Comedian and lovable character actor Jonathan Winters died last night at the age of 87, according to family sources who said he passed away peacefully of natural causes. Gifted at improvisation and voice acting, Winters might be known to younger folks might as the simple, but kindly old man he often played in bit roles or from frequent voice over work in animated children's films. (He was Papa Smurf in the recent live action features.) Slightly older folks might have been introduced to him as Robin Williams' "child" on Mork and Mindy in the early 1980s. Yet, Winters was one of the great old school character actors, often though of as "comedian's comedian," who entertained the other comics even when the cameras weren't rolling.
Winters twice had his own comedy show on network TV in the 1950s and 1960s, but was more often remember for guest appearance on other comedian's variety shows, including The Tonight Show, where he often showed up to play invented characters that he hadn't rehearsed beforehand with host Johnny Carson.
Winters appeared in more than 50 movies, but one of the highlights of his career was the role of hapless furniture delivery driver in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. A caper comedy that's filled to the brim with the biggest names of a comedic generation (Milton Berle, Sid Caesar Buddy Hackett, Phil Silvers, etc.) Winters steals every scene he's in, including the one below, alongside two unfortunate gas station attendants. As far as we're concerned, if this scene was the only thing Jonathan Winters had ever contributed to the world of comedy, he's still be a legend.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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