Young, old, gay, straight, quirky or sincere, Bill Hader can play it all, and he often did over his eight-year run at SNL. Hader slowly carved out his own path, becoming a fan favorite for his uncanny impressions and hilarious original characters. Like a small number of the show’s alums before him, Hader kept his ear attuned to comedy and drama, each influencing the other to some extent. The result is his comedy exhibits a seriousness and his drama has a tinge of dark humor about it. Thanks to that range, he’s managed to avoid Hollywood’s unfortunate tendency to typecast and therefore limit talent to one particular role ad nauseam. Playing serious with a smirk opposite Kristen Wiig in The Skeleton Twins and funny with an underlying earnestness in this summer’s blockbuster Trainwreck, Hader has repeatedly shown off his talent for all manner of projects on the big screen. Venturing back to the show where audiences learned all about his comedic ability, here are his 10 best characters from SNL.
10. Kissing Family
Hader would later take part in the popular reoccurring sketch “The Californians,” but before those direction-obsessed blondes became an SNL staple, he played the hyper-masculine Vogelcheck brother in “The Kissing Family.” It may not have been a starring moment for Hader, but his turn as the tough guy New Yorker who’s also part of an overly-affectionate family showed off his comedic chops.
9. Prince Philip
Appearing only once as Prince Philip, Hader and Fred Armisen (Queen Elizabeth) delighted audiences by acting every bit as posh as one would expect from the royal family. That is, until their grandson Prince William (Andy Samberg) steps away for a moment, leaving Kate Middleton (Anne Hathaway) to learn what really goes on behind closed palace doors.
8. Dateline’s Keith Morrison
Hader knows the art of nuance. As Dateline NBC’s Keith Morrison, he takes quiet jabs at the reporter’s tendency to ask inane questions of his interview subjects all while looking slightly more bemused than one would like of a host investigating murder. With drawn out words and a creepy smirk, Hader didn’t often play Morrison but when he did it always landed square on the impression mark.
7. Clint Eastwood
Before he parodied Eastwood talking to an empty chair at the Republican National Convention, Hader starred in a series of commercials poking fun at the hyper-American Chrysler commercials Eastwood made for the 2012 Super Bowl. Although he began by repping Chrysler, Hader as Eastwood quickly devolves into other products like Little Caesars Pizza, Trojan and the movie The Dark Knight Rises. With each commercial, Eastwood’s pants get higher and his mind a little more lost.
6. Anthony Peter Coleman
First appearing when Seth Mac Farlane hosted in 2012, Anthony Peter Coleman disrupted a puppet class in the early stages of developing voices and backstory. Diving deep into his dark past as a soldier in Vietnam, Coleman via his puppet “Tony” shares tales about his time in the war. The sketch made a comeback when Hader returned in 2014 to host his first show.
5. Vinny Vedecci
In addition to his impressions, Hader proved he could do an accent like nobody’s business. As fake Italian TV host Vinny Vedecci, Hader channeled some grade-A Marcello Mastroianni machismo. Speaking mostly Italian to his guests, who had to guess at his questions, he played ignorant when it came to Hollywood, creating comedy by reinterpreting the lens trained on American culture.
4. James Carville
Hader showed off another one of his spot-on impressions with the “Ragin’ Cajun” political strategist and TV correspondent James Carville. Often appearing on “Weekend Update” to comment on anything from the Republican Party to gun control, Hader hyperbolized Carville’s Louisiana accent and Skeletor look to full effect.
3. Vincent Price
SNL’s best alums are adept at their impressions, providing a wide range of talent when it comes to impersonating anyone from movie stars to politicians. Hader revealed his prowess for mining the past for contemporary comedy when he played horror film star Vincent Price, whose distinct voice made him a cult favorite. Appearing in a few different specials over his SNL career, Hader’s most memorable occurred with Judy Garland, JFK and Liberace in attendance.
2. Herb Welch
Elderly reporter Herb Welch delighted audiences with his senile ways and resulting tell-it-like-it-is attitude, which often involved flailing his microphone around and being humorously unaware about changing social conventions. No matter what, Herb always gave the main anchor (played first by Jason Sudeikis and later Taran Killam) a run for his money between the reporter’s hearing problems and heart often stopping.
Perhaps Hader’s best known and beloved character, Stefon shared his hot NYC club tips with Weekend Update’s Seth Meyers and viewers at home. Whether it was a club with an entire room of puppets doing karate or schizos and kite-enthusiasts, Stefon always had an insider’s grasp on the places to see and be seen. His increasingly ridiculous suggestions always caused Hader to smirk, which he managed to hide behind deep breaths into his hands. It all made for one of the show’s most memorable characters, which Hader co-wrote with comic John Mulaney. If Stefon’s tips have an element of improvisation about them, that’s because Mulaney would often throw in last minute script changes to purposely throw Hader.
Amanda Wicks is a New Orleans-based writer specializing in comedy and music. She’s more “haha” funny than “lol,” but feel free to follow her anyway on Twitter at @aawicks.