We know Bill Hader as one of the funniest and most successful cast members in the history of Saturday Night Live. Once upon a time, however, he was just the new guy on the long-running sketch comedy show. No one including Bill Hader was quite sure whether or not he’d even make it on the show, except apparently, Dan Aykroyd who predicted the young comedian’s entire future.
The weird prophecy happened after just the third episode Bill Hader was on all the way back in 2005. Apparently noticing his potential, Dan Aykroyd, who was in town and watched the show, took the cast member aside and proceeded to map out how his entire career on Saturday Night Live would go.
Here’s how Hader told it to FastCoCreate…
“(Aykroyd) said, ‘Here's what's going to happen: your first couple years, you're going to be on unsteady ground, you're going to think you're gonna be fired at any moment, and the audience will not know you. It’s your job to get the audience to know you and like you. Then the audience will know you, you'll go out to your mark and get a little applause break because they know you, then you can start doing weird things and they'll go with you. You'll do that for a couple years and get to a place where you're just clocking in. You'll get to a place where you come in, do your impression, do your character, play a game show host, do whatever's needed of you, do it really well--you're a pro at it--and then you clock out and go home.’ He said, ‘Once you know you're just clocking in, though, it's time to leave.’ And that's exactly how it went.”
For those of you who don’t follow Saturday Night Live that closely, that is Bill Hader’s career trajectory exactly. He spent his first few years kicking his tires, playing in the background and desperately trying to make his mark. As other people left and he got more comfortable, the writers started looking to him for more. Eventually, he became a star on the show and started giving the world weirdo characters like Stefon. Pretty soon, he was in damn near every sketch each week, playing things like game show hosts, before he finally decided to bail.
Because of the incredible fame fellow early cast members like Bill Murray, John Belushi and Chevy Chase received, Dan Aykroyd is often overlooked, at least when it comes to conversations about the all-time greats. That’s a shame too because in many ways he was actually more valuable. Unlike the other three, he was just as brilliant in supporting roles as he was in carrying individual sketches. If a writer needed him to play a straight man whose sole job was to make everyone else look good, he would do that. If the sketch was designed around him, he could do that too. He was selfless in that way, and the entire history of the show doesn’t boast many people like that. It’s not surprising he could peg Hader, however, since, along with Phil Hartman, they’re probably the three best ever at the balancing act.