Bill Hader’s return to SNL this weekend won over even the harshest critics, including own Seth Simons, who gave it a big fat 8.0 on the old Paste scale. That’s not really a surprise: as Simons points out in his review, Hader is one of the most talented sketch performers in the show’s history, a guy who regularly elevated lackluster material during his time on the show (although even he couldn’t salvage “The Californians”), and whose post-SNL work has been as entertaining as it is stylistically diverse. He’s a pro, and a likable one, at that.
When you talk about Hader’s run on SNL, one character looms larger than any other, and of course that’s Stefon, the Weekend Update city correspondent who gives absurd and impractical advice to tourists. Of course Stefon showed up during Hader’s episode this weekend, and of course it was hilarious. It’s a weird bit of calculus: Stefon has never stopped being funny, no matter how often the show ran it, even though the core concept seems easily exhaustible. If any other performer played Stefon, it probably would’ve been old by his third appearance. But between Hader’s brilliant performance, and the reliably ridiculous writing from John Mulaney (who shows up for the first time alongside Stefon in this clip), Stefon has never worn out its welcome despite popping up 20 times over the last decade. Even “What Up With That” grew old. Something about the combination of this character, this performer and this writer has kept Stefon fresh over the years, despite the heavily formulaic nature of the sketch. It’s like the exception to every commonly perceived idea about why SNL can feel so stagnant.
Check out Stefon’s latest tourism advice below, and check out the rest of Hader’s episode on Hulu or on YouTube.