Legend has it that Cornell-educated, Washington, D.C., native Bill Nye got his nickname while working as a writer and comic for a local Seattle comedy show called Almost Live! The show's host mistakenly referred to the energy output of a local power plant in terms of "jigawatts." Bill informed him that the correct pronunciation was "gigawatts," to which the host replied, "Who do you think you are? Bill Nye the Science Guy?!" A surge of electricity in the form of a light bulb went on in Bill's head that day (at one foot per nanosecond) and the rest is history.
Bill Nye the Science Guy was the first television show to run concurrently on PBS and commercial stations, and it was an instantaneous hit on both. The character first came to national television audiences as Doc Brown's lab assistant in a segment of the Saturday morning series Back to the Future, but Bill Nye had been doing science-oriented stand up comedy since the mid-80's. The Back to the Future gig proved Nye was ready for the big time, and so PBS came calling.
With a goofball comedic style heavy on the puns, Bill Nye the Science Guy presented science education in a hilarious and entertaining way. In each episode, Bill took viewers on a tour of a scientific theme, anything from animal locomotion to static electricity. Bill usually invited a guest scientist to illustrate the mystery and beauty of physics, chemistry, biology, and/or astronomy.
In addition to Bill's scientific shenanigans, each show delivered a silly dramatic segment about that week's theme, spoofing everything from Shakespeare to film noir. But for most viewers, the highlight of each show was "The Sounds of Science," an MTV-like segment that set fun, rhyming scientific explanations to a pop tune. Among the more memorable entries was the video for "Bloodstream," set to The B-52's "Love Shack" ("Bloodstream! Baby, Bloodstream! Baby, that's where it's at!")
Bill Nye continues to take the doldrums out of science for kids on both public and commercial television.