The King of Improv–Jonathan Winters

Best known for his many tv appearances on The Jack Parr Show, The Andy Williams Show, and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Jonathan Winters (1925-2013) was a popular American stand-up comedian/master of voices, sound effects, facial expressions, and mimicry who released the comedy LPs shown above.

He eventually moved into movies and was featured in the satires The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, Viva Max, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and The Loved One.

He hosted his own tv show, appeared in the last season of Mork and Mindy, and had his own show Davis Rules. Robin Williams considered him a principal mentor and a close, personal kindred-spirit friend.

After his long tv career, Winters continued releasing CDs (including his funny phone messages and his smooth narration of A Christmas Carol) and videos (such as those below) in later life and he never quit entertaining people in structured and non-structured situations. He was an incredibly funny man who enjoyed playing eccentrics and ad-libbing wherever he went.

Winters was bipolar and had spent time in an mental institution after WWII, before he started doing stand-up comedy. His later painting reflects his strange, unusual ways of expressing his absurd views of life.

Another successful book he did was called Winter’s Tales which was a humorous, offbeat collection of fictional stories and anecdotes, which stand on their own, quite apart from his usual stand-up comedy.

His many tv appearances have been collected in videos such as the above.

The above is a recent rerelease of his first 5 albums for Verve Records.

From an email today re. his mental problems

The first bit he does on that first record references the looney bin and drew much laughter from the drunk Vegas crowd.
He remains one of the edgiest, most candid live performers I’ve ever seen.
He slipped into his imagination publicly for all to see at the drop of a hat.
But you have to remember he was a brilliant natural ham who loved to break up his family, people at the bank, Carson and the other hosts.
He came by his talent honestly and paid a price for it; but could always rationalize and transcend his condition.
And when he was ‘on’, he was brilliant–“Gangbusters!


Many of his interviews and tv performances are still online today.


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