Known off-stage as Bill Talen, Reverend Billy created the character for which he'd come to be known on the streets of New York City. A struggling actor from Minnesota, Billy constructed his persona to be part street preacher, part televangelist, and soon became a well-known and respected performer based on his Times Square antics, where he preached against the trappings of consumerism that sucked in tourists at every turn. Soon, Billy started collecting a following of like-minded people with a sense of humor and a distaste for materialism, and they created a non-profit organization called The Church of Stop Shopping. The congregation began assisting Billy in larger demonstrations and projects, performing as a full-scale church choir in stores and on sidewalks with the message to put the credit cards away and "put the Odd back in God." The group attended the Burning Man festival in Nevada, and also began using its visibility to speak out about more specific issues, like citing Starbucks for union busting and pushing local businesses out of the market, and protesting against the sale of the historic Union Square pavilion to be developed as a restaurant.