SEATTLE — Before he was Bill Nye the Science Guy, he was just a guy, working as an engineer at Boeing, when he happened to pop into a comedy club.
"They had a Steve Martin lookalike contest and I won," Nye said.
That led to a friendship with Ross Shafer, the original host of KING 5's comedy show, 'Almost Live!'
"I crossed paths with Ross at comedy clubs, and John Keister at comedy clubs, and so they said, 'Hey, do you want to help write for this show?' I started submitting jokes that weren't especially good."
While working as a writer for the show in the late 80's, Bill was on hand when opportunity knocked.
"A guest didn't show up."
Somehow, they had to fill six minutes.
"Ross, at a writers' meeting, just offhand said, 'Bill, why don't you do that stuff, you're always talking about science. You could be Bill Nye the Science Guy.'"
"And so I did the household uses of liquid nitrogen," he joked.
The bit was a hit.
"After that, it became clear that the Science Guy should be a recurring character.
In addition to the Science Guy, Bill also appeared as other characters including Speedwalker, the superhero who fights crime while adhering to international rules of speed walking.
He was having fun. But he wanted more.
"I was worried about the future."
Bill and his local producers took the Science Guy to a young audience worldwide with the syndicated Disney program, Bill Nye the Science Guy.
"Getting kids excited about science was the thing that I really wanted to do with my life."
These days, Nye serves as an important voice for science in the media, and is a board member for the Mount St. Helens Institute, which is dedicated to bringing scientific learning to the next generation.