Comedian Jimmie Walker embraces his "Good Times" legacy yet moves on
It's hard to beat a stereotype, particularly one that is repeated by well, repeats. In the sitcom world, Bob Denver will always be known...
Special to The Seattle Times
Jimmie Walker8:30 and 10:15 tonight and Saturday, Giggles Comedy Club, 5220 Roosevelt Way, N.E., Seattle; $5 (206-526-JOKE or www.gigglescomedyclub.com).
It's hard to beat a stereotype, particularly one that is repeated by well, repeats. In the sitcom world, Bob Denver will always be known as bumbling Gilligan. Barry Williams, the eldest son of Mike and Carol Brady, is still referred to as "Greg" by fans. And then there is Jimmie "J.J." Walker, who made his mark as Kid Dy-no-mite courtesy of the '70s sitcom "Good Times."
Even though Walker, 60, has taken on plenty of other roles over the years and concentrated on a number of other endeavors, strangers still address him as "J.J.," the caricature of a character he played on the show.
"You just learn to live with it," Walker said. "It's not just me. I've debated with Rob Reiner about this subject. He's made some great films [1986's 'Stand By Me,' 1984's 'This Is Spinal Tap'] but as Rob put it, no matter what movie he makes he'll always be known as 'Meathead' [his character from the sitcom 'All in the Family'] to a segment of the population. I'm J.J. I accept that."
Walker, who will perform Friday and Saturday at Giggles, doesn't care if you love or hate the character. He was simply acting. The engaging comic is much different than the role that made him famous — a well-rounded, intelligent performer and commentator.
Walker is at his best on the late-night chat-show circuit. He has appeared on "The Late Show with David Letterman" on more than 25 occasions and has performed on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Letterman and Leno were part of Walker's personal writing staff for his stand-up act during the "Good Times" era. "I remember encouraging them both to come up with some scripts because they wouldn't be with me forever," Walker said. "Both of them turned out all right, didn't they?"
So did Walker. While taking college preparatory classes in his native Bronx in 1966, Walker realized that he had a talent for writing humorous material.
In the late '60s, he tried his luck at stand-up. By 1969, he had shared stages with such up and coming performers as David Brenner, Bette Midler and Steve Landesberg. "That was a great time," Walker said. "I was doing what I loved, and I was getting paid for it."
Walker's biggest payday was on the horizon. In 1972, he was tabbed for "Good Times."
"It was an amazing story," Walker said. "A kid from a tough neighborhood, a tough situation, goes beyond his wildest dreams."
Stardom is usually fleeting, as it was for Walker. The charismatic entertainer was dubbed "the Comedian of the Decade" by Time Magazine, but "Good Times" ran its course in 1979. Walker was part of a few series — "B.A.D. Cats" and "At Ease" — which were short-lived.
"I had no problem with that," Walker said. "I still had stand-up. I'm a versatile guy. There's more to life than sitcoms. Fortunately I love going out there on stage and making people laugh."
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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