Before we knew Robin Williams or Jim Carrey, we laughed out loud at the improvisations of Jonathan Winters. He was outrageous, spontaneous, and just plain unpredictable.
Longtime family friend Joe Petro III says Winters died Thursday evening at his Montecito, Calif., home of natural causes. He was 87.
The rubber-faced man with the “basset hound” eyes, came upon the scene in the late 1950’s. He was at his best when he “ad-libbed”, and just try and stop him.
I laughed until I ached when he would re-enact a movie, sound effects included. He was a frequent guest on Steve Allen’s Tonight Show, as well as Jack Paar’s, and later Johnny Carson.
Although he never had a long running television career, he did appear in Hollywood films, most memorably, “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” “The Loved One” and “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming.” He also guest starred on numerous television shows.
When Robin Williams was performing in the television series, “Mork and Mindy”, Winters made an early appearance as Mindy’s neighbor. In the final season, with ratings plummeting, Mork hatched an egg, out of which came Jonathan Winters, known as “Mearth”. The age difference was explained by the fact that “Orkans” aged ‘backwardly’.
Williams once remarked that he both admired and was influenced by Winters.
Winter’s wife of 60 years died on January 11, 2009. She had suffered from breast cancer for 20 years.
Columnist-The Guardian Express