Millions fantasize about becoming an SNL cast member, but only a handful get to live their dream. Some of the biggest names in comedy have come out of the SNL cast since its beginning in 1975. Although we’ve said farewell to two of the big names of the SNL cast this year, Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg, megastar Bill Hader will be coming back for another season, which means more spot-on impressions, more recurring characters and a lot more hot-spot highlights courtesy of Stefon.
Before heading to the Great White North to host a Just for Laughs gala, we called him at his home to talk about what it’s like to be one of the nicest guys in showbiz.
Playboy.com: So you’ll be heading down to Montreal for the Just for Laughs comedy festival. Were you ever part of the stand-up scene?
Hader: I wasn’t brave enough to do stand-up; I needed people up there with me. I was part of a little scene in L.A.; there were a couple of shows in L.A. in 2003-2004 run by Scott Aukerman, who now does Comedy Bang! Bang! on IFC, he and his wife Kulap. So Scott had a show called Comedy Death-Ray which was kind of the holy grail of comedy shows.
Playboy.com: I didn’t realize you were part of that!
Hader: If you lived in L.A. and you were in comedy, you wanted to get on Comedy Death-Ray. That’s where Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis and all of those cool people did their shows. Kulap had this interesting cabaret-like show called Garage Comedy, which was like a step system. I would finally get on Garage Comedy and do something with my sketch group or go up there and do Vinny Vedecci, and then Scott would come up and say, “Hey, that was funny, do you want to do my show?” and you would go “OH MY GOD!!”
Playboy.com: Now that you’re on SNL, is it strange being synonymous with characters that everyone expects you to do? How do you deal with Bart Simpson “I Didn’t Do It” syndrome?
Hader: I think for certain people it gets old after a while, but to me it’s just crazy that people like me! I am a fan as much as anybody else, you know what I mean? I went to Game Two of the Oklahoma City Thunder game with my dad and they put me up on the JumboTron; that feeling was insane. I turned to my dad and said, “Did you imagine when I was growing up watching the finals, they would one day come to me?” It was insane. So to me it’s just cool. I’m very appreciative of it.
Playboy.com: You seem to be in almost everything lately. Where do you find the time between being a dad, husband, SNL castmate and A-list celebrity to do videos online with friends?
Hader: I have a really good manager and a really good agent. [laughs] I’m very lucky that I have a wife that also does this. She just directed the movie The To Do List; I’m straight-up lazy compared to her. She works all the time on her movie; she essentially willed it into being. It’s so funny; I’ve done a couple of interviews today and they say, “GOSH you do so much stuff, where do you find the time!” and I’m like, “I do? I feel like such a lazy bastard!” [laughs] But it can get exhausting, especially traveling. Like you say, I have a family and all of that, so you got to pace yourself a little more.
When I first started the show, my wife and I got married and then I was just like, “BYE!” She was working on a project in L.A. and I was in Vancouver shooting Hot Rod, then immediately back to SNL and then I was doing Superbad and SNL concurrently and then the minute after SNL was done I did Forgetting Sarah Marshall and then the minute that was done I did Adventureland and then when that was done I did Tropic Thunder…So there were a couple of years that I was getting socked. Once I had a kid I had to chill out. A couple of summers ago I called everyone and said, “Nope, I’m not doing anything this summer!”
Playboy.com: Through the short videos I see online, it seems like you work with so many different groups of people in the comedy community through Above Average Network. I see some people from Human Giant and then the guys from Wet Hot American Summer…What is the comedy scene like right now?
Hader: I think it’s very healthy! I think what Louis C.K. is doing right now is groundbreaking. It’s the first thing that I’ve seen in my time that could be close to how people talk about Lenny Bruce or Richard Pryor. It’s just truly groundbreaking stuff, not just his comedy, the business end of it as well. I love Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, South Park I love, not because I won an Emmy for it, but because I think those guys are geniuses. There are all of these great shows out there. My wife and I love to watch Girls too; Lena Dunham is great. And network comedy: Community, Parks and Rec, 30 Rock…
Playboy.com: It’s a pretty solid lineup right now on NBC.
Hader: Yeah, there are cool people involved with a lot right now. Ten years ago all of the underground people worked their way into more of the established things but were still able to fuse it with where they came from. I love that David Wain is now directing big studio movies. When Wet Hot American Summer came out in 2001, I must have seen that movie 10 times in theatres. It’s so neat to see that so many of the people involved in that movie are now huge. It’s a very seminal movie. It’s like the American Graffiti of our generation. You can kind of track it all back to it.
Playboy.com: Is there a reason why you haven’t hopped on the social media bandwagon?
Hader: Believe it or not, I’m a very private person. [laughs] It’s not so much a private thing, it’s just I don’t know what I’d say, I don’t know what to do. Maybe if I wasn’t on television and maybe if I was doing the same thing I was doing in 2004 when I was an assistant editor at night, so during the day I could write comedy with friends and then on the weekends break away from my job to go do little sets here and there with my comedy group, maybe I would go on Twitter to use it as an advertising thing. But I am not the kind of person to use it. When I sit down to do a mass e-mail that just says “Merry Christmas” I pore over it for hours: “Is that funny? Is that a funny joke? Hey, do you get that joke?” I can’t be a person that fires off tweets; I’m just not built that way.
Playboy.com: You’ve worked with a lot of big names in comedy on Saturday Night Live. Has there been anyone in particular that was just incredible?
Hader: Jon Hamm is a lot of fun, he gets it, and when Will Ferrell came it was just fun at the table read to watch. Steve Martin, obviously. But I have to tell you about this. It isn’t really about working with anybody, but I had a really cool moment. My mom came to the show; she’s from Oklahoma and coming was crazy for her in itself. Then Martin Short came up and gave me this really nice compliment. He said, “You’re really good on the show!” Which kind of blew my mind and my mom couldn’t believe it.
The other thing was when we did a Laser Cats bit with Steven Spielberg. Growing up, Steven Spielberg was my hero. I wanted to be a filmmaker and he was a huge inspiration in my life so getting to meet him and getting to be in a scene with him was…Usually those are the kind of things that you try to play it cool, but I was like, “Screw this, I’m going to be a full-on dork. This is the only time I’m ever going to get to hang with him.” And Andy Samberg was like, “Bill, I’m not going to say a word. I’m just going to set you up so you can do your thing.” I was flipping out. So [in between takes] Spielberg and Andy let me ask him every question possible. He was the nicest guy but I’m sure he was like, “I gotta get out of here, this guy is hounding me!”
In all honesty, it’s not so much working with the big names that’s crazy, but it’s what happens on the show. I got to play the bass in a sketch where Fred Armisen and Dave Grohl were in a band called Crisis of Conformity. So I got to play the bass, which I can’t do at all, and have my moment and Dave Grohl was on drums. So that was [one of] the coolest things I’ve ever got to do in my life.