Jonathan Winters

Actor, Comedian, Author
One of the most unique and unbridled comic talents of the late 20th century, Jonathan Winters was less of a performer and more of a force of nature whose mind zipped from characters and scenarios with astonishing speed ... Read more »
Born: 11/10/1925 in Bellbrook, Ohio, USA

Filmography

Actor (100)

Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbled Big 2014 (Movie)

(Voice)

Good Morning America 1975 - 2014 (TV Show)

Actor

Pioneers of Television 2008, 2014 (Tv Show)

Actor

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit 2013 (Tv Show)

Actor

The Smurfs 2 2013 (Movie)

Papa Smurf (Voice)

Inside Comedy 2012 (Tv Show)

Actor

Certifiably Jonathan 2011 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)

The Smurfs 2011 (Movie)

Papa (Voice)

The Green Room With Paul Provenza 2010 (Tv Show)

Actor

TV Land Awards 2008 2007 - 2008 (TV Show)

Actor

Tell Them Who You Are 2005 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)

100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time 2003 - 2004 (TV Show)

Actor

Swing 2004 (Movie)

Bill (Actor)

Life With Bonnie 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

Johnny Bravo 1997 - 2001 (TV Show)

Voice

The Joke's on Thee 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)

Actor

Bloopy's Buddies 1998 - 2000 (TV Show)

Actor

Jonathan Winters: On the Loose 1999 - 2000 (TV Show)

Actor

Phyllis Diller: First Lady of Laughter 1999 - 2000 (TV Show)

Actor

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle 2000 (Movie)

Ohio Cop with Bullhorn (Actor)

Phil Silvers: Top Banana 1997 - 1998 (TV Show)

Actor

Santa vs. the Snowman 1997 - 1998 (TV Show)

Voice

Who Makes You Laugh? 2 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)

Actor

Arabian Knight 1995 (Movie)

of Thief (Voice)

Daisy-Head Mayzie 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Voice

Hee Haw! 1968 - 1995 (TV Show)

Actor

The Second Annual Comedy Hall of Fame 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Actor

Bob Hope's Birthday Memories 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

Montreal International Comedy Festival '94 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

The 8th Annual American Comedy Awards 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

The First Annual Comedy Hall of Fame 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

The Flintstones 1994 (Movie)

Grizzled Man (Actor)

The Shadow 1994 (Movie)

Wainwright Barth (Actor)

Jonathan Winters: Spaced Out 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Actor

Davis Rules 1990 - 1992 (Tv Show)

Actor

Fish Police 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)

Voice

Mork and Mindy 1978 - 1982, 1990 - 1992 (Tv Show)

Actor

Rick Moranis in Gravedale High 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Voice

The 5th Annual American Comedy Awards 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

Wake, Rattle & Roll 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

Jonathan Winters and His Traveling Roadshow 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

Showtime Presents: Jonathan Winters & Friends 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

'Tis the Season to Be Smurfy 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Voice

Moon Over Parador 1988 (Movie)

Ralph (Actor)

Alice in Wonderland 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

Bob Hope's High-Flying Birthday 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

NBC's 60th Anniversary Celebration 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

Say Yes 1986 (Movie)

W D Westmoreland (Actor)

The Longshot 1986 (Movie)

Tyler (Actor)

The World's Funniest Commercial Goofs 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

Yogi's Treasure Hunt 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Voice

The Suzanne Somers Special 1982 - 1983 (TV Show)

Actor

Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope For President 1980 - 1981 (TV Show)

Actor

Take One Starring Jonathan Winters 1980 - 1981 (TV Show)

Actor

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh 1979 (Movie)

HS Harvey Tilson (Actor)

Dean Martin's Christmas in California 1977 - 1978 (TV Show)

Actor

Uncle Tim Wants You! 1977 - 1978 (TV Show)

Actor

Dean Martin's Red Hot Scandals Part 2 1976 - 1977 (TV Show)

Actor

Dean Martin's Red Hot Scandals of 1926 1976 - 1977 (TV Show)

Actor

The Mad Mad Mad Mad World of the Super Bowl 1976 - 1977 (TV Show)

Actor

The Mouse Factory 1972 - 1973 (TV Show)

Actor

The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters 1972 - 1973 (TV Show)

Actor

Disney World: a Gala Opening 1971 - 1972 (TV Show)

Actor

Special London Bridge Special 1971 - 1972 (TV Show)

