Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Comedian Jonathan Winters dies

The late Jonathan Winters was an inspiration to Robin Williams and Jim Carrey (AP)

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

Jonathan died at his home in Montecito, California, of natural causes, long-time friend Joe Petro said. 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 Mr Petro, an artist and printmaker who collaborated with Jonathan for decades on numerous art projects. "We've lost a giant and we're really going to miss him."

He was a pioneer of improvisational stand-up 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.

A devotee of Groucho Marx and Laurel and Hardy, Jonathan and his free-for-all brand of humour inspired Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal, Tracey Ullman and Lily Tomlin, among many others. But Robin Williams and Jim Carrey are his best-known followers.

It was Robin who helped introduce Jonathan to millions of new fans in 1981 as the son of Robin's goofball alien and his earthling wife in the final season of ABC's Mork and Mindy.

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.

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