The win, which followed one for co-star Henry Winkler, came as something of a surprise, given the competition in the category. Other nominees included Donald Glover for FX’s Atlanta, Anthony Anderson for ABC’s black-ish and Ted Danson for The Good Place.
Hader is also up for best director and original comedy series for Barry, as well as for guest-hosting Saturday Night Live, where the 40-year-old was a longtime cast member.
“I did not think this would happen,” Hader said during a brief, low-key acceptance speech. “I took classes at Second City L.A. I was taught there that you should always make the other people look good, so I hired other great actors who made me look good.”
In Barry, Hader plays a hitman who takes a left turn when he discovers he has an unrequited passion for acting. As he works through a list of hits and juggles nefarious assignments, he takes acting classes (where he meets Winkler’s character, the hapless instructor Gene Cousineau) and others who force him to confront the crossroads he has reached in life.
Backstage, Hader said he had “planned nothing” in the way of an acceptance speech.
“I was waiting for Ted Danson or Donald Glover, to be honest… I legit don’t know what I said up there. I might have said something crazy.”
While he had name-checked several castmates during his speech, Hader gave a longer shoutout to WInkler backstage.
“You’re only really as good as the company you’re in,” he said. “Henry would push me in a way to give that performance and vice versa.”
Amanda N’Duka contributed to this report.