Profile of 'Saturday Night Live' Star Bill Hader

Bill Hader, left, with Seth Rogen in "Superbad." Hader voices the lead character in the animated film "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs."
Bill Hader, left, with Seth Rogen in "Superbad." Hader voices the lead character in the animated film "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs." (By Melissa Moseley)
By Michael Cavna
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 20, 2009

Welcome, comedy fans, to the Bill Hader School of Business. Before we launch full-on into our subject, let us go over a few core corporate principles -- the very tenets that have made the esteemed "Saturday Night Live" veteran the King Midas of recent comedy gold. To wit:

1. It is not necessarily required that you actually read the script before signing on for a major Hollywood film. (Hey, kids, let the cover sheet be your guide!)

2. If you can find work on a major Hollywood franchise that will take less time than your average lunch break, seize it. (Time is money, babe, and you've got scripts to not read.)

3. Under any circumstances, do not actively pursue your most nerdish dreams and -- voila! -- soon they will be fulfilled with all the unnatural speed of foodstuff plummeting from the sky.

As "Saturday Night Live" embarks on its 35th season, Hader is speaking from New York, where he's back on set, working on the show's "Weekend Update Thursday" (the season's first Saturday episode airs Sept. 26). As he enjoys the "back-to-school feeling" (his words) about returning to "SNL," he's also poised to have the No. 1 comedy in America, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," which opened Friday.

If the animated "Meatballs" lands atop the box office, Hader would hit the trifecta: In recent months, he's also been in the weekend-topping sequel "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" (as the hapless mustache that is General Custer) and "Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs."

Which raises the question: At what point does your career sustain such a hot streak that "life is good" simply becomes "life is life"? Not that Hader, a 31-year-old Oklahoma native, could be any more unassuming about his recent run of success.

Hader voices the lead character in "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" -- a role he landed because, he says, his sound was "nerdy enough." The actor lends his pipes to Flint Lockwood, an eccentric inventor who makes meals rain down like, well, manicotti from heaven.

In "Ice Age," Hader says, the film's producers urged him: " 'Hey, why don't you come in and play a gazelle?' I was there for maybe 30 minutes, did a gazelle and then left."

Then several months ago, he continues: "I get an e-mail from my agent, who said, 'You're in the number-one movie in America. Congratulations!' "

Such is Hader's seeming business plan: He's a workaholic who sometimes finds that the less he strives, the more success comes his way.

Hader honed his skills with the L.A.-based comedy troupe Animals From the Future before "Will & Grace's" Megan Mullally sang his praises to "Saturday Night Live" some five seasons ago. All arched eyebrows, askew smile and furtive eyes, Hader impressed producers and soon audiences with such comically brooding impressions as Al Pacino and Vincent Price. Since then, mainstays among his repertoire have become fallen politician Eliot Spitzer and Vinny Vedecci, the fast-patter Italian TV host of Hader's creation.

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