Actor

Hot Dog 1970 - 1971 (TV Show)

Actor

Plimpton! Did You Hear the One About...? 1970 - 1971 (TV Show)

Actor

The Wonderful World of Jonathan Winters 1970 - 1971 (TV Show)

Actor

Linus the Lionhearted 1964 - 1969 (TV Show)

Voice

Now You See It, Now You Don't 1968 - 1969 (TV Show)

Actor

Viva Max! 1969 (Movie)

General Billy Joe Hallson (Actor)

Murder At NBC 1966 - 1967 (TV Show)

Actor

Eight on the Lam 1966 (Movie)

Jasper Lynch (Actor)

Penelope 1966 (Movie)

Professor Klobb (Actor)

The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming 1965 (Movie)

Norman Jonas (Actor)

The Loved One 1964 (Movie)

Wilbur/Harry Glenworthy (Actor)

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World 1963 (Movie)

Lennie Pike (Actor)

Saiyu-ki 1961 (Movie)

of Sir Quigley Broken Bottom (Voice)

And Here's the Show 1954 - 1955 (TV Show)

Actor

Frosty Returns (TV Show)

Narrator

More Wild Wild West (TV Show)

Actor

Paul Bunyan (TV Show)

Narrator

The Twilight Zone (TV Show)

Actor

Timmy's Special Delivery (TV Show)

Voice

Biography

One of the most unique and unbridled comic talents of the late 20th century, Jonathan Winters was less of a performer and more of a force of nature whose mind zipped from characters and scenarios with astonishing speed and creativity. A major influence on stream-of-consciousness comics like Robin Williams, George Carlin and Patton Oswalt, Winters presented a singularly off-kilter view of the world through appearances on stage, in motion pictures, and in numerous television appearances. The entertainment industry could rarely find a worthy project for him, but he soldiered on into his eighth decade, still possessing one of the most formidable improvisational talents in the world upon his death in 2013.

Born Jonathan Harsham Winters III on Nov. 11, 1925, he was raised in Bellbrook, OH by his namesake father, an investment banker, and his mother, Alice Kilgore, a former radio personality. Winters' childhood was a difficult one due to his father's alcoholism, which eventually contributed to his parents' divorce. His mother took him to Springfield, OH, where he lived with his maternal grandmother. At 17, he left high school to join the U.S. Marines, and served two and a half years in the Pacific Theater during World War II. After his discharge, Winters attended Kenyon College, where he began to explore comedy and acting. He then studied cartooning at Dayton Art Institute, where he met Eileen Schauder. The couple was married in 1948 and would remain together until her death in 2009.

His entertainment career reportedly began with a talent contest that featured a wristwatch as its first prize. Winters had recently lost his own watch, and Schauer encouraged him to try out for the contest. Once there, Winters unleashed his dizzying improvisational skills, and not only won the competition, but earned an on-air job at a radio station in Dayton. Initially, his job was to introduce songs and give weather reports, but Winters' knack for ad-libbing and creating odd and hilarious characters on the spot eventually became the focus of the show. More radio jobs soon followed, as well as a brief stint at Columbus' WBNS-TV. After failing to land a $5 raise from his bosses at the station, Winters quit the job and decided to make a stab at becoming a full-time comic. With less than $60 in his pocket, and a promise to his wife that he would return if he had not found success within a year, Winters headed to New York City. There, he began to make a name for himself on the city's fabled club scene. After landing Martin Goodman as his representation, Winters earned his big break with an appearance on the cultural series "Omnibus" (CBS/NBC, 1952-1961).

Winters soon became a staple of television variety shows, where he introduced several of his enduring personas. The best loved of these was Maude Frickett, a garrulous senior citizen with a wicked tongue, who was popular enough to earn her own imitation in Johnny Carson's "Aunt Blabby." Both Carson and his "Tonight Show" (NBC, 1954- ) predecessor, Jack Paar, were devoted fans of Winters, and frequently gave the comic ample room to unleash whatever thoughts or characters were running through his mind at the time. Winters also earned a fan base through his comedy albums on the Verve label, beginning in 1960 with The Wonderful World of Jonathan Winters. However, Winters' off-stage world was anything but wonderful during this period. In the late 1950s, Winters suffered a nervous breakdown and spent eight months in a private mental hospital. He was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and would occasionally make reference to his mental state in his humor. Winters also struggled with alcoholism throughout his career, and suffered numerous setbacks as a result of his instability.

