FUNNY MAN TONY WALKER IS KNOCKING ‘EM DEAD By Sandra Castillo

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If there’s one thing in life guaranteed to happen, when one is present the moment comedian Tony Walker parts his lips to speak, there will be laughter. Lots and lots of it. Just one glance of the furrowed brow arching over the “menacing” stare, which is sure to disarm even the most skeptical, jaded of souls, will more than likely result in the kind of side-splitting outburst one would expel after watching Eddie Murphy cavort with his inner James Brown, while groovin’ his way into the hot tub, on Saturday Night Live, circa 1983.
Born in Huntington, New York, on April 28, 1970 but now residing in Wantagh, Long Island, Anthony Joseph Walker entered this universe on a mission…to make the world a better, less serious place with his own unique brand of humor and comedic talents by way of the stage and radio.
RG Magazine recently caught up with Walker to find out more about the man who keeps it real and his audience in stitches. Here is what he had to say…

Discerning minds need to know. Besides you, are there any other comedians in the Walker Family?
No comedians in the Walker Family, but my grandfather, Bert, was an actor, my brother is a musician, and my son will be entering film school this fall.

Looking back on your past, have you always been drawn to comedy?
I was drawn to theater as a teen-ager. In my senior year of high school, I got some major roles in the school plays, which led to some attention from the girls. Between loving every aspect of theatre and the girls, I was in heaven.

What comedians tickle your funny bone?
My favorite actor-comedians are Bill Cosby, Billy Crystal and Don Rickles.

What compels you to laugh or make others laugh?
What compels me to laugh…wow. I always just tried to make the best of whatever situation I was in and found that a sense of humor was how I did that. It’s so cliché, but a sense of humor, a smile and just asking someone how their day is really does go a long way. When I was in my twenties, I realized I could get further with people-whether it’s a business deal or just trying to get to know someone-with a nice attitude and making a joke. And I was never fake. The smile is genuine which showed. People respond positively to that. Life is too short to be grouchy or snotty or hung up on stupid shit.

Your name and comedic reputation are synonymous with the very popular Knock ‘Em Dead Comedy, which has been entertaining audiences throughout Long Island and parts of the northeastern U.S. for many years now. Talk a bit about this and how KDC came to see the “light of day.”
Back in the 90’s, I was working for a woman who ran audience-participation murder-mystery shows. She retired while business was good, so a friend approached me about doing it ourselves. I never thought about writing or directing in my life-here I am, 20-something years later, with five scripts under my belt, directing and performing in Knock ‘Em Dead Comedy.
I had some other comedy troupes through the years with various partners, but KDC has been the most successful, popular troupe out of all of them. Along with the murder-mystery shows, we also offer game shows, kids shows, custom shows and variety shows.

How did you come to discover the talent that comprises KDC?
Some of the talent at KDC have auditioned, some I spotted in other shows and just thought they’d be a good fit for our troupe. One of our performers, Linda Bartolomeo, was performing with the group I originally worked with back in the 90’s. Linda and I have been working together ever since.
Working with a troupe that works as often as we do (resulting in 60-80 shows a year), you become close friends with your fellow cast members. If one of them is working on another project and that project needs someone, the cast members will run it by us, should anyone be interested in getting involved. Situations like that happen often. My business partner/fellow KDC performer, Eric Skjeveland, has worked on a few, different projects together. Back in 2007, I did a play where there were nine characters in this show…six of the nine were people, who were either current or former members of our troupe-a total coincidence.

Who is responsible for coming up with the skit ideas for KDC?
I write Knock ‘Em Dead Comedy’s murder-mysteries and most of the other things we do. Sometimes my business partner, Eric, contributes. We’ve only used the work of one of our performers, one time.

Your credentials include that you were a “former writer, voices, assistant cartoonist at Planet Bonehead.”
With Planet Bonehead, a cartoon for kids about being environmentally friendly, my lifelong friend, Bobby Donohue (who I have known since we were two-years-old) was writing and animating the cartoon, when he approached me about co-writing and providing some voices for it. I jumped at the chance and had some KDC performers get involved, as well. That was a great experience that I miss. To this day, I still tease Bobby because the character I voiced was the most popular character among the test audiences who viewed the show! Planet Bonehead, unfortunately, is not making any new episodes at this time, but the shows are still available for download. Some of it is up on YouTube. Hopefully, someday, we will be able to make more episodes. In some episodes, you may see a cartoon version of Sting…that led to my “Assistant Cartoonist” title. That drawing of Sting is so bad, Bobby just had to let the world know that he would never draw something so bad. I drew it.

