The Ballad of SNL’s Bill Hader

On 10/1/05, Saturday Night Live launched its newest season. The first sketch following the opening monologue centered on Jet Blue Flight #292, and their difficult landing after the gear failed. A new cast member named Bill Hader made his debut on that sketch as a psychiatrist. His joke was the biggest laugh of the skit.

That was immediately followed by “Anderson Cooper 360”, which poked fun at celebrities pitching in to help rebuild New Orleans. Hader unleashed a spot-on impression of Al Pacino (“If you’ll excuse me…there’s a shitzu stuck in a Spanish oak.”) Immediately, people watching the show went “Who’s that guy?” Hader seemed like the freshest face to blow through SNL’s stages in years.
During Weekend Update, Hader appeared with another first timer, Andy Samberg. They had an “impression off” which was the joke because, while Hader did terrific copies of Peter Falk and James Mason, Samberg simply named a celebrity and said “Wazzup!!” Hader may have shown signs of being too obscure for SNL’s audience, but Samberg came off like a frat boy late to the Sandler-era of the show.
Hader struggled to build off his launch. The following week, his primary appearance was in the commercial for Taco Town. He played Vincent Price a few weeks later. The sketch didn’t do well, but the character has returned since. He was making more of an impression than Samberg. But on Dec. 17th…everything changed.
The SNL Digital Short “Lazy Sunday” hit like an atomic bomb, and by Monday morning the catchy ode to watching THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA was the talk of the web, workplace and washroom. It immediately became one of the most watched segments in the show’s history and creator/star Andy Samberg was heralded as nothing less than the savior of Saturday Night Live.
Samberg cemented his reputation in March with another Digital Short, “The Real Natalie Portman”. These shorts have brought sweeping changes to the show. There’s usually at least one per episode now and they’re sought out even more than the reliable Weekend Update segment. Digital Shorts have even brought newfound recognition to old regulars Chris Parnell and Fred Armisen.
Meanwhile, things have turned pretty bleak for Bill Hader. His appearances have failed to connect with fans, and he seems to be struggling to fit in, often playing the straight man in fairly bland sketches (like the Natalie Portman/Jamba Juice skit). His closest success was when he ripped off Dan Aykroyd's huckster character to play a unicorn salesman.
Things hit bottom when he teamed with Samberg on the digital short “Laser Cats”. Funny in theory, but terrible in execution, Hader was trying to be a comedy partner for Samberg. (They shared on-screen credit for everything.) The fit was awkward, and the sketch even worse. I like that Bill’s getting screen time, but if it’s in crap like “Laser Cats”, he’ll soon be out of a job.
I want to know where the hell is Pacino? Why hasn’t he come back? And this leads to my advice for Hader. How about doing what Phil Hartman did. Fill in the gaps. Use your voice talents and play up your deadpan eccentricity. Stop trying to find your recurring character (except Pacino) and steal everything that isn’t nailed down. Darrell Hammond has been trying to fill this slot for years, and while he’s a good mimic, he’s rarely funny. Don’t get run over by the Samberg express. You’ve got the talent. Use it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn right. Pacino is gold, and there's more to be found in that vein. Do your own thing, Hader. Lazy Sunday was a fad. It'll pass. True quality will not.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Angela said...

Bill Hader is THE REASON i watch Saturday Night Live. i loved Pacino checking his bank balance... "I don't know my account number. I'm gonna saaay... it's got a 4 in it."

4:31 PM  
Anonymous Angeal said...

By the way, while I do think that Bill deserves way more recognition (and is definitely NOT getting enough airtime, especially this season), I must say that I loved Laser Cats. You mustn't diss Laser Cats, you simply mustn't!

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wizzy wizzy wassup! It's Halfpop from AZ! I lost that list you wrote me of all the influencial movies.

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this man, he's hilarious

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think that Bill has to worry about getting run over by Samberg express. He has so much talent! Just like with everything in Show Bizz its who you know and if Andy didn't know the other two lonely island boys he wouldn't be in the digital shorts at all. I don't know how old you are but if you didnt think that the Vincent Price Sketches were brillant, you need to watch more Vincent Price. There are many viewers that loved it. The first one was gold. Kristin Wigg was amazing in it as well.

5:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill I enjoy your inter-personification in Vinny Vedecci Character. the language (yours) sounds more like Spanish than
Italian (at least to the Italians. Your body language is a pretty booty too!

L'editore della rivista della Televisione.
si si certo che si....phenomenal SNL with you on the stage.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Gil said...

Bill Hader is the only reason I too watch SNL. Pacino character rules. Bill, do more impressions and you will rule SNL.

Love your stuff.

The Italian talk show host just blew away. Great character. Thanks for making me watch SNL again.

7:06 AM  
Anonymous Hiram said...

Hey, I'm a huge fan of Bill Hader and I do a website on him.

6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bill hader is clearly the best thing that has happened to snl since will farrell. bill hader is the only reason i started watching again. andy whats-his-face is cute, but not nearly as talented or funny.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This guy is good, probably too good for a show like SNL. He'll make his mark in movies (like he's been doing) and the show will kick itself in the teeth for failing to see the potential.

...and the Pacino impression, while probably the best one I've heard, is still hack (does the world need any more Pacino impressions?). Broad comedy isn't what this guy does best. I'm done.

12:29 PM  
Anonymous me-ow! said...

and he's hot. i would mess his junk up!

3:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

not that i hate andy samberg or anything, but i think BILL HADER is WAY more funny!!!

i think it's a shame that people dont realize how talented and smart he is.

not to mention he is freakin HOT
i could MARRY him!! <3

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you're Bill Hader's Travis Bickle ... :)


1:54 PM  

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