Walter Williams


Innovations in comedy and technology have been the hallmarks of Walter Williams' career. That's as true of the first Mr. Bill short (which he created 30 years ago for under $20) as it is of the digital desktop studio he used to create a one-hour PBS documentary entitled "New Orleans - The Natural History." "It's so cutting-edge, I'm bleeding," he muses.

Williams, a New Orleans' native, was 17 when he discovered Super-8 film. "Fortunately, I had no aptitude for anything, so Med. School was out of the question. He started making his own comedy movies and showing them in local clubs and bars, which led to his own UHF-TV show in New Orleans. When "Saturday Night Live," still in its incandescent infancy, put out a call for home movies in '75, Williams submitted his reel and launched Mr. Bill on national TV.

Williams followed his mutilated little creation to New York, where he made more films for SNL and did stand-up at the Improv. After three seasons, Lorne Michaels hired him as a full-time staff writer, responsible not only for the 20-plus Mr. Bill skits he did from 1978 through 1980, but for other sketches and films as well, including "Elvis Presley's Coat." Williams left when Michaels and the rest of the original cast exited in 1980.

Since then, he's continued to build his own career and Mr. Bill's, working with live actors whenever possible to establish himself as something other than the premier Play-doh director. He's written screenplays and directed hundreds of shorts and shows for television, including "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," and directed the Fox show "TV," conceived by fellow SNL alum, Michael O'Donoghue, which starred Rutger Hauer, Kelly Lynch and Brian Keith.

Williams launched a successful commercial directing career with the "Pizza Head" character he created for a national Pizza Hut TV campaign. Over four years, the 20 spots became so popular with kids that a Mr. Bill tape sent to a friend's son caused him to declare it "a Pizza Head take-off." He has also directed national Mr. Bill campaigns for Lexus, Burger King and Ramada Inn.

In the last ten years, Williams has built a fully-digital video system. Taking advantage of the dramatic advances in technology, he now creates digital, broadcast-quality shows and DVDs, doing the video editing, sound mix, music, CG animation, titles, graphics all on his digital desktop. His company, Dreamsite Productions, Inc., has lately been authoring and encoding DVDs for mass release.

The system has also allowed Williams to create work that would ordinarily be impossible without much higher budgets--from segments for ABC's "Into the Night," -- to projects closer to his heart, such as programs for the National Audubon Society, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and his recent PBS documentary.

Recently, Williams combined every trick up his sleeve to create forty new episodes of Mr. Bill for "Ohh Nooo!!! Mr. Bill Presents" for the Fox Family Channel and has authored the new Lions Gate 3 DVD boxed set "Mr. Bill's Disasterpiece Theater – Celebrating 30 Years Of Sluggo's Greatest Hits" which includes the original SNL Super-8 and 16 mm films which were digitally remastered for this project.

In addition to comedy, Williams is currently focusing on documentaries and educational DVDs, which might include Mr. Bill as a host of a series. As a result of his New Orleans documentary he was enlisted to create ten Public Service Announcements featuring Mr. Bill and a group of creatures called the Estuarians who are out to save Louisiana’s wetlands. They can be viewed at . He also recently completed an interactive DVD on the Battle of New Orleans which is currently on display at The Historic New Orleans Collection and can also be viewed at

Williams sees comedy and technology as tools for education. "People complain that kids just want to watch TV. Well, they're not going to stop, so it's important for society to use television and technology to help educate people. Williams is currently filming interviews for the final three segments of his New Orleans chronicle. They will cover the Social, Political and Cultural histories of his hometown.