Winters' first attempt at regular series work came in 1956 with "The Jonathan Winters Show" (NCB, 1956-1957), a 15-minute sketch comedy series that ran after the network's nightly news broadcast. Winters later became a regular on "The Garry Moore Show" (CBS, 1958-1967) before earning another shot at a weekly series with the primetime "Jonathan Winters Show" (CBS, 1967-69). There, he joined another improvisational genius, Cliff Arquette, who brought his long-running country sage, Charley Weaver, to the proceedings, which also included such established comics as Paul Lynde and Alice Ghostley. He was also a favored guest on "The Dean Martin Comedy Hour" (NBC, 1966-1971) as well as his televised celebrity roasts.

In the 1960s, Winters attempted to parlay his comic talents into acting roles in film and on television, with mixed results. He made an impressive dramatic debut as a deceased pool champ who takes on Jack Klugman's aspiring hustler in "A Game of Pool," a 1961 episode of "The Twilight Zone" (CBS, 1959-1964), but kept largely to comedy throughout the remainder of his career. He earned a Golden Globe nomination for his feature debut in the sprawling all-star epic "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (1963) as an easily angered trucker who, in one memorable scene, destroyed an entire gas station in an attempt to get at Phil Silvers. Winters also enjoyed a dual role in Tony Richardson's cult black comedy "The Loved One" (1965) as a scheming reverend and his more honorable brother. Unfortunately, while Winters' appearance in films like "The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!" (1966) and "Viva Max" (1969) were often the high points of the production, few of the films were actual box office successes, and he eventually returned to television as the co-host of the children's documentary series "Hot Dog" (NBC, 1970-71), which also featured the improbable duo of Woody Allen and Joanne Worley.

Winters' output in the 1970s was as mercurial as the man himself: he recorded Ogden Nash's poem "The Carnival of the Animals" on LP, then hosted a syndicated comedy series, "The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters" (1972-74). He was a frequent guest on "The American Sportsman" (ABC, 1965-1986) as well as "The Hollywood Squares" (NBC/syndicated, 1966-2004). And in the fourth and final season of "Mork and Mindy" (ABC, 1978-1982), Winters joined one of his most ardent admirers, series star Robin Williams, to play Mork's child, Mearth, who began life as an elderly man hatched from an enormous egg. Despite the comedy firepower on display in these episodes, the addition of Winters failed to interest viewers, and the show was cancelled after its 95th episode.

The 1980s and 1990s saw an upswing in Winters' television appearances, including several TV specials like "Jonathan Winters: On the Ledge" (Showtime, 1987), which teamed him with established comics like Milton Berle as well as up-and-comers like Michael Richards, whose own persona owed a large debt to Winters. He also contributed his versatile voice to countless animated series, including that of Papa Smurf on "The Smurfs" (NBC, 1981-89). In 1991, he earned his sole Emmy award as Randy Quaid's eccentric father on the short-lived "Davis Rules" (ABC/CBS, 1991-92). Winters' long and influential career also received numerous tributes during this period, most notably the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 1999 and the TV Land Pioneer Award in 2008, which was presented to him by Williams. In 2011, Winters was the subject of a curious "mockumentary" called "Certifiably Jonathan," which focused on his lengthy life and career while indulging in an odd storyline about the comic's attempts to get his paintings into the Museum of Modern Art. The film received mixed reviews, but critics and audiences agreed that in its best moments, it showed that the 85-year-old Winters had lost none of his offbeat brilliance. That same year, he was announced as the voice of Papa Smurf in the live-action feature film version of "The Smurfs" (2011). After reprising the role for the 2013 sequel, Winters passed away at his Montecito, CA home at the age of 87.

