June 4, 2019

How Bill Hader Drives His Creativity for 'Barry' [Video]

If you're not watching HBO's comedy "Barry", you're missing out on some major creative lessons from Bill Hader.

HBO's Barry follows a burned-out Midwestern hitman who travels to Los Angeles for a job but quickly realizes he'd rather follow the typical Hollywood dream of becoming an actor. It somehow manages to find an amazing balance of comedy, drama, crime, and action, expertly mashing genres and tones in a way that should make any writer jealous.

Now in its second season, the show finds its titular protagonist struggling with his identity as a killer, all while balancing a blossoming theater career and a relationship with his high-strung girlfriend.

John Mulaney sat down with the show's star, Bill Hader, for an extended, joke-filled conversation and Q&A this month at the 92nd Street Y. They talk about Barry, their time together on SNL, and a whole lot more. Beware, the video contains spoilers for Barry season two. Watch it below.

There's obviously a lot of material (and impressions) packed into this hilarious discussion, but here are some of the most valuable takeaways.

Ideas can strike at any time

Hader talks about the last time he did this event, before season two was even finished. He was almost late, actually. But on the way, he was suddenly hit with how season two should end, and by the time he arrived, he was able to pull co-creator Alec Berg aside to pitch his idea.

Later, he says the idea for the now-iconic episode "ronny/lily" came from someone mentioning offhand that young performer Jessie Giacomazzi could do awesome stunts. Hader says he jotted down the idea "little girl beats up Barry in kitchen," and also that she climbs up a tree. The idea was connected to a couple of other disparate plot points and grew into an amazing bit of television.

So, you should know that even your most random ideas can become something bigger and better. Make sure to keep notes!

Credit: HBO

Everyone gets nervous

Both Mulaney and Hader have anxiety issues they must manage as performers. Hader even says the large audience at the 92nd Street Y freaks him out. This might be something a lot of us in the entertainment industry might face at different points, whether you're pitching as a writer, directing projects, or acting in various things. Hader says he meditates, exercises, and avoids alcohol.

He also says, for live performances, he focuses on making one person laughin this case, Mulaney. That way, he ignores the rest of the audience and the possibility of failure by trying to make his friend laugh.

Draw from your inspirations (even if no one gets it)

Hader is very open about his love for cinema. He's a big Kurosawa fan and says the season one arc is loosely based on Yojimbo. He also loves true crime, and both of these inspire his work on Barry.

"I got really into Andrzej Wajda," Hader says at one point. "I was showing my DP, Paula Huidobro, Ashes and Diamonds like, 'Let's do something like this!' And then we do it, and everything gets done, and then you show it to people, and they're like, 'Oh, looks like the Coen Brothers.'"

The whole video is packed with funny anecdotes, banter, and other tidbits about Hader's approaches to making television, so it's definitely worth a watch!

Are you going to watch Barry season three? Let us know down in the comments.     

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