My memories of Jonathan Winters go back almost as far as I have a memory. I remember his classic ad-libs when he would appear on The Tonight Show with Jack Parr – before Johnny Carson took over. Jack would literally give Jonathan a prop as simple as a stick, and he would create a five monute routine that would have Jack and everyone watching, on the floor. A neighbor had several of Jonathan’s comedy albums, and I bought my first of many shortly thereafter. In 1963 I saw him on the big screen in ‘It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World’, and to this day can recite many of his lines from memory (‘That guy’s dead!’) From time to time he would show up on various variety shows like The Andy Williams show, Laugh In, and his recurring role as Mork’s father on Mork and Mindy, proving he was even funnier than Robin Williams. He was also the voice of Papa Smurf on ‘The Smurfs.
Of all the comics I’ve ever seen, no one had a sharper mind or quicker wit than Jonathan Winters. Tonight I’ll probably watch ‘It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World’ for the umpteenth time, and laugh just as much as I did when me and Mike Chesbro sat on on the front row of the long gone Will Rogers Theatre in Tulsa and said to each other it was the funniest movie we’d ever seen.
I didn’t know at the time it would be the funniest movie I would ever see…period – largely do the genius of Jonathan Winters.
Here are five great moments (in no particular order) with Jonathan Winters who died last night of natural causes at his home in Modesto, California. He was 87.
1. JACK PARR SHOW
2. ANDY WILLIAMS SHOW
3. MORK AND MINDY
4. JOHNATHAN WINTERS ROASTS JOHNNY CARSON
5. DEAN MARTIN SHOW
Can’t stop at 5 – classic gas station scene from It’s A Mad Mad mad mad World