Back when he was an assistant editor at Iron Chef America, Bill Hader never expected to be cast on the revolutionary Saturday Night Live. Fate intervened, however, when Will and Grace star Megan Mullally saw Bill perform with an improv troupe and immediately called Lorne Michaels, telling him he had to see Bill.
The shy funnyman didn't even consider himself good at impressions at the time, but he packed a small Los Angeles theater full of friends the night Lorne was in the audience, and that crowd of supporters blew the roof off the place.
Lorne saw through it, though, and flew him to New York to audition in front of people who weren't his close friends. Thankfully, when Hader broke into his Italian Vinny Vedecci character, he got a laugh from head writer Tina Fey and settled into for the audition, which got him his spot.
He was one of the funniest cast members in SNL history, but that didn't stop Bill from worrying constantly that he was about to be fired. So much so that Lorne pulled him aside about five years in and assured him: "You can work here for as long as you want."
BREAKING UP IS EASY TO DO
The practice of "breaking," or laughing during a sketch, has long been frowned-upon at Saturday Night Live, but sometimes Bill Hader just couldn't help it, especially while performing his famous Stefon character.
The writers would sometimes switch jokes out at the last minute so that, when Bill read the cue-cards on live TV, he was reading them for the first time. Then Head Writer Seth Meyers felt that, because it was so genuine, it was okay.
Fred Armisen would actually go out of his way to get Bill to laugh during a sketch. Bill said that, in the SNL sketch Short Term Memory Loss Theater, Fred came in with a jacket gag that was not scripted and had Bill laughing so hard it almost ended the skit.
Some other highlights form Bill's appearance:
Howard said he hardly ever laughs out loud at TV, but Bill Hader in the Puppet Class sketch had Howard tearing up.
Bill was told day-of that he had to do an impression of a politician for his SNL audition, but it couldn't be George W. Bush, so Bill's Tony Blair impression was born.
Bill says Justin Timberlake shows up for his hosting duties by himself, with no fanfare and gets down to work with everybody, while Justin Bieber had an entourage so large there was actually one guy to hold his pizza and one guy to hold his Pepsi.
Bill watches Alan Alda in the classic Woody Allen movie Crimes and Misdemeanors when he has to prepare for his Alda impression.
Bill has a severe peanut allergy that has landed him in the hospital, so he stayed away from the food in our green room.