This "SNL" Star Says He Cried in a Bathroom Before Every Episode

Bill Hader just opened up about experiencing anxiety and panic attacks on set.

Performing live in front of an audience is likely to be at least a little bit nerve-racking for most people. And while the stars of Saturday Night Live have to do just that every week, that doesn't necessarily that they're able to overcome that anxiety. In fact, former SNL cast member Bill Hader just revealed that his anxiety about performing live comedy—for the studio audience and the millions of viewers watching on TV—was so bad that he would cry and have panic attacks before shows.

Hader opened up about how his anxiety presented itself at SNL in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter. According to the actor, he wasn't "built for" live shows and also made himself feel guilty for not being able to pull himself together when he had a job so many other performers would want. Read on to see what the Barry star had to say.

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The live show brought on regular panic attacks.

Bill Hader and Seth Meyers on "Saturday Night Live"
Saturday Night Live / YouTube

"The live aspect of SNL—I'm just not built for it," Hader told The Hollywood Reporter. "Before shows, I would go into a bathroom that was way down this hall, go into a stall, and have a full-blown panic attack, crying, the whole thing."

He explained that he would tell himself he needed to get over it, because a lot of people would love to be in his position.

"And then I go and get in a giant banana costume," he continued. "This voice would come on in my head of like, 'You [expletive] [expletive], do you know how many people would kill for this? Dude, get your [expletive] together, come on.'"

He's said he couldn't sleep before tapings, either.

Bill Hader at the premiere of "It Chapter Two" in 2019
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

This isn't the first time Hader has shared the panic he experienced before SNL live shows. In 2018, he told The Purist, "I was terrified. I had massive panic attacks on every show and I wouldn't sleep the night before, because I knew I was going to be live on national television and I felt so much pressure."

He also spoke with GQ about struggling at SNL in a 2018 interview. "I love the people there, but doing that show was really hard for me," he said. "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."

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His experience inspired the TV show he created.

Bill Hader at the 2019 Emmys
Silvia Elizabeth Pangaro / Shutterstock

Hader and Alec Berg created the comedy series Barry, about a hitman who actually wants to be an actor. Being interviewed about the show at SXSW when it premiered in 2018, Berg said (via IndieWire), "I think we started talking about the idea that [Barry] was good at killing, but hated it—that he was a prisoner of his own talent, which is sort of based on Bill's experience on SNL. He was great at it, but he derived no enjoyment from it."

Hader added, "That's true. I had massive stage fright … I tried everything. I was doing transcendental meditation, I was doing all these things … So I was telling Alec about it: the irony that the thing you're good at is wrecking you."

He has his own method of dealing with anxiety.

Bill Hader at the premiere of "Barry" in 2018
Eugene Powers / Shutterstock

While Hader has mentioned meditation and therapy as treatment for his anxiety, in his interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he shared that he also craves sugar when anxious and has used it as a coping mechanism. He said that he once ate an Entenmann's coffee cake while still in the grocery store.

"And then the shame of bringing the empty box up to the cashier and him being like, 'Dude.' And I was like, 'Yeah, man,'" Hader said. "I've walked to Vons at midnight with a spoon in my pocket because I know I'm going to buy ice cream and I'm going to eat it on the way back. The minute it's mine, I'm eating this [expletive] and I'll probably finish it before I get back home. And it just makes me feel like a piece of [expletive]. But, yeah, that's my stress thing."

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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