Yet no matter what side of the punchline he stood, J.J. always got the last laugh, thanks to his iconic catchphrase "DY-NO-MITE!," which just so happens to the be the title of Walker¹s recent memoir detailing his abusive life growing up in the Bronx through his superstar ascension in Hollywood with all the trappings of success.
But in his heart, Walker is not a stand-up comedian, but a comedian with a conservative conscious who can be seen on news programs, including "The O'Reilly Factor," cracking jokes about everything from immigration to Obama.
Walker, who will serve as MC for the second annual Model City Music Fest on Saturday, July 20, as well as perform a 20-minute stand-up routine, recently spoke with The Star via email about his new book, his motivation and the state of stand-up.
Q: You¹ve spent nearly 40 years performing stand-up anywhere and everywhere, but an outdoor music festival has got to be a little different. What was the draw for you to come to Anniston?
A: Because they were nice enough to ask me.
Q: What keeps you motivated to keep doing stand-up?
A: Because I believe that I¹m funny. People want to see me, and the finances.
Q: You¹re very politically involved. What do you think a comedians role can be in the political arena in terms of getting people to think?
A: No, people are pretty much set in their ways and are not going to be talked out of them. As you know the country is very divided — through politics, race and income more than ever.
Q: There was a time when stand-up was a springboard for Hollywood stardom, but we aren¹t necessarily seeing that as much in recent years. How would you define the state of stand-up today?
A: Stand up is a reflection of America ‹ very divided. Mel Brooks once said, "Funny is funny." Not anymore! There's young white comedy — Anthony Jesonick, Daniel Tosh. There's gay comedy — Jim David, Kate Clinton. There's the hip, only in the big cities comedy — Margaret Cho, Sarah Silverman. Black comedy — Katt Williams, Michael Epps. Latino comedy — Alex Reymondo, Gilbert Isgiasis. White American country — James Gregory, The Blue Collar tour. And last, but not least, clean comedy — Cosby, Jim Gaffigan, Brian Regan, Sinbad and myself. It¹s not your father¹s comedy anymore. The dirty comedy reflects where America is and what America wants.
Q: You¹ll forever be known for your groundbreaking work in "Good Times." Looking back, how do you feel about the show and your role?
A: I think people liked it and in today¹s society I think that's good.
Q: Do you get tired of people recognizing you as J.J. Evans, asking you to say "Dy-no-mite!" or have you embraced who you'll always be to people?
A: That really doesn¹t happen that much, so it is what it is.
Q: We see a lot of young stars/child stars crash and burn in the public eye (Amanda Bynes being just the latest example). How did you survive being a star at such a young age and how were you able to come out the other end to a successful career?
A: I was never a star, just a road comic. I was in the era of Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Steve Martin — those were the guys getting all the attention, but all that is in my book, "Dynomite."
Q: What would fans be most surprised to learn about you?
A: I think the people that started with me, writing jokes for my act. It was their first chance to get into "Sho-Biz." (Comedians like) Jay Leno, David Lettermen, Byron Allen, Louie Anderson, Rich Jeni, Robert Schimmel — my latest being Dustin Ybbarra, who is series regular on Fox's new show, "The Jason Ritter Show." And the list goes on.