Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Bill Hader breaks down his best roles by doing a bunch of great impressions

Bill Hader’s earning rave reviews for his new dark comedy Barry, which premiered last night on HBO. In a video interview with GQ, he runs down his journey to this point, detailing exactly how he made the transition from impersonator and sketch comic to respected dramatist capable of carrying his own starring vehicle.


And, as it turns out, a whole lot of that came from impressions, or at least from parodying people who he knew in real life. His cop in Superbad was based, at least in part, on a glasses-wearing cop he knew growing up. In Hot Rod, he based his character on a guy he went to high school with who had a piece of metal fly into his eye while high on mushrooms, and he credits his part in Tropic Thunder to his ability to do a spot-on impression of an unnamed Paramount executive. (In the process of telling this story, he also does a great Tom Cruise impersonation.) Even Hader’s beloved SNL scenester Stefon was lifted from a barista he knew, then merged with John Mulaney’s writing.

Some of his higher-profile roles, though, came about not because of his lived memories but because he had an afternoon or so to spare. He says he knocked out his role as BB-8 in The Force Awakens in “maybe an hour,” and that some of his other voice performances escape him entirely. “In Ice Age 3, I’m a gazelle or something,” he says. “I’m like, ‘When the hell did I do this?’” This is a cause of consistent distress for his children, he says, who are not at all impressed by their dad’s success, and to illustrate this point he does an impression of what it’d be like if his own dad showed up in Star Wars. It is pretty much worth watching the entire interview for this impression, but the rest is pretty fun, too.

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Clayton Purdom is a writer and editor based in Columbus, Ohio.