October 1, 2020

Bill Hader Awarded Oakie Award

The Jack Oakie and Victoria Horne Oakie Masters of Comedy Lecture Series featuring Bill Hader was one of the most popular events at this weekend’s USC Comedy Festival. USC Comedy’s 2021 Oakie Award Recipient, Bill Hader, was in conversation with Professor Wayne Federman, were they discussed everything from Hader’s childhood and teenage years in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to his SNL years, to Barry and Documentary Now! 

The lecture series started off with a message from Dean Daley, who thanked honoree Bill Hader as well as the Jack Oakie and Victoria Horne Oakie Charitable Foundation for their constant support towards USC Comedy. It was followed by a reel of the work of Jack Oakie and Victoria Horne Oakie that highlighted their amazing impact in comedy. Afterwards, Professor Federman introduced Bill Hader and the conversation took off, discussing Hader’s life in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

Bill talked about being influenced by his parents and grandparents from an early age to become a cinephile, and watching movies such as Taxi Driver and A Clockwork Orange at a very early age, work that marked him and would end up influencing Barry decades later. He also discussed being a very anxious teenager, something that would impact his performance in school, leading to him having poor grades and a very hard time getting into any good film schools. This led to Bill go to Community College in Arizona, and later on deciding it was best to move to Los Angeles and pursue a career in the film industry. Later on, Bill talked about finding his first job as a PA and extra for an SCA thesis film on the back of The Hollywood Reporter Magazine. His first task as a PA was to buy a rat for the team, and then he was asked to be an extra on the film. 

He ended up working as a PA for two years in LA, where he worked on films such as Collateral Damage and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. The exhausting job as a P.A turned out to be too demanding after two years, and not rewarding enough creatively, which led to Bill taking classes at Second City LA, where he was in the same class as Matt Offerman (Nick Offerman’s brother). Megan Mullaly (Nick’s wife and actress) saw him at a show and recommended him to Lorne Michaels which led to his SNL audition. A true stroke of luck as Hader sees it: “If she had come on Friday instead of Saturday I probably wouldn’t be sitting here”. 

Hader went on to share details about his SNL audition, such as the impressions he performed, which he had never even tried before learning he had the audition, and his run-in with a guy at the elevator with a back-pack full of props who turned out to be his former SNL cast member, Andy Samberg. Hader laughed as he told the story: “Andy had a lot of props and he said he was looking at me like “Oh, no, that guy doesn’t need props I’m such a hack.””. 

One of the highlights of the conversation was Bill’s openness about his struggles with anxiety both as a young man and throughout his years at SNL. Professor Wayne Federman pointed out how in one of his classes, the majority of his students took some form of medication, which sparked a conversation about the ways Bill has dealt with his anxiety. From meditating twice a day (every single day), to “taking the narrative away from it”, to remembering the Buddha saying: “Acknowledge the wave but keep your eye on the ocean.”. 

The 2021 Oakie Award was presented to Bill Hader by David L.Sonnie of the Jack Oakie and Victoria Oakie Charitable Foundation. Bill seemed genuinely honored and touched by the award as he said: “When I first came here June of ‘99, I would...with my friend we would just drive to the USC campus to just look at it, and just go like “So this is were it all went down.””...So this really does mean a lot to me.”. All in all it was a great conversation with a master of comedy, and there sure was a lot students can learn from everything that was said.