News & Opinion | March 22, 2018 5:00 am

Bill Hader Channels Stage Fright Into Something Personal and Funny

The SNL star now has his own HBO series, "Barry."

bill hader
Bill Hader has his own HBO show, "Barry." (Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Bill Hader is best known for his time on Saturday Night Live, which he remembers fondly. But one aspect of Hader’s time on SNL that the audience probably did pick up on is his anxiety: GQ writes that the star had massive stage fright and during shows, he would stand backstage hyperventilating and staring at the floor. “I love the people there, but doing that show was really hard for me,” Hader says in a new GQ profile. “It was this funny thing of being trapped by this thing that was hurting you. I had to go to a therapist and do meditation—all these things to try to calm my nerves. It was becoming really detrimental for my performing.” Hader didn’t grow up wanting to be an actor, but instead, he wanted to be a filmmaker. But he found he lacked the resources, connections and skills to make it far. He started practicing comedy at Second City L.A. to keep from sliding into a mindset of defeat, and he just got really, really good at it. But Hader spent eight years on SNL “feeling wrecked” and after one last breathless performance on the show, Hader was free to do what he really wanted. His new show, Barry, on HBO, is about a severely depressed hitman who stumbles into an acting class while stalking one of his marks. While there, he decides to that homicide isn’t his passion, but theater just might be. Hader still suffers from anxiety, and is blatantly honest with GQ about the struggle. But he says he is getting better at advocating for himself and dealing with the anxiety, with the help of therapy and transcendental meditation.