Christopher Walken Started Acting In Dean Martin And Jerry Lewis Comedy Sketches As A Child

Christopher Walken's acting career has been long and fruitful, despite him having "steals from set" as an item on his list of many quirks. The "Deer Hunter" actor has been active in film since 1966 and shows no sign of stopping, starring in AppleTV+'s "Severance," which has already been renewed for another season, just this year.

But Walken's performance career goes back even further than that, according to an interview he did with The Guardian in 2021. "I was one of those kids who was on TV shows," said the iconic actor. "I was in sketches with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. Never got paid a cent!"

It makes sense that such a wildly successful career stemmed from an early start, and the opportunity to work with comedic legends like Lewis and Martin at such a young age had to have been quite beneficial to the young Walken, despite the lack of compensation that was sadly common among child actors of the time. For Walken, it meant his childhood was anything but normal, according to a recent Vanity Fair interview.

"It was very different from most childhoods. It was an unusual education, and I'm very glad I had it. It gave me experience to do what I do as an adult. When you're a child performer, you're competitive. You're out there hustling. I don't know what [a normal childhood] would've been like. I didn't play baseball, basketball. I still can't swim, but I can tap dance. It's different."

A different time

It's not surprising that a man who grew up to be as eccentric as Walken lacked some traditional tenets of childhood. It clearly worked out pretty well for him, given that he's a mega-successful Oscar-winning actor. Walken seems to look back on his time as a child actor very fondly in the Vanity Fair piece, where he waxes some nostalgia over the very different time he came up in.

"The interesting thing about my career is that I was part of something that doesn't exist anymore, the early days of television after the second World War, when television was getting born, in the late '40s and early '50s. In a whole neighborhood of people, you had one TV set, and everybody would go to the guy's house to watch his TV. There were no videotapes, so if you didn't see Uncle Miltie on a particular night, you missed it. It wasn't like you could watch it again. At that time in television, everything was kind of one-off. In New York, there were 90 live shows from New York every week. They used a lot of kids, and I was there for that. And that certainly doesn't exist anymore."

It's true that the culture of television has changed drastically since Walken's childhood. It seems fitting that the circumstances that birthed such a unique individual will probably never be replicated, just as Christopher Walken can't be replicated. Well, that is, unless you're one of the millions of people who think they have a good impression of him.