Jonathan Winters, the improvisational comic who could take on almost any personality and who influenced comedians like Jim Carrey and Robin Williams, died Thursday evening of natural causes at his home in Montecito, California.
To many fans, he might be best remembered today for his role as Robin Williams’ son — yes, his son, not his dad — on the final season of the science fiction sitcom Mork and Mindy, which ran on ABC from 1978-1982. It was also Williams’ first chance to showcase his own improvisational skills in front of the American public.
In 1983-1984, Jonathan Winters was also a regular on the comedy hit Hee Haw.
However, Winters was already famous for his comedic gifts long before the 1980s. Having won a 1950s era talent contest while still in college, he was offered a job as a DJ. Instead of merely announcing songs, he inserted his own jokes and personality into the act.
Eventually, he was doing entire comedy routines, allowing him to work up to appearing in New York nightclubs and then on TV. He appeared regularly on the top late night TV shows of the day, including Jack Paar and Johnny Carson.
He appeared in almost 50 movies, including the 1963 comedy caper It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
Unlike so many Hollywood stars, he remained married to the same woman for 60 years. Eileen Winters died in 2009 at age 84.
People from all walks of life have been inspired by Jonathan Winters, with countless people tweeting and retweeting his most famous serious quote in his honor:
. “If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to meet it!” Jonathan Winters
— Lonnie Moore (@lonniemoore) April 11, 2013
And here are a couple more of the many funny or kind remembrances just posted to Twitter.
RIP Jonathan Winters – an all-time great, without whose inspiration we probably wouldn’t have Robin Williams and Jim Carrey, today.
— Lupus Anthropos (@LupusAnthropos) April 12, 2013
Every comedian knows the Real Story of Easter, when the Egg hatches and Jonathan Winters comes out as a giant baby. twitter.com/ericfell/statu…
— Eric Fell (@ericfell) April 1, 2013
The world will miss the offbeat humor of Jonathan Winters.
[Jonathan Winters It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World screenshot via Wikipedia Commons]