LOS ANGELES — Saturday Night Live stalwart Bill Hader tries not to analyze things too much, preferring to live by the motto found on the wall at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. "Don't think," reads the bicoastal comedy group's credo.
"Good for comedy, good for life," the genial Hader says by phone from Montreal, where he was hosting a gala at the Just for Laughs festival.
But after receiving an Emmy nomination for comedy supporting actor — the first male SNL player to be so honored since Eddie Murphy 29 years ago — Hader couldn't help but ponder his good fortune.
For the last seven seasons, he has created an array of wildly appealing weirdos, most notably "Weekend Update" correspondent Stefon, whose love of offbeat New York night life (not to mention "Update" host Seth Meyers) has made him a fan favorite. Hader discussed all of the above in an hourlong chat.
Q. Your Emmy nomination took many by surprise. You too?
A. When people called, it wasn't, "Hey, man, congratulations." It was, "Holy ..., they actually nominated you for an Emmy! How did that happen?"
Q. No offense taken, right?
A. Hey, I had to look at the list online just to make sure. Because I'm still figuring it's not the real Emmys, not the ones on prime time, anyway. Then one of my buddies calls and says: "Do you remember being in my basement watching Married With Children? Now you're in an Emmy category with Ed O'Neill!" So it just keeps getting more surreal.
Q. But it's not that out there. Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig have been nominated the last few years.
A. Our quarterbacks these past few seasons have been these phenomenal women. Amy was the person I looked up to when I first got there — how confident and giving she was. My first day at SNL, she took me and Andy Samberg out to dinner and asked, "All right, what do you want to know?"
Q. What did you want to know?
A. How hard is it to work with cue cards? She told me to play to the cards. Don't memorize anything. More great advice: Don't do the show for your friends back home. Because before you get to SNL, you have your own sensibility. And when you get to SNL, it's the show's sensibility. So don't worry about what your friends are going to say.
Q. Did your friends complain about the stuff you were doing?
A. (Laughs.) No one said anything. They were more like, "Dude, you're on ... SNL!"
Q. And now people are dressing up as Stefon for Halloween ...
A. It's unbelievably flattering, though I still have no idea why. If you were to go down the list of things that never work on SNL — low-energy characters, weird, offbeat, druggy humor — Stefon has all those things. I've tried low-energy, nuanced characters in other sketches, and it never flies. But for some reason, people love Stefon.
Q. He's curiously universal, even if you don't know anyone who owns an Ed Hardy shirt.
A. Yeah, people often tell me, "I've worked with someone like that" or "I know someone like that." He seems to be a character everyone knows.
Q. I just watched Kristen Wiig's send-off again. You were really belting out "She's a Rainbow" in the background.
A. That was my way of trying not to start crying. (Laughs.) Put all your energy in the song! Make it fun! Because when Kristen and I hugged each other, we were both like, "Oh, boy, here it comes."
Q. You started at SNL together ...
A. And that was the first thing that flashed in my mind during that last sketch. That first day together. Then doing movies together, all the ups and downs. All that history hits you, the emotions. But I'm a sentimental person.
Q. You're going to be a wreck at your daughter's wedding.
A. I'll need a towel. A handkerchief won't be enough.