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Illustration by MARIO ZUCCA

THE RINGER: If you think about it, Bill Hader’s long and successful career can be traced back to the day he took his SATs—or, rather, the day he chose not to take his SATs. There he was, an anxious 16-year-old sitting in a classroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma; the time had come to make that first important step toward college by proving how well he remembered algebra and how many multisyllabic words he knew. “I put my name on the thing and everything,” Hader remembers, but the moment started to feel too big. The knowledge that with every bubble he filled in he would be actively determining his future was too much to handle. And so right then and there he decided: “Fuck it.”

“I got up and left,” Hader says. “The whole thing of like, ‘Here’s the thing you’ve been studying for, this is the moment, do or die,’ I just folded. This is just too intense and [I thought], ‘I just won’t go to college.’”

Minus a few semesters at the Art Institute of Phoenix and Scottsdale Community College, Hader stuck to that resolution. He moved to Los Angeles and got a couple of jobs as a production assistant on movies like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Collateral Damage and The Scorpion King, and then as an assistant editor on Iron Chef America. He joined an improv group at Second City’s outpost in Los Angeles to, as he puts it, “keep agile, keep creative.” One of the members of that group was Matt Offerman, brother to Nick Offerman (you know him as Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation) and brother-in-law to Will & Grace’s Megan Mullally. Mullally is the reason Bill Hader became an actor, even though he “never wanted to be an actor.” (“I don’t know why people become actors. I don’t know why people do a lot of things,” he adds.) After Mullally saw him in one of the Second City shows, she called up Lorne Michaels of Saturday Night Live. A few months later, Hader was moving to New York City to be a featured player on SNL.

Sometimes, it turns out, skipping the SATs is the right decision. MORE