Saturday, April 13, 2013

To Absent Friends: Jonathan Winters

The great, and I do mean great, Jonathan Winters died yesterday at the age of 87.  

I found it a bit unsettling that many of the stories I read about Winters' death led with the fact that Winters had a continuing role in the sitcom "Mork and Mindy".  I made a comment on Facebook today that that is like saying that Willie Mays was an outfielder for the New York Mets.  While both statements are true, they don't even begin to cover the scope of either men's careers and accomplishments.

I remember Winters mainly from appearances on talk shows like Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, and Mike Douglas.  His oddball characters, his improvisational routines, and the sound effects that he made were absolutely hilarious.  I mean there was no one funnier.  I also remember that for a time in the late 1960's, he hosted a network TV variety show, and I can remember my Central buddies and I recounting each show every week and laughing our eyes out over it.

To say that winters influenced those who followed him is an understatement.   Johnny Carson's "Aunt Blabby" character was a blatant rip-off of Winters' Maude Frickertt, but Winters didn't seem to mind, and it isn't too big a stretch to say that if there were no Jonathan Winters, there would have been no Robin Williams, or many of the comics produced by Saturday Night Live.

He was a true comic genius and true original.

RIP Jonathan Winters.

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