Relationships

Jonathan H Winters Jr

Father
Divorced from Winters' mother in 1932 Winters has described his father as an alcoholic who had trouble holding a job

Jonathan H Winters IV

Son
Born c. 1950 mother, Eileen Winters

Jonathan H Winters Sr

Grandfather
Owned Winters National Bank & Trust

Eileen Winters

Wife
Met at Dayton Art Institute married in 1948 died in 2009 at the age of 84 after a 20-year battle with breast cancer

Alice Winters

Mother
Divorced from Winters' father in 1932 remarried

Lucinda Winters

Daughter
Born c. 1956 mother, Eileen Winters

EDUCATION

Kenyon College

Gambier , Ohio 1946
Enrolled after two and a half years of military service

Dayton Art Institute

Dayton , Ohio 1950
Met his future wife, Eileen Schauder

Milestones

2009

Earned a Grammy nomination for Best Spoken Word for the album, Jonathan Winters - A Very Special Time

2003

Received an Emmy nomination for his guest-starring role in an episode of ABC's "Life with Bonnie"

2000

Was the subject of Comedy Central's "Uncomfortably Close With Michael McKean: Jonathan Winters"

2000

Played multiple roles in the combination live action-animated, "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle"

1997

Voiced Santa in the ABC animated special, "Santa vs the Snowman"

1995

Narrated the animated special, "Frosty Returns" (CBS)

1993

Starred in "Jonathan Winters: Spaced Out" on Showtime

1992

Provided character voice for the ABC primetime animated series, "Fish Police"

1991

Featured as Randy Quaid's eccentric father in the sitcom, "Davis Rules" (ABC, 1991; CBS 1991-1992)

1989

Headlined "Showtime Presents: Jonathan Winters & Friends"

1987

Starred in first Showtime comedy special, "Jonathan Winters: On the Ledge"

1985

Cast as Humpty Dumpty in the CBS miniseries adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland"

1983

Was a regular on "Hee Haw" (CBS) for one season

1981

Joined cast of the ABC sitcom "Mork and Mindy" in its final season playing Mork's son

1980

Played one of the villains in the CBS miniseries, "More Wild Wild West"

1979

Resumed film career with "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh"

1976

Hosted and wrote NBC's "Jonathan Winters Presents 200 Years of American Humor"

1972

Starred in the syndicated series, "The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters"

1969

Last film for nine years, "Viva Max!"

1969

Returned to "The Andy Williams Show" as a regular for one season

1969

Wrote and hosted "The Wonderful World of Jonathan Winters" (NBC)

1967

Starred in the CBS variety series, "The Jonathan Winters Show"

1967

Cast as Dad in the film version of the play, "Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad"

1966

Appeared as a guest in several specials starring comedian Bob Hope

1966

Offered comic support as a deputy in "The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming"

1966

Had three-minute cameo in "Penelope," a comedy starring Natalie Wood

1965

Starred in an unscripted variety hour, "The Jonathan Winters Show" (NBC)

1965

Played the dual roles of Henry Glenworthy and his dark, scheming brother, the Rev. Wilbur Glenworthy in the film adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's "The Loved One"

1964

Was a regular on the NBC variety series "The Andy Williams Show"

1964

Headlined the NBC variety program "The Jonathan Winters Special"

1963

Made feature acting debut in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"

1960

Feature debut, provided voice for the animated film, "Saiyu-ki"

1957

Introduced the characters, senior citizen Maudie Frickert and Elwood P. Sluggins, on shows such as "The Steve Allen Show," "Tonight Starring Jack Paar" and "The Garry Moore Show"

1956

Hosted "The Jonathan Winters Show" (NBC)

1955

Was a regular on NBC's "And Here's the Show"

1954

Reportedly was the first comic to be featured on CBS' "Omninbus"

1953

Moved to NYC; began performing as a standup comedian in nightclubs like The Blue Angel

1946

Hired by a Dayton radio station as a disc jockey

Encouraged by his wife, entered local talent contest which he won

Was commercial spokesperson for Hefty garbage bags in a series of memorable TV commercials

Joined the US Marine Corps and served two and a half years in the Pacific Theater during World War II

Moved to Columbus and worked for three years at WBNS-TV

Bonus Trivia

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His Web site is located at www.jonathanwinters.com.

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In addition to Maude Frickert, Winters' characters include Dr. Bellenhoffer, a shrink of questionable qualifications, Chester Honeyhugger, King Kwasi and Larry Lech.

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"Jonathan's the source for me, the guy that made it all possible. 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." - Robin Williams quoted in TV Guide, Jan. 8, 2000

.

"Aside from one's faith, to me, sense of humor will get you through." - Winters quoted in TV Guide, Jan. 8, 2000

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In speaking of his breakdowns, Winters told The Washington Post (Oct. 17, 1999): "This is something I've never quite shaken. 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?"

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In 1999, Winters was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

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In June 2008, Winters was presented with the TV Land Pioneer Award by his friend Robin Williams.

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