Phase 1: The Video Tapes (1984 – 1999)
Around 1984 Stephen’s brothers Michael and John and their friends Kent and David began recording audio skits revolving around a character they had developed, simply referred to as “Bill”. Bill was an innocent fellow who kept getting into all kinds of mishaps and odd situations, which typically resulted in severe injuries. In 1986, Michael and John began recording videos on VHS cassette, in which Michael portrayed Bill in a series of short skits, which would usually end in severe injury or death for Bill. These videos were quite popular among friends and family.
In 1994, Stephen followed in the legacy of his brothers and began making his own series of videos on VHS, in which he portrayed Bill repeatedly getting into weird situations and getting injured in the process. He would eventually produce far more skits than his brothers had and Stephen’s videos were also popular among friends and family. This era of filming ended around 1999.
Phase 2: The Episodes (2000 – 2008)
In 2000, as short funny videos were spreading like wildfire around the internet, Stephen used his webcam to produce a number of similar short videos. In the next few years, as Jackass began to rise in popularity, Stephen and his friends decided that they wanted to do their own similar show and decided to bring back Bill. However, they opted to tweak the name a little and called the show This Is Bill. The show held true to its origins by including some skits, but did focus more heavily on stunts and pranks.
It was decided that the This Is Bill would be episodic in format and filming for the show began in 2001. Filming was sporadic and continued into late 2002. There was enough content for 3 short episodes, but it was decided that the weaker stuff would be cut out and two stronger episodes were produced. These two episodes were released in April 2003 and comprised what was referred to as “Season 1” of This Is Bill. The cast for Season 1 included Stephen, Brandon, Tyson, and Michael. The episodes were well received and eventually the volume of downloads crashed the site and forced the website to be relocated to a new hosting provider. Season 1, Episode 2 of This Is Bill won the 2003 UNCC Film Festival.
Filming for “Season 2” had already begun before the release of Season 1. In July 2003, Jayson was added as the fifth cast member of This Is Bill. In October of that year, the first episode of Season 2 was released, while filming continued for the next episode. Filming wrapped on Season 2 at the very end of 2003 and the second episode was released in January 2004. Season 2 was even more well received and, again, the website hosting was unable to handle the volume of downloads and crashed, forcing the website to be relocated once again.
A super edit of the best clips from the two seasons of This Is Bill was released in April 2004 and was simply titled The Best of This Is Bill. Later in 2004, the cast of This Is Bill participated in a homegrown Jackass scavenger hunt, in which tasks were completed by filming certain stunts and pranks on video. These videos were intended to be the start of filming for Season 3.
In late 2004 and on into 2005, several of the better This Is Bill stunts and pranks went viral online, most notably: Beauty Sleep, Golf Shot 2, and The Graveyard Shift. These three videos combined to be viewed in excess of 20 million times on the pre-Youtube internet, which was quite a spectacular feat at the time. Unfortunately, This Is Bill was not credited as the creator of these clips and received almost no attention as a result. These particular clips would later be featured on a variety of popular television shows.
Over the course of the next few years, some filming occurred, again, with the intent of being used for Season 3. However, it was eventually decided that Season 3 was not going to happen and all of the material intended for Season 3 was released as individual clips in February 2008.
Phase 3: Youtube (2008 – Current)
A Youtube channel was established in 2005 and several of the most popular individual This Is Bill videos were posted to it in 2006. A few of the videos eclipsed 100,000 views, but the channel did not amass too many subscribers. In 2008, Stephen rose to prominence in the Rock Band video game community, when he began posting creative Rock Band vocals videos to the Youtube channel. The channel grew exponentially and the cast of This Is Bill decided to introduce itself to this newly acquired audience by filming some new videos. The first ever This Is Bill video produced exclusively to be released on Youtube was “Ants On A Log Episode #1”, which was a stunt eating video. It was released in late 2008 and was very well received. A sequel was released in mid 2009, to even more aplomb.
This was followed by the first This Is Bill skit produced for Youtube, entitled “The Sleepwalker”. It performed beyond expectations. These initial successes led to more This Is Bill videos being produced over the next several years. While not many This Is Bill videos have been released recently, the cast continues to amass video ideas and scheme and you never know when a new one will show up.