Groundbreaking Improv Comic Jonathan Winters Dies

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Comedian Jonathan Winters, whose breakneck improvisations inspired Robin Williams, Jim Carrey and many others, has died at age 87.

Longtime family friend Joe Petro III says Winters died Thursday evening at his Montecito, Calif., home of natural causes.

Winters was a master of improvisational comedy, with a grab bag of eccentric personalities and facial expressions. Characters such as the dirty old lady Maude Frickert were based on people Winters knew growing up in Ohio.

In the mid-1950s, “The Jonathan Winters Show” pioneered the then-new videotape technology on to do stunts such as showing up as two characters on screen together.

He was introduced to millions of new fans in 1981 as the son of Williams’ goofball alien in the final season of ABC’s “Mork and Mindy.”

Winters’ longtime friend Gary Owens told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO the comic legend was often quite different offstage than his public persona might suggest.

Gary Owens

“He would be serious at times…he would be mad at something, and then he’d be ticked off about it, and then suddenly go into a character voice where he’s a different person entirely,” Owens said. “He was the most brilliant performer, probably in that era, of all time.”

Flowers were placed on Winters’ star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Friday at 1:30 p.m.

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(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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