Actor/Comedian Jonathan Winters, 87, Has Died
Jonathan Winters, a giant in the field of standup comedy, died of natural causes on Thursday. He was 87.
Winters was a standup comic with a gift for improvisation and mimicry. Better known for his comedy routines and television and voiceover work, Winters made his feature film debut in It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. His film credits included the live-action The Flintstones in 1994, and most recently he provided the voice of Papa Smurf in The Smurfs and its upcoming sequel.
In the 1950s, Winters was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a condition he often alluded to in his standup routines. As one of the first celebrities to go public with a personal mental illness issue, he often felt stigmatized for his condition. “This is something I’ve never quite shaken,” he once said. “There are bigger stars than me with all kinds of coke problems, sauce problems, guys that are married four, five times. Then they put them in picture after picture. Why should I have to go through my life auditioning and proving I’m sane?”
Despite this, Winters channeled his frustrations into an almost boundless source of energy, and was an inspiration to many comedians who would follow in his footsteps, including Robin Williams, with whom Winters worked on Williams’ TV series, “Mork and Mindy”. “Jonathan’s the source for me, the guy that made it all possible,” Williams once said. “He’s the Smithsonian, all these riffs he stores up. Just sit back and watch him. He’s a force of energy. Comedy would be more closed off without him.”
In a tribute at the 6th Annual TV Land Awards in 2008, Williams presented Jonathan Winters with the TV Land Pioneer Award, which honors performers who have “pushed the frontiers of the medium”.
Winters’ wife of 60 years, Eileen, died in 2009. He is survived by a son, a daughter and five grandchildren.