Bill Hader is doing very well for himself these days. The 38-year-old comedian just scored a promising new HBO series, starred in one of 2015’s best comedies, and has been lending his vocal talents to more kids (and, in the case of Sausage Party, definitely-not-for-kids) movies than you can shake a human fire hydrant at.
Which brings me to my next point, which is not the definition of a human fire hydrant. Rather, it’s the grotesque-but-hilarious joke’s source, which is the hugely popular and sadly semi-retired Saturday Night Live character, Stefon. Best known as the city correspondent on the variety show’s long-running fake news sketch, “Weekend Update,” Stefon burst onto the scene in the late 2000s and — after a little tinkering by Hader and co-creator John Mulaney — quickly became a fan favorite.
To commemorate Hader’s recent birthday, check out these five fascinating facts about a man who knew
less more about New York City’s night life than anyone else.
Stefon Was Inspired By A Barista
The specific characteristics Hader imbued Stefon with — his vocal fluctuations, nervous tics, and penchant for tangential conversations — weren’t created out of thin air. Instead, they were adopted from an actual person, a barista at the Joe’s Coffee located in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood that Hader frequented. “There was a barista there,” he explained at the 2014 New Yorker Festival, “and he was funny, and I would just draw him out.” When asked if Stefon’s basis knew what Hader had done, the latter suggested that the barista did in fact know and that he was probably “thrilled.”
And An Email Mistakenly Sent To John Mulaney
Of course, the work of creating the character was done by two people. The other half was John Mulaney, who wrote most of Stefon’s material for his various “Weekend Update” appearances throughout Hader’s tenure. During the same New Yorker Festival interview, Hader insisted that Mulaney “deserves a ton of credit” for the character’s inception and success — especially because of a nightclub promoter’s email he received by mistake. “John got an email for a club from a guy who I think thought John was gay,” he explained. “It said, ‘You gotta come to this club. This club has everything.’ The club was called ‘Push’ or something, and one of the things in the email was ‘rooms full of broken glass.'”
Stefon’s First Appearance Wasn’t On “Weekend Update”
Despite being best known as the city correspondent for “Weekend Update,” Stefon’s first appearance wasn’t on the SNL fake news program. That honor instead belongs to “Movie Pitch with Stefon,” a throwaway sketch from 2008 featuring Hader’s character and episode host Ben Affleck as his brother, David Zolefsky. Along with Jason Sudeikis and Andy Samberg, who played studio executives, the gist of the three-minute one-off was that Stefon and David were a Hollywood pitch team. It ultimately didn’t work because, as Hader explained on Late Night with Seth Meyers in 2014, “it was a long walk to get to what the sketch was about,” which was Stefon.
Hader Broke Character Every Time
One of Stefon’s most endearing traits was the fact that Hader would break character almost every single time. Why? For two reasons — Meyers and Mulaney. During the same 2014 interview on Late Night, Hader told Seth he was the reason Stefon always covered his mouth and nose with both hands. “A person being patient with an insane person is my favorite thing in the world,” he admitted. “Any time I would say something and you’d go, ‘now Stefan,’ I would start laughing.” So what began as a coping mechanism during the live performance became a part of the character. As for Mulaney, he would intentionally trip up Hader by adding a joke to the cue cards between the rehearsal and live performances.
Except That One Time He Didn’t Break
However, there was one appearance by the city correspondent in which Hader never broke character. Not because Meyers didn’t invoke his fellow SNL cast member’s favorite form of humor, nor for any lack of last-minute additions from Mulaney. Frankly, the only logical reason for Hader’s perfect performance was the segment’s length, which came in at a whopping 40 seconds. At the very end of “Weekend Update,” which concluded the 36th season’s finale, Stefon and Meyers embark upon what the latter calls “a beautiful nightmare” following the former’s description of their summer destination.