Jay Wendell Walker was just 5 years old when he discovered his life’s calling.
He sat on a balloon. It popped. He hit the floor.
All the adults burst out laughing.
That was it. Walker couldn’t spell the word “comedian” yet, but he knew he wanted to be one.
Now 67, Walker is still trying to make people laugh.
See for yourselves July 18. The veteran comic will appear in “A Hard Man to Kill,” Walker’s 49th anniversary show, at the Bing Crosby Theater in downtown Spokane.
Tickets for the 9 p.m. event are $15. Or just half, says Walker, for anyone who can “show proof of unemployment or foreclosure.”
Wow. That means everyone in the newsroom can go.
Some people have asked Walker why he doesn’t just wait a year and commemorate his 50th show biz year.
Walker fires back that in the shape he’s in, “I can’t be planning that far ahead.”
Life is one punch line after another for this veteran funny guy.
I know. Walker met me for coffee the other day in a Starbucks, and he soon had me rolling.
Actually, his cologne arrived before he did. Then he showed up, wearing a red “Proud to be an American” baseball cap, a blue tropical shirt and an endearing hound-dog expression.
This is no humor hobbyist. Walker is the consummate pro. He has performed stand-up on a full-time basis since he was cracking jokes as an 18-year-old in State Line strip joints and dives.
Walker told me about appearing in the same Seattle joint as Ray Charles. Then there was this time in a Tahoe club when Frank Sinatra called him over to his table to compliment his act.
Being in the presence of “The Boss” filled Walker with so much awe that he turned and walked straight into a pillar, busting his nose.
And how about what happened in 2006? Walker took on 30 far-younger comics and won the 31st San Francisco International Comedy Competition. Not bad considering past finalists include names like Robin Williams, Ellen DeGeneres and Dana Carvey.
But enough tales. Let me leave you with a few comedic moments from my time with Jay Wendell Walker.
•After a performance in Canada, Walker claims, a sleazy club owner tried to pay him with a prostitute instead of cash. “Do I look like I need a hooker?” the comedian deadpanned, adding that he finally settled for “Canadian bacon.”
•Despite doing so much traveling, Walker says he always tried to be a good Spokane father.
“When the kids got old enough for birth control I took ’em to the Rainbow Tavern.”
•Walker looks back on the Mayor Jim West sex scandal as the Golden Age for a Spokane comic.
“I could be in Moorhead, Minn., and do Jim West jokes,” he said.
Take that story where Mayor West supposedly offered a male intern money for a nude swim.
“I’d have taken the money,” quips Walker. “Put a naked guy behind me in a pool and I always swim faster.”