Dyn-O-Mite! by Jimmie Walker with Sal Manna

Dyn-O-Mite!c.2012, Da Capo                                 $25.00 / $28.00 Canada                      296 pages

Your childhood isn’t very far away. All it takes is one click.

Just turning on the TV can take you back to eating popcorn on the floor, your elbows on a pillow, Mom and Dad in their easy chairs, and your favorite program just beginning. Without much trouble, you can still sing the theme song. It’s a part of your childhood, and those were good times.

For author Jimmie Walker, the Good Times were filled with struggle, success, and career surprises. In his new memoir “Dyn-O-Mite! (with Sal Manna), Walker writes about his life and his various careers.

Jimmie Walker never had good times with his dad.

By the time Walker was born in Manhattan in 1947, his father was mostly absent and when he was at home, he was abusive. In part to escape the “rampages” and beatings, Walker’s mother sent Jimmie and his sister to Birmingham every summer.

That was a “culture shock,” says Walker, but it gave him a different look at racism. It also made him realize that New York was a pretty good place to grow up.

Walker wasn’t much of a scholar, but he managed to avoid alcohol and drugs while he earned his high school diploma. He tried to enlist in the Army Reserves, but he “flunked a physical” and instead went into a college-prep program.

It was there that someone asked him what he really wanted to do with his life.

He tried a career in radio, but it wasn’t a good fit. He tried to write, but was told that he was “not funny.” Undaunted, he bluffed his way into a club for his first stand-up gig, which bombed. Walker worked with the Last Poets, the Black Panthers, as an emcee for other acts, and he kept trying.

And then someone introduced him to producer Norman Lear.

It seemed to Walker then that his part as JJ on the TV show “Good Times” was already a done-deal, although he was reluctant to suspend his stand-up career. Still, his comedy served him in his new role, although he fought co-stars and writers to keep “funny” on the show, and he loved to ad-lib.

It was one such off-the-cuff word that blew “Good Times” into pop culture history…

In this memoir, author Jimmie Walker says that many people told him, throughout the years, that his comedy was “not funny.”

When it comes to this book, they were extremely correct.

Filled with boasting, name-dropping, scattershot stories, and 40-year-old-jokes, “Dyn-O-Mite” is hard to read with a straight face – not because you’ll be smiling, but because you’ll be grimacing. Not only is it “not funny,” but it’s not all that interesting: in addition to a long, overly-detailed, and tedious career timeline, Walker devotes a good amount of paper to his political ideology.

Ho-hum.

I think that if you’re a rabid Walker fan and you own all the “Good Times” episodes on DVD, you might like this book at least a little. For the rest of us, though, this “Dyn-O-Mite” simply fizzles.

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of PBG Lifestyle Magazine.

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