Why Bill Hader Really Quit Saturday Night Live

Bill Hader moved to Hollywood with the dream of making movies. Not just to star in comedy movies, but to actually direct movies that could live up to the precedents set by his favorite “serious” directors, like Terrence Malick and David Lynch. His journey to Los Angeles began in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he had a “comfortable, quiet childhood,” and cut through Scottsdale, Arizona, where he attended community college and made fans that later moved with him, per Grantland.

His move to L.A. did eventually land him in the movie biz, but possibly not on quite the path he had expected. After performing as part of a comedy troupe, he was hired to join the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in 2005. He remained a cast member on the show for eight years — years he found challenging for various reasons. These reasons all contributed to his decision to exit the show in 2013.

Since then, Hader has seen success in movies and television, in works of both the comedic and more “serious” variety. His filmography includes Amy Schumer’s 2015 movie “Trainwreck,” several animated movies, including “Inside Out,” and “It Chapter Two.” Perhaps most notably, he’s the co-creator, writer, executive producer, and star of the acclaimed HBO dramedy “Barry.”

While “SNL” was a challenge for Hader, it seems to have been a major stepping stone toward his Hollywood dreams, and proof that quitting your job may ultimately pay off.

Bill Hader moved to California to make things easier for his family

While Bill Hader was a cast member on “Saturday Night Live,” he and his now ex-wife, Maggie Carey, lived a bicoastal lifestyle. However, the constant traveling wreaked havoc on his home life, as he had two young children at the time.

“My wife, Maggie, and I were constantly going to California for work,” he said in a 2015 interview for Playboy. “If she had to go to LA and I had an ‘SNL’ week, we needed two babysitters to help with the kids. We realized we needed to move to LA. This was in February, and I immediately told Lorne Michaels I was going to leave. When I said the words ‘I’m moving to LA and I’m going to leave the show,’ the room started spinning. I thought I was going to faint. I didn’t cry – other people have told me they cried – but I got light headed.”

During a 2015 interview for LeBron James’ HBO show “The Shop: Uninterrupted,” Hader recalled Michaels’ response to his announcement. “I remember I told Lorne, uh, Michaels … ‘I’m gonna leave the show.’ And he never agrees with it, and he goes, ‘Wear it for a while. See if it fits you.’ And I’m like, ‘It f**king fits! I’m wearin’ it right now! It fits, I want to go.”

Bill Hader had anxiety and panic attacks while starring on 'SNL'

Bill Hader had a love-hate relationship with “Saturday Night Live.” “I love the people there, but doing that show was really hard for me,” he said during a 2018 interview on “Good Morning America.” “It was this funny thing of being trapped by this thing that was hurting you.”

In an interview for Playboy, Hader also recalled having “panic attacks and sweating” during his time on the sketch show. “During my first two seasons I wouldn’t sleep on Friday night,” he said. “I’d be up all night … Thanks, comedy gods. I was always self-conscious about the fact that I didn’t have as much comedy experience as other people at ‘SNL,’ and I kept thinking they were going to realize they’d made a mistake by hiring me.”

Hader tried various strategies to quell his anxiety, including transcendental meditation, shaking his arms, and purposely flubbing his lines. “I had to go to a therapist and do meditation — all these things to try to calm my nerves,” he said on “GMA.” “It was becoming really detrimental for my performing.”

The pressure of a live sketch show was too much for Bill Hader

It was not the challenge to be funny that caused Bill Hader’s “Saturday Night Live” anxiety, but the pressure that came with the live show. “Being able to do voices and characters and stuff … came very naturally to me [but] I wasn’t, like, equipped emotionally for it,” he said during a 2018 interview for comedian Nikki Glaser’s “You Up” podcast. “I was getting sick … It’s just a full week of people going, ‘You have one chance to land this,’ and I’m somebody who just gets, I just spin out a bit.”

As with many cases of anxiety, the live show’s sense of imminence was at the heart of the problem, rather than the experience of actually doing it, which can probably be especially challenging with a show like “SNL,” as it takes place over a couple of hours on Saturday nights, with the rest of the week spent in preparation and rehearsals. “I always go out there and have fun, it’s just the anticipation of it makes me wanna, like, walk out into traffic,” he told Glaser. “I just can’t handle it.”

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