The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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Bill Hader: Crazed movie fan?

August 11, 2008 |  6:15 pm

Every comic who can tell a joke seems to be part of a newly launched Web comedy series. Some are really funny; some are, well, just as bad as anything on B.O.T ( or "boring old TV"). One of my current favorites is "The Line," which stars a host of "Saturday Night Live" writers and cast members, most notably Bill Hader and Simon Rich, who co-created the Web series. It was financed by Lorne Michaels' Broadway Video and debuted late last month on It's now available everywhere--I've been watching the episodes on YouTube. The premise: Two pals are camping out in line 10 days before the premiere of a "Star Wars"-style summer blockbuster. The comedy is droll, goofy and something of a sociological study in obsessive fan behavior.

Now something of a regular Judd Apatow stock company member, having had parts in everything from "Pineapple Express" to "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" to "Superbad" (where he plays Officer Slater), Hader based the concept on some of his own past experiences. Hader Like much of what we've been seeing on the Web lately, the whole series was concocted by funny guys sitting around out of work during the writers strike. As Hader explains: "I told Simon the story of my standing in line for 20 hours, waiting to see 'The Phantom Menace' and all the crazy stuff that happened--including a guy who was breaking up with his girlfriend who kept telling her, 'Come over here, I've got to stay in line'--and Simon said, 'That's the show.' Within five or six minutes, we'd come up with the whole trajectory of the series."

Here are some other notable excerpts from our chat:

How is the Internet changing comedy? "We'd written the whole script, but we kept cutting it left and right because watching seven minutes of comedy on a computer can seem like a long time," says Hader. "After doing the Web series, Simon and I went back to a screenplay we were writing and suddenly we started going, 'Oh no, this scene is way too long. We've got to cut it!' The Internet definitely changes your way of thinking about comedy rhythm."

The Internet makes comedy instantly doable: "In the old days, you'd carry around tapes of your short films in the trunk of your car, waiting to give 'em to some producer. Now you can put it right up on YouTube. You have no excuse not to be making funny stuff on your own every weekend. It's so easy. You do it, cut it at your house and put it up online. And you get instant feedback."

So how did he become part of the Apatow stock company? "I had a small part in 'You, Me and Dupree' and I met Seth Rogen when we were shooting in Hawaii and we started talking about comic books     and after 10 minutes he said, 'Hey, you'd be great playing a cop in this script we wrote.' Ninety-nine percent of the time that's the last you hear about it. But later, when I had a meeting with Judd, he said, 'I think you're playing this cop in a movie I'm producing.' And when someone gave me the script to read, I went, 'Holy [smokes], that's a real part!' "

Here's the first episode from the series:

Photo of Bill Hader (left) and Seth Rogen in "Superbad" from Sony Pictures