AP Entertainment Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - The last season of the Kristin Wiig and Andy Samberg era of "Saturday Night Live" will go out with an Emmy bang.
The show received 14 nominations Thursday, including nods for best variety series and for Kirsten Wiig as supporting actress in a comedy series. But one of its leading nominations came not from a departing cast member, but a returning veteran: Bill Hader.
Hader is part of the foursome of "SNL" players _ along with Wiig, Samberg and Jason Sudeikis _ who came up together in 2005 and emerged as one of the show's most versatile and well-liked casts.
"I never in a million years thought this would happen," Hader said Thursday of the nomination. "I had to go and meet a friend, and then someone riding by on a bike was like, `Congratulations on the Emmy nomination!' I was like, `Wow, if it's on that guy's radar, why isn't it on my radar?'"
Hader's specialty is generally considered to be his variety of impressions (Al Pacino, Julian Assange, Dateline's Keith Morrison), but his wide range has led to several breakout characters, none more popular than his "Weekend Update" guest Stefon, an authority on extravagant New York nightlife.
It's a period of transition for "Saturday Night Live," which is losing Wiig (who was also nominated last year) and Samberg. Sudeikis is rumored to soon be exiting, as well.
"For the class I came in with _ Kristin and Andy and Jason _ it's kind of the last of that group and that era," said Hader. "If it was the last season for that era, it was a great season to go out on. We had a lot of fun."
Many others shared in nominations from "SNL," including guest hosts Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy and Jimmy Fallon, all of whom were nominated for their guest appearances. (Tweeted Fallon: "It's always been my dream to host SNL. I can't help but get emotional.")
The song Jason Segel performed as host alongside the Muppets, "I Can't Believe I'm Hosting," was also nominated for outstanding music and lyrics.
Hader attributed the strong season to the long-running cast's comfort level, having become a family "locked for life." As an example of a looser, more relaxed cast, he cited "The Californians," a daytime soap parody of direction-obsessed Los Angelenos.
"When you first get the show, you're just kind of hoping: How do I stay on the show?" says Hader. "Then you get to a point where you go, `I'm on the show. I'm pretty confident I'm on the show.' Then you get to the point like last season where we're like, `Hey, this is our house!'"
When "SNL" picks back up in the fall, it will have the presidential election to contend with, as well as the likely addition of new members to the cast. With the fast-paced immediacy of the show, Hader says, "You just keep truckin' on."
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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