Jimmie "JJ" Walker to receive Comedy Festival's Legend award05-02-2012 09:00 am
Jimmie “J.J.” Walker — who rose to fame in the 1970s and ’80s as a television actor and comedian — will be in Norfolk on Saturday, June 16, to receive the Viaero Great American Comedy Festival’s annual Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award.
He will join previous recipients Dick Cavett, Bill Dana, Ed Asner and Cloris Leachman.
But not only will he receive the award, he’ll also take to the stage of the Johnny Carson Theatre and perform some of the stand-up comedy that helped make him famous.
“We’re thrilled to have Jimmie with us and be able to present him with our Johnny Carson Comedy Legend Award,” said Lori Williams, the festival’s executive director. “It’s going to be a great evening.”
Walker will join host Paula Poundstone and the finalists of the festival’s stand-up competition in the Saturday evening performance.
Rising from the streets of New York's ghettos to television superstardom, Jimmie Walker personifies the great American success story.
His catch phrase "Dyn-o-mite!" is part of the modern vernacular, and he became such a major celebrity in the 1970s that Time Magazine named him "Comedian of the Decade.
Born in 1947, he left high school before graduating and joined the workforce, holding a number of odd jobs. Even though he was working all day, Walker decided to attend Theodore Roosevelt High School at night and entered into the federally funded SEEK program, short for Search for Education, Evaluation and Knowledge.
It accepted students who needed an educational "half-way house" as they climbed the educational ladder. Upon completion of the SEEK program and while working for a radio station, a friend introduced him to The Last Poets, a group dedicated to performing “militant poetry.”
They needed an opening act and after a successful audition, Walker opened for them on New Year's Eve. He did five minutes of standup, floored the crowd of 350, and stayed with the Poets for 18 months while he built his act and gained confidence as a performer.
By 1969, Jimmie was on stage at the African Room in Manhattan along with a few other up-and-coming talents, including Bette Midler and David Brenner. In those early days, doing "The Tonight Show" was a direct line to fame.
Walker’s first guest shot was when Jack Paar still was the host. That appearance led to a guest role on “Laugh In” and even more work.
Spotted by the casting director for Norman Lear of "All in the Family" fame, Walker accepted a part in Lear's new urban-styled comedy series, "Good Times."
The role of the broadly strutting, wisecracking J.J. Evans would launch him into television superstardom. "Dyn-o-mite!" was the phrase that made him famous nationwide. As "Good Times" enjoyed a six-year run, Walker's fame grew.
He was the first winner of the NAACP Image Award, and won a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Even with his demanding schedule,
Jimmie continued to appear as the headliner at top comedy clubs. His joke writing team included a young David Letterman, Jay Leno and Byron Allen.
When "Good Times" ended in 1979, Aaron Spelling offered Walker a starring role in the short-lived "B.A.D. Cats" and returned to cast him again in 1983 in "At Ease", an ABC series about a bunch of United States Army misfits.
He also landed choice roles in films like "Airplane!" and "Airport '79", and was a regular on television shows like "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island".
In recent years he's made scene-stealing appearances on "The George Lopez Show", "Everybody Hates Chris" with Chris Rock, and "Scrubs".
But stand-up comedy remains his first love. Walker currently tours the country 35 to 45 weeks a year performing live, and guesting on game shows and late night television. In his spare time he writes scripts for TV and movies, and continues to enjoy a comedy career now approaching five decades.
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Want to learn more?
For more information, or to buy tickets online, people can go to www.greatamericancomedyfestival.com