Jimmie Walker

Jimmie Walker Headshot

Actor • Comedian

Birth Date: June 25, 1947

Age: 76 years old

Birth Place: The Bronx, New York City, New York

As the lanky, comically over-confident eldest son, J.J., on the popular sitcom "Good Times," (CBS, 1973-79), Jimmie Walker was one of the first African-American comics to achieve mainstream success. His run on the popular 1970s sitcom went beyond mere celebrity and transformed the actor into a cultural icon, thanks in large part to his catchphrase "Dy-No-Mite!" which became permanently etched in the public's consciousness, despite Walker's initial reservations in using it. Though he was embraced by white audiences, Walker was the subject of strong criticism from the black community, many of whom felt his character was cartoonish and insulting, particularly because the show centered on a poor inner-city family struggling to get by in a Chicago ghetto. His outlandish depiction of blacks on the show led to tension both on and off the set, causing cast members to air their frustrations in public. Nonetheless, Walker relished an ongoing recognition beyond his "Good Time" years, though he failed to reach that height of popularity ever again.

Born June 25, 1947, Walker was raised in a tough South Bronx, NY neighborhood where he harbored dreams of playing professional basketball. Though he had the athletic ability, he lacked both height and girth, putting him at a serious disadvantage. Dejected, he quit high school and took a series of odd jobs around the city, including delivering groceries for $47 a week. He soon found a renewed interest in school and began attending Theodore Roosevelt High School at night to earn his degree, then later enrolling in Search for Education, Evaluation and Knowledge (SEEK), a federally funded program that served as an educational bridge between high school and college. SEEK paved the way for him to pursue his education at the RCA Technical Institute, where Walker earned his license as a radio engineer. He went right to work at WRBR part-time, earning more the twice his grocery delivery earnings, while he continued to study math and literature at SEEK. It was during a writing class that Walker learned he was funny, making his fellow classmates laugh with a piece he wrote that soon led to an interest in performing stand-up comedy.

In 1967, Walker finally left SEEK and was introduced by a friend to a militant poet troupe, "The Last Poets," where he performed a five-minute opening act and spent the next 18 months developing his repertoire. His performances caught the eye of comedian David Brenner, who helped Walker and several other comedians - including Steve Landesberg and Bette Midler - get their shots playing the famed Improv in New York City. The quartet soon became regular performers, taking their shot at the "big time" after receiving calls to perform on "The Tonight Show" - except for Walker. Brenner, Midler and Landesberg then got their chance to play "The Jack Paar Show," but all refused unless Paar gave Walker a shot as well. The host relented and Walker delivered a great performance, attracting the attention of Dan Rowan of "Laugh In" fame, who gave him a guest spot on the legendary variety show. Walker followed with a second spot on Paar's show; from that, earning a contract with CBS as a warm-up comic for the short-lived sitcom, "Carlucci's Department" (1973). After several years of struggle, Walker's career was finally moving forward.

Walker mustered the courage to quit his day job and concentrated on performing stand-up full-time. During one performance, he captured the attention of Norman Lear's casting director, who was casting for the producer's latest sitcom, "Good Times" - a spin-off of another popular sitcom, "Maude" (CBS, 1972-1978). Centering on Maude's former maid, Florida Evans (Esther Rolle), the ironically-titled series focused on a poor black family struggling to make ends meet in the projects of south side Chicago. Though Walker was originally cast in a supporting role, producers quickly realized that audiences liked the charismatic - though often buffoonish - J.J., a budding comic book artist prone to chasing girls and coming up with get-rich-quick schemes that always set the family back further. As the writers focused more attention on Walker, particularly his stereotypical characterization of blacks, co-stars Rolle and John Amos began voicing their displeasure over how they were being portrayed. Amos was upset enough to leave the show after the third season, followed not long after by Rolle after season four (she did return for the sixth and final go-round).

While "Good Times" maintained its popularity - it was a top ten show during the 1974-75 season - Walker capitalized on his newfound success. He had his feature debut in "Let's Do It Again" (1975), a rather insipid and uninspired comedy about two con artists (Sydney Poitier and Bill Cosby) trying to turn a skinny wimp (Walker) into a feared pugilist. Also in 1975, Walker released his first live comedy album, Dy-No-Mite, an amusing set recorded at the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C. that highlighted his strength as a commentator on race and other social issues. Walker appeared in several guest spots on popular shows from the time, including "The Love Boat" (ABC, 1977-1986) - on which he appeared a whopping seven times - "White Shadow," (CBS, 1978-1981) and "Fantasy Island" (ABC, 1978-1984). He was also a regular participant on ABC's goofy celebrity competition, "Battle of the Network Stars," as well as on the classic celebrity game show, "The Match Game" (CBS, 1973-79).

After "Good Times" went off the air in 1979, Walker continued making guest spots on popular shows of the day - including "Cagney & Lacey" (CBS, 1982-88) and "The Fall Guy" (ABC, 1981-86) - though his popularity began to wane throughout the 1980s. He tried his hand at feature films, but he was mainly relegated to bit parts, showing up briefly in "The Concord: Airport '79" (1979) and playing a window washer in "Airplane!" (1980). But it quickly became apparent that his bread-and-butter was stand-up, which he did as much as he could, becoming a regular performer in Las Vegas and other venues across the country.

