25 Jun 2015
Walt Willey to perform comic act in Jackson this weekend
Returning to the stage of the South Street Comedy Club this weekend for the first time in nearly a decade is soap opera legend Walt Willey.
Known for his role on "All My Children," Willey racked up an astonishing 652 episodes over a 25-year period as the character Jackson Montgomery. While Willey loved his job as one of television's most recognizable figures, by the time it ended he was ready to pursue his other passions.
"It was a great job," Willey said in a phone interview. "It really was a great show, and I feel so bad for the fans who were so invested in it. I think it was terrible the way they took it off — I didn't think they needed to do it that way because there were other options, but that's what they did. As a Midwest kid I would never quit a job, but after 25 years I was ready to move on and work on other projects and my comedy."
Move on he has, pouring himself into the art of standup comedy and entertaining across the country to become one of the most popular acts in the business. In January of 2001, Willey's place in comedy would be further solidified with his induction into the famous Friars Club, where he joined the likes of Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, and Billy Crystal.
For Willey, being a successful standup comic boils down to two things.
"I think the really successful comics first of all have a bit of a streak of masochism," he said. "I mean, to get up there by yourself the first several times and just hang it out there I think you have to be either very brave or a bit of a masochist. But I also think comedy is about point of view. People can talk about the same subject but one person is hysterical and the other is not, and it really comes down to point of view. I think you have to sort of have a natural affinity for thinking that way and seeing things that way — you have to first develop that. Then you have to develop a way of communicating it."
This talent of perception will lend itself well to Willey's new show at South Street. After taking several years off to pursue other projects, Willey is bringing his take on a slew of new life experiences to the stage.
"I had taken kind of a break the past four years to work on some other projects," he said, "and it has been quite a full four years. My wife of 21 years decided she didn't want to be a wife or mother anymore and decided to leave and just announced it one day, so that's been interesting. I'm now dating a girl half my age, so that's definitely interesting. There's a lot of interesting stuff going on the past four years, all of which I've finally got enough distance on to be able to talk about it and make it funny. In other words it's a big therapy session. It's a live therapy session and the public gets to see it."
Harvey Boyd, manager of South Street Comedy Club, emphasized that Willey's show isn't just for fans of "All My Children."
"There's going to be some material about his time on "All My Children,"" explained Boyd, "but that's not all. It's about raising kids and love and work and relationships and things that everybody can relate to. So you don't have to be an 'All My Children' fan to appreciate it. There is new material but there are also classic bits like the broken nose bit that will always be there. He's a consummate professional when it comes to being a standup, and to me he's a standup comic first and an actor second."
Located next to Baudo's Restaurant in Jackson, South Street Comedy Club will host Willey on Friday night at 9:30, and Saturday night at 8 and 10. Shows are rated R. Only age 18+ admitted.
General admission tickets are $15. More information and tickets can be found at www.southstreetcomedy.com or by calling . Willey will be available after each show for autographs and pictures with fans.
What to know
•Located next to Baudo's Restaurant in Jackson, South Street Comedy Club will host Walt Willey on Friday night at 9:30, and Saturday night at 8 and 10. Shows are rated R. Only age 18+ admitted.
•General admission tickets are $15. More information and tickets can be found at www.southstreetcomedy.com or by calling . Willey will be available after each show for autographs and pictures with fans.