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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?