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Richard Reineccius <[log in to unmask]>
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Richard Reineccius <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 12 Apr 2013 19:11:23 -0700
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This AP full obit of Winters came via Hamilton, Ontario. Haven't seen it yet on other sources, but I'm sure some of them redakted it to the basics.

So was he a humorist, or a comic?  Do you care? What's a "natural cause"?

Richard R / SF Bay, North California


* Fri Apr 12 2013 14:45:00 *
Comedic inspiration, Jonathan Winters dies
  Jonathan Winters in character as Maudie Prickett - EI Scan 

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. 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 family friend. Petro said Winters died of natural causes and
was surrounded by family and friends.
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.
On Jack Paar’s television show in 1964, Winters was
handed a foot-long stick and he swiftly became a fisherman,
violinist, lion tamer, canoeist, U.N. diplomat, bullfighter, flutist,
delusional psychiatric patient, British headmaster and Bing Crosby’s
golf club.
“As a kid, I always wanted to be lots of things,”
Winters told U.S. News & World Report in 1988. “I was a Walter
Mitty type. I wanted to be in the French Foreign Legion, a detective,
a doctor, a test pilot with a scarf, a fisherman who hauled in a
tremendous marlin after a 12-hour fight.”
The humour most often was based in reality — his
characters Maude Frickert and Elwood P. Suggins, for example, were
based on people Winters knew growing up in Ohio.
A devotee of Groucho Marx and Laurel and Hardy,
Winters and his free-for-all brand of humour inspired Johnny Carson,
Billy Crystal, Tracey Ullman and Lily Tomlin, among others. But
Williams and Carrey are his best-known followers.
Winters, who battled alcoholism and depression for
years, was introduced to millions of new fans in 1981 as the son of
Williams’ goofball alien and his earthling wife in the final season
of ABC’s Mork and Mindy.
The two often strayed from the script. Said Williams:
“The best stuff was before the cameras were on, when he was open
and free to create. ... Jonathan would just blow the doors off.”
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 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 sought out in later years for his
changeling voice and he contributed to numerous cartoons and animated
films. Fittingly, he played three characters in the The Adventures of
Rocky and Bullwinkle movie in 2000.
“These voices are always screaming to get out,”
he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that year. “They follow me
around pretty much all day and night.”
Winters had made television history in 1956, when RCA
broadcast the first public demonstration of colour videotape on The
Jonathan Winters Show.
Winters quickly realized the possibilities, author
David Hajdu wrote in The New York Times in 2006. He soon used video
technology “to appear as two characters, bantering back and forth,
seemingly in the studio at the same time. You could say he invented
the video stunt.”
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
Winters described his father as an alcoholic. But he
found a comedic mentor in his mother, radio personality Alice Bahman.
“She was very fast. Whatever humour 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 returned to study at the Dayton Art
Institute, helping him develop keen observational skills. At one
point, he won a talent contest (and the first prize of a watch) by
doing impressions of movie stars.
After stints as a radio disc jockey and TV host in
Ohio from 1950-53, he left for New York, where he found early work
doing impressions of John Wayne, Cary Grant, Marx and James Cagney,
among others.
One night after a show, an older man sweeping up told
him he wasn’t breaking any new ground by mimicking the rich or
“He said, ‘What’s the matter with those
characters in Ohio? I’ll bet there are some far-out dudes that you
grew up with back in Ohio,’” Winters told the Orange County
Register in 1997.
Two days later, he cooked up one of his most famous
characters: the hard-drinking, dirty old woman Maude Frickert,
modeled in part on his own mother and an aunt. The character was the
forerunner of Johnny Carson’s Aunt Blabby.
Appearances on Paar’s show and others followed and
Winters soon had a following. And before long, he was struggling with
depression and his drinking.
“I became a robot,” Winters told TV critics in
2000. “I almost lost my sense of humour ... I had a breakdown and I
turned myself in (to a mental hospital). It’s the hardest thing
I’ve ever had to do.”
Winters was hospitalized for eight months in the
early 1960s. It’s a topic he rarely addressed and never dwelled on.
“If you make a couple of hundred thousand dollars a
year and you’re talking about to the blue-collar guy who’s a
farmer 200 miles south of Topeka, he’s looking up and saying, ‘That
bastard makes (all that money) and he’s crying about being a manic
depressive?’” Winters said.
When he got out, there was a role as a slow-witted
character waiting in the 1963 ensemble film It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad,
Mad World.
“I finally opened up and realized I was in charge,”
Winters told PBS interviewers for 2000’s Jonathan Winters: On the
Loose. “Improvisation is about taking chances, and I was ready to
take chances.”
Roles in other movies followed, as did TV shows,
including his own. But while show business kept Winters busy, he
stayed with his painting.
“I find painting a much slower process than comedy,
where you can go a mile a minute verbally and hope to God that some
of the people out there understand you,” he told U.S. News and
World Report in 1988. “I don’t paint every day. I’m not that
motivated. I don’t do anything the same every day. Discipline is
tough for a guy who is a rebel.”
Among his books is a collection of short stories
called Winters’ Tales (1987). He also was a painter.
“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.”    -0- The Associated Press