Bill Hader spends most of his days at the Sony Pictures studios in Los Angeles, and is still filled with a sense of wonder stepping onto the lot. "Basically right now I live here," he said.
The 40-year-old father of three has become sort of a prisoner of his own success, and here's why: at the moment, Hader's hard at work on HBO's "Barry," which begins its second season tonight.
The show is about a hitman who chases one of his targets to an L.A. acting class, and winds up as a student.
Henry Winkler plays the acting coach; Hader plays the title character, and is the series' co-creator. "I knew it was something I liked, which was really important," he said of the show concept. "It was something that I wanted to see."
Seems it was something a lot of people wanted to see; the show, which he also writes and directs, was one of the surprise hits of 2018. But for Bill Hader fans, it wasn't much of a surprise at all
For eight years he was a fixture on "Saturday Night Live," a true comic chameleon.
But for him, it only looked like fun. "The live aspect of the show was really hard," he said. "I mean, I was a fricking basket case when I did that show. It was always hard for me. And it's still hard. I mean, I hosted last year, and I was a wreck beforehand. I just get very, very nervous."
"Even coming back and hosting, you still have that same anxiety?" asked correspondent Tracy Smith.
"Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. And Lorne Michaels came down and was like, 'Will you just please have some fun?'"
Seems simple enough, but being on stage was never something he wanted.
Born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, young Bill dreamed of a life making movies, and didn't seem to care about anything else. "My grades were so abysmal. I think everybody in my high school thought I was on drugs. But I wasn't. I was just not interested. I just was, like, a dreamy, kind of like spazzy kid."
After school, he moved to L.A. to chase his directing dream, and wound up in an improv class. "I took improv classes just to learn how to work with actors."
"It wasn't, 'Hey, I'm gonna go into comedy now, I'm gonna be a comedian'?"
"No. Never, ever was that a goal, ever."
But the turning point came one night after class when a teacher pulled him aside: "And he just went, 'You're really good at this.' And no one had said that to me ever. He's like, 'I got nothing to say. You're great.' and that comment and that compliment just, I was, like, riding on that for a couple weeks. I remember, just going, like, 'Oh, I'm good at something!'"
Smith asked, "What did that do to you mentally? I mean, how did that comment change things for you?"
"Well, it gave me confidence. I just didn't realize I had very, very little confidence in myself."
And not long after that, lightning struck: Hader formed his own improv group with his pal Matt Offerman, brother of TV star Nick Offerman. Nick's wife, TV star Megan Mullaly, talked Hader up to one of her friends, "Saturday Night Live" creator Lorne Michaels.
Hader recalled: "I went and I met Lorne Michaels, and he went, 'Do you know why you're here?' And I was like, 'No.'"
And then there was the New York club guide, Stefon.
Part of the fun was watching Hader crack up in the middle of it. "I would start laughing. But a lot of that laughing and gigglyness and stuff is tension," he said.
Smith asked, "So was this affectation for Stefon, the covering of the mouth, was that helpful that you could kind of be anxious?"
"I think it's a thing I always kinda wanted to do, yeah, is that very anxious, you kind of always want to put your head down," he said. "It was, like, a little safe place for you, you know?"
He quit "SNL" in 2013 to do some writing and acting, like with LeBron James in "Trainwreck," and the next year, Hader and his writing partner Alec Berg came up with the idea for "Barry."
Now, it seems, all eyes are on him, because of the show's success, and his. When he won an Emmy for "Barry" last year, Hader had the look of someone who couldn't quite get his mind around what was happening to him, and in some ways, he still can't.
Smith asked, "Can you believe it?"
"No. I'm from Tulsa!" he said. "Like, if you said I was gonna be on television, it's like saying, 'Hey, you're gonna colonize Mars.' It doesn't compute!"
But even if Bill Hader's too busy to enjoy his success, he can still find something funny in it.
Smith asked, "Is it kind of all-consuming?"
"Yeah, it's all-consuming," he replied. "The amount of work and the amount of people and the amount of hours it gets in just to get something that people then come up to me and say, 'Oh, I watched that on a plane!'"
To watch a trailer for HBO's "Barry" click on the video player below:
For more info:
- "Barry" (HBO)
Story produced by John D'Amelio.