Walter Williams (comedian filmmaker)

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For other people of the same name, see Walter Williams (disambiguation).

Walter Williams is a filmmaker and comedy writer, most famous for his "Mr. Bill" shorts that aired on the television series Saturday Night Live.

Williams was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. In the 1970s he worked as a DJ at a French Quarter bar. He did comedy sketches, some over local radio, with his friend Vance DeGeneres. Williams became interested in film. Creating the first "Mr. Bill" short on Super-8 film in 1974 in his living room in New Orleans for a budget of less than $20, it was first aired on a local UHF TV show. He submitted it to Saturday Night Live where Mr. Bill was a hit. Williams made more Mr. Bill shorts, moved to New York City, and was hired as a full-time writer for Saturday Night Live for the 1978-79 and 1979-80 seasons.

The VHS release of "Ernest Rides Again" features "Mr. Bill Goes to Washington", a spoof of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. According to the book Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live, Williams made very little money from merchandising Mr. Bill in the 1970s, as most of the Mr. Bill products made (including dolls, pins, posters, coffee mugs, and umbrellas) were bootleg and unauthorized (comic strip artist Bill Watterson had a similar problem with his characters Calvin and Hobbes in the 1990s).

Willams has performed as a stand up comedian and produced a number of advertisements for such companies as Pizza Hut (featuring the Mr. Bill-esque "Pizza Head" character) and Lexus, and aired comic shorts on The Tonight Show.

Williams made films for the ABC television series Into the Night with Rick Dees.

Starting in the 1990s, Williams created more serious films, including documentaries for the Public Broadcasting Service on such subjects as the Battle of New Orleans and the erosion of Louisiana's wetlands.

The latter topic, along with related flood control and environmental issues, has been a focus of Williams' work; he produced a series of shorts featuring animated wetland and sea creatures called "The Estuarians" together with Mr. Bill to draw attention to the region's issues, with the tag line "Let's act now, before it's too late". With Hurricane Katrina in 2005, scenes such as Mr. Bill taking refuge on the roof of his flooded out house in New Orleans seemed prophetic (see: Effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans).

Walter Williams reigned as King of the Krewe du Vieux for the first New Orleans Mardi Gras parade after Katrina.

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