Dyn-o-mite!: Good Times, Bad Times, Our Times—A Memoir

Jimmie Walker, Author, Sal Manna, With
Jimmie Walker with Sal Manna. Da Capo, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-306-82083-0
Reviewed on: 05/21/2012
Release date: 06/01/2012
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Comedian and actor Walker delivers a solid, thoughtful, and provocative memoir about his nearly four decade–long career—which should surprise almost anyone who first discovered Walker as J.J. on the hit 1970s television show Good Times. As the “always-getting-into-trouble” 17-year-old son in a “lower-class, urban black family dealing with the world,” Walker improvised an exclamation—“Dyn-o-mite!”—that became his character’s trademark catchphrase as well as entering the American lexicon. “Little did I realize at the time how one word could change your life,” Walker wryly notes, since he had been working in New York City during the late 1960s honing his standup craft on a range of stages (Walker once opened for jazz legend Miles Davis) alongside stars such as Robert Klein and David Brenner as well as future superstars including Richard Lewis and Jerry Seinfeld. While Walker does an excellent job showing how much of what has been written negatively about Good Times has been “revisionist history”—(“For nine of the last ten episodes, J.J. never said ‘dyn-o-mite’ ”)—the best parts of his memoir deal with his early days, his post Good Times career (“I was as surprised as anyone that my character became the breakout star”), his insider involvement in the Jay Leno–David Letterman feud, and his many perceptive observations about comedy and current influential comedians such as Chris Rock: “He works hard, is aware of all aspects of life, and knows not only comedy but also the history of comedy.” (July)
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