Bill Hader is one of the funniest men in comedy today—he just won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy for his hit HBO show Barry, which he co-created. Barry received a stunning thirteen Emmy nominations for its first season and walked away with three wins. Hader’s long list of honors and credits includes seven years starring on NBC’s Saturday Night Live (2005–2013), where he created unforgettable characters and impressions for the ages.
Hader also practices the Transcendental Meditation® (TM®) technique and is a strong supporter of the David Lynch FoundationSM (DLF), which has taught the TM program to one million at-risk children, women, and veterans worldwide.
To show his support for DLF՚s programs, Hader was a featured guest at the second annual Festival of Disruption, curated by David Lynch, to raise funds and expand awareness of how the TM technique is helping to battle toxic stress in the world.
On stage at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles last October, Hader sat with his friend Bob Roth, CEO of DLF, to talk about how his five-year TM practice helped him overcome his anxiety and panic attacks, which threatened to undermine a very promising career.
Bob Roth: You once said the first four years at Saturday Night Live weren’t fun for you. Why?
Bill Hader: 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. In fact, when I did the Stefon character, I would put my hands in front of my face because I was so nervous.
Roth: What did you do?
Hader: I had some friends who said, “You should take pills.” Or, “Smoke this, man. You’ll be great.” But I said, “Uh, I don’t know.” So I tried taking Xanax and other stuff. But I had issues coming off the pills. I would be at a Whole Foods with my kids, and they’d say, “Dad, why are you crying?” I was crying!
Roth: How did you hear about Transcendental Meditation?
Hader: I’m a big David Lynch fan, and I happened to be listening to his audiobook of Catching the Big Fish when he talked about Transcendental Meditation. I thought to myself, “I should try that.” I went to the TM Center in Manhattan and met my teacher, Josh Pittman, who is one of the nicest guys in the world. He taught me TM, which essentially is as simple as someone teaching you how to brush your teeth.
“I immediately felt a clarity and a calmness. The fear kind of ebbed out of me.”—Bill Hader
I took to it really quickly. I immediately felt a clarity and a calmness. The fear kind of ebbed out of me. I still knew all the stakes—that I could still mess up on national television—but I also had the feeling of, “So what if that happens? I’ll be okay. I’ll be all right.”
Roth: But did that feeling calm make you feel passive or less creative?
Hader: The opposite. When you have a genuine sense of calm, the fun things come out that you weren’t expecting. You just grab it, and you see where that goes. But when you’re tight, that doesn’t happen.