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Entertainer Jonathan Winters dead at 87

Winters in 1997.

AP

Winters in 1997.

12

April

From the AP:

Jonathan Winters
, the cherub-faced comedian whose breakneck improvisations and misfit characters inspired the likes of Robin Williams and Jim Carrey, has died. He was 87.

The Ohio native died Thursday evening at his Montecito, Calif., home of natural causes, said Joe Petro III, a longtime friend. He was surrounded by family and friends.

"He was just a great friend and I was very lucky to be able to work with him for all the years I did," said Petro, an artist and printmaker who collaborated with Winters for decades on numerous art projects. "We've lost a giant and we're really going to miss him."

Winters was a pioneer of improvisational standup comedy, with an exceptional gift for mimicry, a grab bag of eccentric personalities and a bottomless reservoir of creative energy. Facial contortions, sound effects, tall tales — all could be used in a matter of seconds to get a laugh.

"Beyond funny, He invented a new category of comedic genius," comedian Albert Brooks tweeted Friday.

Winters' only Emmy was for best-supporting actor for playing Randy Quaid's father in the sitcom Davis Rules (1991). He was nominated again in 2003 as outstanding guest actor in a comedy series for an appearance on Life With Bonnie.

He also won two Grammys: One for his work on The Little Prince album in 1975 and another for his Crank Calls comedy album in 1996. He also won the Kennedy Center's second Mark Twain Prize for Humor in 1999, a year after Richard Pryor.

Winters was born Nov. 11, 1925, in Dayton, Ohio. Growing up during the Depression as an only child whose parents divorced when he was 7, Winters spent a lot of time entertaining himself.

Winters, who himself battled alcoholism in his younger years, described his father as an alcoholic. But he found a comedic mentor in his mother, radio personality Alice Bahman.

"She was very fast. Whatever humor I've inherited I'd have to give credit to her," Winters told the Cincinnati Enquirer in 2000.

Winters joined the Marines at 17 and served two years in the South Pacific. He found success on radio and television, then checked himself into a mental hospital in the 1960s. He then went on to a career of moviemaking, book-writing and entertaining.

"I've done for the most part pretty much what I intended — I ended up doing comedy, writing and painting," he told U.S. News. "I've had a ball. And as I get older, I just become an older kid."

Winters' wife, Eileen, died in 2009. He is survived by two children, Lucinda Winters and Jay Winters.



[Last modified: Friday, April 12, 2013 3:38pm]

    

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