Where has KDC performed?
KDC has performed at many clubs, such as the Governors Comedy Clubs, which are the biggest comedy clubs on Long Island. We’ve entertained corporate events for companies like Century 21 and Capital One Bank. Many PTAs, autism organizations and others use us for fundraising events. Private parties are a big part of what we do, as well.

In your opinion, what does it really take to be a comedian in today’s world?
Being a comedian in today’s world is very hard. All comedians are competing against YouTubers and the like. They’re also working in a politically-correct world. Can you imagine Don Rickles starting out now? He’d never make it; he would have every group, race, religious denomination coming after him. I personally feel there’s currently no originality in the comedy world. Everyone, today, is doing stand-up…just getting on a stage in a sports team jersey and complaining about the same things. KDC offers audiences interactive shows with music and dancing, games and non-stop laughter.

Looking back on your humble beginnings, what did it personally feel like when you elicited a laugh from your audience for the very first time, while performing onstage?
I had stopped performing in my early twenties, because of a full-time job, buying a house, starting a family, etc. I was in my late twenties when I got back into acting, and it was with the murder-mystery show. As soon as I got my first laugh at my first show, I knew I could never give this up again, no matter what. Making people laugh isn’t what I do. It’s who I am.

You are now co-hosting Knock ‘Em Dead Comedy Radio Show With Tony and Eric. What was the inspiration to get the radio show off the ground with Eric?
Eric and I have always looked for ways to branch out, whether it was for more exposure, getting higher paying gigs, having fun or all the above. We’ve dabbled in commercials and some other projects. At our first Governors Comedy Club show, we were backstage and saw a radio studio. We got to talking with the great people at Governors. They showed us the studio and told us about Govsradio.com, which is affiliated with iHeart Radio. We expressed interest in doing something. The next thing we know, we are back there a few weeks later, getting a lesson on how to run the studio. On March 12, 2018, we premiered our show on their website. We’re still pinching ourselves! It really was that simple! We’re having a great time doing it…having guests, playing music, having my love, Sallie, working in the control room and laughing the whole way through it. We have high hopes for this show!

Who have you had on as guests on your radio show broadcast?
We’ve had some local comedians on, including James Goff and New York actor Gina Scarda. Stone Grissom, who is a very popular Long Island news anchor, has made an appearance, as well as several local musicians.

You are coolly irreverent, a bit bawdy, when it comes to comedy. Are there any pet peeves of yours, when other comedians try too hard to be irreverent but come off sounding corny?
I am completely irreverent, but I try not to cross really serious borders. I just don’t get why we have to be so serious or hard up with so many things. I just feel society is too uptight, so I will call you out on it or make some kind of twisted comment. Many times, someone gets offended about something I said, but I’m honestly never trying to offend anyone. I am trying to get them to wake up and realize what’s really important in life instead of what President Trump tweeted today. Of course, there are certain topics that I feel you just can’t joke about. I don’t like jokes about “special needs” community, serious crimes, war, etc.

Aside from comedy, what is truly important to Tony Walker?
My kids are the biggest thing in my life, the happiest things of my life…the “special needs” world is very important to me, given the fact that my daughter is autistic. Our government has so many rules and regulations when it comes to the “special needs” community. It’s overwhelming. So, I try my best to stay on top of things, regarding my girl and the “special needs” world, in general. I was the co-president of our school district’s “special needs” PTA for five years. I currently coach a “special needs” softball team that my daughter plays on. We’ve made some great friends through the “special needs” programs here on Long Island. It’s important to me that the “special needs” community has a great quality of life.

What would you like written on your tombstone?
I’m not going to have a tombstone. I wanna be stuffed in a standing position, with my hand up, like I’m waving to you and a big smile on my face. Forever smiling.

 

Tony and Eric are live on http://www.govsradio.com every Monday-Friday, from 11 AM-1 PM (EST)
If you can’t tune into the live show, the shows are posted on https://soundcloud.com/you/tracks

To see a listing of Knock ‘Em Dead Comedy’s scheduled events, visit
http://knockemdeadcomedy.com/showdates

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