Jimmie Walker was a stand-up comedian before becoming a star on Good Times
Image credit: The Everett Collection
Jimmie Walker was one of America's favorite funnymen during his time as James 'J.J.' Evans Jr. on Good Times (1974). His hilarious one-liners, sarcastic tone and unique comedy style weren't just seen in Good Times; they were real life.
Walker would often receive the most amount of laughs on the series and contributed to strong audience engagement as well as higher ratings for CBS. Before he was on Good Times, Walker was a stand-up comedian who canceled three months of bookings to co-star in the series.
"Until this show came along, I'd only done stand-up stuff, but I wasn't afraid of acting or playing a character," Walker said in a 1974 interview with St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I didn't even think about it. They gave me the script and I ran with it."
According to the interview, Walker realized early in life that he had a special ability to make people laugh, but it wasn't until his time at New York City College that he decided to share his gift with the world.
He began working in small nightclubs around New York. Away from all of the applause, Walker was quiet and reserved. Before his role in Good Times, Walker had no experience as an actor, but he was familiar with the feeling of poverty.
According to the interview, Walker grew up in the Melrose Project in South Bronx, New York City.
Most fans who would faithfully tune in each week would often sympathize and relate to all of the trials and tribulations that surrounded the Evans' family throughout the six seasons. Walker wanted fans to laugh and feel as though "poverty" wasn't a dirty word.
"[Melrose Project] is about the same as the project in the series — only there's not as much merriment in the ghetto as we pretend," Walker said. "My ghetto looks like a scene from World War III. I do a lot of ghetto and racial satire in my act. At some of these schools, I'm the first black guy they've really had a chance to talk to."
Where most comedians would rely on their voice and what came out of it, Walker only had to walk into a room. His delivery on Good Times was directed right at the viewers.
"I don't work for the movement. I work for the Jimmie Walker Fund," Walker said. "I have no causes, I work for no organizations and there isn't any politics or body language in my act."
As a stand-up comedian, Walker was mainly unknown. His set would usually include a half-hour monologue packed with hilarious, sarcastic jokes — kind of sounds like a Good Times episode!
Walker was able to share his gift with the world and in more ways than one. We are all better because of it... and we still can't stop saying his famous catchphrase from the series "DY-NO-MITE!"
"This love really smothers you," Walker said in a 1975 interview with The Cincinnati Post. "I have never been friendly and outgoing and I haven't changed. This is me, now. This is it."
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