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Bill Hader trades in easy laughs for something darker on ‘Barry’

The reliably funny actor and SNL alum chooses to mine the darkness of the human soul on his new HBO show.
Bill Hader trades in easy laughs for something darker on 'Barry"
Bill Hader as Barry. Photo credit: HBO

Bill Hader always gets the laugh. With his long eight-year stint on Saturday Night Live, countless bit parts in major blockbuster comedies, and a current position as a writer and consultant on South Park, everything the guy touches turns into comedy gold. As a performer, he takes on the same sort of presence that was true with both Robin Williams and Monty Python’s Graham Chapman. A truly acrobatic actor who just happens to be uproariously funny at every single turn. But with his new show “Barry” on HBO — which he co-created, writes, directs and stars in — why does it feel like he's trading all of those big laughs in for something much darker?

Bill Hader and famous go-to comedy writer, Alec Berg, came up with the show’s premise after HBO gave Hader a development deal. The story is simple: An ex-special forces guy makes a living as a contract killer but gets the acting bug and feels the need to leave it all behind. It seems like it has all been done before right? Well, in the show’s first season, Hader and his room of writers choose to avoid the physical gags that could’ve been mined through the evils of Barry’s profession and instead stress the ugliness of gun violence.

Bill Hader trades in easy laughs for something darker on ‘Barry’

[Photo Credit: HBO]

“I grew up in Tulsa, where it’s like the minute you’re born, they plop a gun in your lap, before they even cut the umbilical cord,” Hader recently explained in an interview with the New York Times, “We were very conscious that we didn’t want the violence to be funny or cool. It should be shown for what it is, which is really ugly, so you would understand why he wouldn’t want to be in that world anymore. What complicates it is that he’s really good at it. So I had to learn how to quickly load machine guns and stuff. You can see, in the behind-the-scenes videos, I couldn’t do it. What you see in the show are like the two times I did it right.”

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And that is exactly what they accomplish on “Barry”. Even in last Sunday’s episode where one of Barry’s hits went wrong, the sloppy way that it went down provided more cringe-worthy moments than actual laughs. You could feel the pain and regret every step of the way. The brilliance of the show lies where you can see Barry at a crossroads between his brutal career and his passion to dive into one of the most brutal industries there is as a newbie actor.

Oh, did I mention that the show is also insanely funny? 

You can catch Bill Hader in “Barry” every Sunday night at 10:30 pm on HBO.

 

 
 
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