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SNL Vet Bill Hader Reveals The Important Lesson It Took Him (And Others) Years To Learn About Pleasing Viewers

Bill Hader on SNL.
(Image credit: NBC)

Saturday Night Live vet Bill Hader has been riding high off the success of HBO’s Barry. He received back-to-back Best Actor Emmys for playing the anxiety-filled hitman Barry Berkman, and despite the vast differences between the two shows, his days on SNL informed his HBO work. Early in his career, Hader lived for viewers’ and critics’ reactions after every episode. Doing so led to the SNL vet and others learning an important lesson about pleasing viewers.

Working on the late-night sketch show helped the Barry actor to navigate the high praise and Emmy love that he has received over the last few years. He admitted to THR that receiving awards is a huge honor but not the motivating force behind crafting the HBO dark comedy, which is a perspective the he gained during his first two seasons on SNL. Hader recalled how reading weekly reviews and reactions changed him:

As far as awards in general, it’s never where my head’s at when you’re making stuff. It’s the same thing as reviews or anything else. You just have to be in it with the characters and where your instincts think it should go. I don’t ever want to get knocked off track. My first couple seasons at Saturday Night Live, we would all run out, and the minute the show ended, we’d get on the phone and start reading what people thought of it. And then you’re starting to write stuff for what you think people will like on the internet, and then they don’t like it. (Laughs.) And then you got to go back to what you just genuinely want to do, and that’s what they respect or don’t respect. But you felt better, at least. You’re like, ‘What do I like?’ It was an interesting lesson.

With as polarizing as the late-night sketch show can be (particularly when lampooning real-life people and events), Bill Hader learned that ignoring the naysayers and just creating what you love was the best strategy he and his cohorts could adopt. Luckily, Hader learned this early in his career. 

That doesn’t mean that the comedian’s time wasn’t regret-free like certain of his Stefan “Weekend Update” moments or an unaired Justin Bieber sketch. Of course, the Documentary Now! star left a major impression as one of the show's best performers, even after fellow SNL alum Kate McKinnon surpassed his sketch record. (Both are well behind longtime SNL star Kenan Thompson when it comes to sketch total, however!)

If you watch Barry, you can tell that the comedy is just about exploring every avenue when it comes to telling the hitman-turned-aspiring actor’s story. In this era of his career, it appears that Hader takes critiques with a grain of salt. The SNL alum admitted that he and the show’s writers just laugh at the negative responses. Thankfully, Season 3 of Barry was well-received with talks of Hader scoring another Emmy nom.

If you want to watch every season of Barry, you can find the HBO black comedy by subscribing to HBO Max. With Season 3 in the can, you can see what new and returning shows are premiering this summer.

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