Mr. Bill: Pop Culture Icon of the 1970s
Anyone who was a fan of Saturday Night Live in the 1970s would recognize this as a line from Mr. Bill, one of the most famous television personalities of all time. In fact, Mr. Bill has become a pop culture icon, still seen today in TV shows, films and commercials.
Mr. Bill came to life in 1974 when Walter Williams created a short film starring a Play-Doh doll named Mr. Bill. His homemade movie – a parody of bad animation – won a contest held by Saturday Night Live (SNL) in its first season. Mr. Bill became so popular that he spent seven years on the show, and his appearances grew to 10 spots a season.
In each episode of “The Mr. Bill Show”, a series of mishaps leads to Mr. Bill being injured. Unintentionally, Mr. Hand, a man shown only as a pair of human hands, would hurt Mr. Bill, his dog, Spot and his wife Sally. Other times it would be Mr. Bill’s enemy, another clay character named Sluggo, inflicting the injury. The story always ended with Mr. Bill being seriously hurt, dismembered, or beheaded, and he would utter the famous squeal, “Oh noooo!”
The public so loved Mr. Bill that he was outshone only by John Belushi and Gilda Radner in a survey to see who was the public’s favorite SNL personality. In 1980, his long stint on the show came to an end, though he didn’t disappear from the public eye. The 1975 movie, The Mr. Bill Collection - a compilation of his appearances on SNL - sold hundreds of thousands of copies on video. Mr. Bill even had a best selling book in 1979 called The Mr. Bill Show that climbed to #1 on The New York Times bestseller list.
Check out this collection of some of Mr. Bill’s funniest – err, most deadly – moments:
Throughout the years, Mr. Bill starred in TV specials with Dick Clark and Bob Hope, and was a regular host on USA-TV’s Night Flight. He worked with Shelly Duvall on Showtime’s 1986 movie Mr. Bill’s Real Life Adventures, and also starred in the 1993 movie Mr. Bill Goes To Washington, a short film that ran with the movie Ernest Rides Again. In 1998, Mr. Bill made forty appearances on the Fox Family Channel in the series called Ohh Noo! Mr. Bill Presents.
Mr. Bill has also been featured on many Public Service announcements. In 2004, he helped educate people about the loss of Louisiana’s coastal marches and swamps with a film called New Orleans – The Natural History. This film included ten new Mr. Bill adventures in a campaign to help save the wetlands, and predicted the effects of a hurricane on New Orleans before the devastation of Katrina took place.
For the past 34 years Mr. Bill had been making America laugh at his misadventures. From his debut on SNL to his job as a star of MasterCard’s “Priceless” campaign, he has always been able to make people smile or cringe with his funny antics. Even though he is just a doll made of clay, he is unforgettable, and will surely go down in history as one of America’s favorite characters of all time.