOY: When you were doing impressions on SNL, did you ever hear from people you imitated?

HADER: I didn’t really do an impersonation of John Mayer, but Kristen Wiig and I did a thing about his relationship with Jessica Simpson, how they had nothing to talk about. And John came up to me and said, “Jessica and I were watching that in bed.” Oops. Sorry! I did Harvey Fierstein on the show once, and he sent me flowers. Really nice flowers.

Q13

PLAYBOY: In the movie The Skeleton Twins, you play Kristen Wiig’s troubled twin brother, Milo. Does the role take you out of your stupid-guy-in-middle-management niche?

HADER: The movie reminds me a bit of You Can Count on Me, but the characters are more depressed and wrecked. Milo has real emotional problems. It is a totally different style of acting. I was doing SNL at the same time, so during the day I’d do an intense dramatic scene, and at night I’d go to SNL and rehearse a sketch with Martin Short where I’m Kate Middleton’s gynecologist. Skeleton Twins actually has some very funny moments, but it’s a different type of thing, which I wasn’t used to. It’s different when the director says “Cut” and no one laughs. Instead, people are like, “Fuuuuuck. That was a bummer.” [laughs]

Q14

PLAYBOY: Milo’s gay. How did you approach playing another gay character? Did you model him on anyone?

HADER: Craig Johnson, the film’s director and co-writer, is gay, and I said, “I don’t want to do any limp-wrist acting.” I also said to him, “Be on Stefon watch.” I didn’t want anybody to draw a connection between Milo and my Stefon character. I don’t know if I modeled him on anyone. I really liked Raul Julia’s work in Kiss of the Spider Woman. But he’s not really gay in that movie, just prison gay.

Q15

PLAYBOY: You don’t really have the sensibility of a 35-year-old, do you? It’s much more like a 65-year-old’s.

HADER: My point of reference has something very old-fashioned about it. Amy Poehler was shocked that I’d never seen American Idol. On SNL I had to play Ryan Seacrest in a sketch, and I asked for some tape of his TV appearances. Amy Poehler was like, “Fuck you! You watch American Idol,” and I was like, “No, I don’t!”

Q16

PLAYBOY: What are you watching when American Idol is on?

HADER: I’m watching Johnny O’Clock, starring Dick Powell, on TCM.

Q17

PLAYBOY: The To Do List is about a studious girl who decides to lose her virginity before she starts college. Was losing your virginity as exciting as that?

HADER: It was like Tori Spelling and Brian Austin Green in Beverly Hills 90210. We planned it, we were in love, there were candles. It was a teenage romantic thing, with a girl I was dating in high school. I was 18.

Q18

PLAYBOY: You’re a creative consultant on South Park. In the documentary 6 Days to Air: The Making of South Park, you spend most of your time checking your cell phone and eating. What’s your actual contribution to the show?

HADER: Checking my phone and eating. Yeah, everyone said to me, “I saw you in the South Park documentary, and you really don’t do much.” Even I thought that when I saw the movie.

Q19

PLAYBOY: It was nice to see Stefon marry Seth Meyers in your last episode on Saturday Night Live. You make a very attractive confused gay club kid.

HADER: Thank you. People have said that, and I take it as a compliment. I was in the Strand bookstore once, and a guy came up to me and said, “I would totally fuck Stefon. Seriously, I want that guy so much.” I was like, “Thank you very much. I’m here with my wife.” He said, “I get it,” and walked away.

Q20

PLAYBOY: Did you take any Stefon souvenirs from SNL, like one of his Ed Hardy shirts?

HADER: When we finished the last scene, I took off the wig and the hat and the shirt. I turned around, and they were gone—they’d been whisked away. I thought, Well, that’s that. No time to get sentimental, Bill. Go get ready for the cop sketch.


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