As Walker honed his comedy act, roles in film and on television became more scarce, particularly regular series roles. He appeared in short-lived drama "B.A.D. Cats" (ABC, 1980), then returned to the sitcom world with the equally short-lived "At Ease" (ABC, 1983), which starred Walker as a platoon sergeant who keeps his company in hot water because of his get-rich-quick schemes with the Army's property. After a bit part as a porn shop clerk in the action-thriller "Kidnapped" (1987), Walker was given what could have been his final shot at starring in his own show, playing the Richard Pryor character in the small screen adaptation of "Bustin' Loose" (Syndicated, 1987-88). The syndicated series lasted 26 episodes before being cancelled.

As time marched on, memories of Walker faded along with his career. He continued to make sporadic guest spots on television, including "The Larry Sanders Show" (HBO, 1992-98) and "The Chris Rock Show" (HBO, 1997-2000), and took more bit parts in feature films, including "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" (1992) and "Monster Mash: The Movie" (1995). Then in the late-1990s, nostalgia for '70s and '80s pop culture began to grow, and Walker found himself in the limelight again - albeit briefly - appearing as himself on "The Weakest Link: Classic Television," (NBC, 2001-03), "Beat the Geeks," (Fox, 2001-02) "Star Dates" (E!, 2002) "The 70's House" (MTV, 2005) and "Elimidate," (syndicated, 2001-06). He also played himself in two first-season episodes of "Scrubs" (NBC, 2001-08; ABC, 2009-10), as well as landed guest spots on "The Drew Carey Show" (ABC, 1995-2004), "George Lopez" (ABC, 2002-06) and "Everybody Hates Chris" (UPN, 2005-09), playing Chris' beloved grandfather who has a sudden coronary in the middle of a knock-knock joke and biting a pork chop. Meanwhile, Walker continued touring the country, performing his stand-up routine in clubs and small venues.

Credits

Norman Lear: A Life on Television

Self
Special
2023

Don't Suck

Actor
Dale
Movie
2023

CHAAW: Chapter 3

Actor
Uncle Jr.
Movie
2023

SuperstarStream

Self
Series
2021

I Am Richard Pryor

Self
Show
2019

Jimmie JJ Walker & Michael Winslow: We Are Still Here

Self
Show
2018

Jimmie JJ Walker & Michael Winslow: We Are Still Here

Writer
Show
2018

Funny You Should AskStream

Guest
Game Show
2017

Battle of the Network Stars

Guest
Reality
2017

Sweet Lorraine

Actor
Rudy Ray
Movie
2015

The Arsenio Hall Show

Guest
Show
2013

Gotham Comedy Live

Actor
Show
2012

Steve Harvey

Guest
Talk
2012

Traffic Light

Guest Star
Show
2011

Super Shark

Actor
Dynamite Stevens
Movie
2011

Access Hollywood Live

Guest
Show
2010

Funny or Die Presents

Actor
Johnson
Show
2010

Worst Cooks in AmericaStream

Contestant
Reality
2010

Let's Make a DealStream

Guest
Game Show
2009

Comedy.TV

Guest
Show
2009

Comedy.TV

Guest Star
Show
2009

The Wendy Williams Show

Guest
Talk
2008

Back to the Grind

Self
Show
2007

Martin Lawrence Presents 1st Amendment Standup

Guest
Show
2007

The Morning Show With Mike & Juliet

Guest
Show
2007

Comics Unleashed With Byron Allen

Guest
Talk
2006

Comics Unleashed With Byron Allen

Guest Star
Talk
2006

Everybody Hates ChrisStream

Guest Star
Gene
Series
2005
95%

Tavis Smiley

Guest
Talk
2004

George LopezStream

Guest Star
Series
2002

ScrubsStream

Guest Star
Jimmie Walker
Series
2001
83%

Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th

Actor
Pimp
Movie
2000

The ViewStream

Guest
Talk
1997

Deadly Games

Guest Star
Show
1995

In the HouseStream

Guest Star
Series
1995

Frankenstein Sings

Actor
Hathaway
Movie
1995

The John Larroquette Show

Guest Star
Series
1993

Late Show With David Letterman

Guest
Talk
1993

The Guyver

Actor
Striker
Movie
1992

Bustin' Loose

Actor
Sonny Barnes
Show
1987

The Bold and the BeautifulStream

Guest Star
Count Bouche
Soap
1987

Kidnapped

Actor
Chester
Movie
1987

Going Bananas

Actor
Mozambo
Movie
1987

My African Adventure

Actor
Mozambo
Movie
1987

Mon aventure africaine

Actor
Movie
1987

Water

Actor
Jay Jay
Movie
1985

Doin' Time

Actor
Shaker
Movie
1985

The Fall GuyStream

Guest Star
Series
1981

The Concorde: Airport '79

Actor
Boisie
Movie
1979

The White Shadow

Guest Star
Series
1978

Fantasy Island

Guest Star
Series
1978

The Love BoatStream

Guest Star
Series
1977

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Ted Knight

Actor
Show
1977

The Greatest Thing That Almost Happened

Actor
Morris Bird III
Movie
1977

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Redd Foxx

Guest
Show
1976

Let's Do It AgainStream

Actor
Bootney Farnsworth
Movie
1975
60%

TattletalesStream

Actor
Game Show
1974

TattletalesStream

Guest
Game Show
1974

Good TimesStream

Actor
James Evans, Jr.
Series
1974

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