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Jonathan Harshman Winters III (born November 11, 1925, died April 11, 2013) was an American comedian and actor.

Early life

Winters was born in Bellbrook, Ohio, the son of Alice Kilgore (née Rodgers), a radio personality, and Jonathan Harshman Winters II, an investment broker.[1] He was a descendant of Valentine Winters, founder of the Winters National Bank in Dayton, Ohio (now part of JPMorgan Chase). Winters described his father as an alcoholic who had trouble holding a job. When he was seven, his parents separated, and Winters' mother took him to Springfield, Ohio to live with his maternal grandmother.

At age 17, Winters joined the United States Marine Corps and served two and a half years in the Pacific Theater during World War II.[2] Upon his return he attended Kenyon College. He later studied cartooning at Dayton Art Institute, where he met Eileen Schauder, whom he married in 1948.

Winters was a brother of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Lambda chapter).


His career began as a result of a lost wristwatch, about six or seven months after his marriage to Eileen. The newlyweds couldn’t afford to buy another one. Then Eileen read about a talent contest in which the first prize was a wristwatch, and encouraged Jonathan to “go down and win it.” She was certain he could… and he did.[3] His performance led to a disk jockey job, where he was supposed to introduce songs and announce the temperature. Gradually his ad libs, personas and antics took over the show.[4]

He began comedy routines and acting while studying at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. He was also a local radio personality on WING (mornings, 6 to 8) in Dayton, Ohio and at WIZE in Springfield, Ohio. He performed as Johnny Winters on WBNS-TV in Columbus, Ohio for two years, quitting the station in 1953 when they refused him a $5.00 raise. After promising his wife that he would return to Dayton if he did not make it in a year, and with $56.36 in his pocket, he moved to New York City, staying with friends in Greenwich Village. After obtaining Martin Goodman as his agent, he began stand-up routines in various New York nightclubs. His big break occurred (with the revised name of Jonathan) when he worked for Alistair Cooke on the CBS Sunday morning show Omnibus.[5] In 1957, he performed in the first color television show, a 15-minute routine sponsored by Tums.[6]

As a stand-up comic with a madcap wildness[citation needed], Winters recorded many classic comedy albums for the Verve Records label, starting in 1960. Probably the best-known of his characters from this period is Maude Frickert, the seemingly sweet old lady with the barbed tongue. He was a favorite of Jack Paar and appeared frequently on his television programs, even going so far as to impersonate then-US President John F. Kennedy over the phone as a prank on Paar. In addition, he would often appear on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, usually in the guise of some character. Carson often did not know what Winters had planned and usually had to tease out the character's back story during a pretend interview. (Carson invented a character called "Aunt Blabby" that was an impression of Maude Frickert).

Winters appeared in nearly 50 movies and several television shows, including particularly notable roles in the film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and in 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. Fellow comedians who starred with him in "Mad World," such as Arnold Stang, claimed that in the long periods while they waited between scenes, Winters would entertain them for hours in their trailer by becoming any character that they would suggest to him. He also appeared in Viva Max! (1970) and The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966).

On television, in the late sixties, he appeared as a regular (along with Woody Allen and Jo Anne Worley) on the Saturday morning children's program Hot Dog. He also had a CBS nighttime show from 1967 to 1969. In the seventies, he appeared in his own show, The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters (1972–74). Winters has also done some dramatic work, as evidenced in The Twilight Zone episode "A Game of Pool" (episode #3.5, October 13, 1961). He recorded Ogden Nash's The Carnival of the Animals poems to Camille Saint-Saëns' classical opus. He also made an appearance on a Dean Martin Comedy Roast. Winters appeared on ABC's The American Sportsman, hosted by Grits Gresham, who took celebrities on hunting, fishing, and shooting trips to exotic places around the world. Winters also appeared regularly as a panelist on The Hollywood Squares.

In the fourth and last season of the sci-fi-based TV comedy Mork & Mindy, Jonathan Winters (one of Robin Williams' idols) was brought in as Mork & Mindy's child, Mearth. Due to the different Orkan physiology, Mork laid an egg, which grew and hatched into the much older Winters. It had been previously explained that Orkans aged "backwards," thus explaining Mearth's appearance and that of his teacher, Miss Geezba (portrayed by then-11-year-old actress Louanne Sirota). Mork's infant son Mearth in Mork & Mindy was created in hopes of improving ratings and as an attempt to capitalize on Williams' comedic talents. Winters had previously guest-starred in Season 3, Episode 18 as Dave McConnell, Mindy's uncle. Although Robin Williams calls Jonathan Winters his greatest influence, the idea of Mearth didn't work, and the show was soon canceled, in 1982.

He was a regular on Hee Haw during the 1983–84 season. Shortly after this, in 1987, Winters was featured in NFL Films' The NFL TV Follies. He was the voice of Grandpa Smurf from 1986-1990 on the television series The Smurfs.

In 1991 and 1992, he was on Davis Rules, a sitcom that lasted two seasons (25 episodes). He played Gunny Davis, an eccentric grandfather who was helping raise his grandchildren after his son had lost his wife. In addition to his live action roles, he was also a guest star on The New Scooby-Doo Movies as a sweet old lady who was really the villain, and he was the narrator in Frosty Returns. Winters had also earlier appeared as himself on an episode of Scooby-Doo, where the Scooby Gang was looking forward to his promised performance as Maude Frickert. Along with numerous roles in Scooby-Doo, Winters also provided the voice for the thief in The Thief and the Cobbler (Miramax version).

From 1959 to 1964, Winters' voice could be heard in a series of popular television commercials for Utica Club beer. In the ads, he provided the voices of talking beer steins, named "Shultz and Dooley." Later, he became a spokesman for Hefty brand trash bags, for whom he appeared as a dapper garbageman known for collecting "gahr-bahj," as well as Maude Frickert and other characters.[7]

Later years

In 1999, Winters was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. He now lives near Santa Barbara, California, and is often seen browsing and hamming for the crowd at the antique show on the Ventura County fairgrounds. He often entertains the tellers and other workers whenever he visits his local bank to make a deposit or withdrawal. He spends time painting, and has been presented in one-man shows of his art. In 1987, he published Winters' Tales: Stories and Observations for the Unusual. Other writings have followed, and he is said to be working on his autobiography.[citation needed]

In June 2008, Winters was presented with the TV Land Pioneer Award by his friend Robin Williams.[8]

On February 11, 2010 it was announced that Winters would provide the voice of Papa Smurf in the live-action Smurfs movie.[9]

Personal life

In his "Archive of American Television Interviews," Winters reported that he suffered a nervous breakdown and spent eight months in a private mental hospital in the late 1950s. Although he was not given a diagnosis while in the hospital, he was later diagnosed with manic depression (known today as bipolar disorder). The comedian referred to this incident obliquely in his stand-up act, most famously on his 1960 comedy album The Wonderful World of Jonathan Winters. During his classic "flying saucer" routine, Winters casually mentions that if he wasn't careful, the authorities might put him back in the "rubber room," referring to the institution.

On January 11, 2009, Eileen, Jonathan's wife of 60 years, died at the age of 84 after a 20-year battle with breast cancer.[10]


Winters died of natural causes on the evening of April 11, 2013, in Montecito, California, at the age of 87. He was survived by his two children, Jonathan ("Jay") Winters IV and Lucinda Winters, and five grandchildren. He was cremated and his ashes were given to his family.

Fans of Winters placed flowers on his Hollywood Walk of Fame star on April 12, 2013, at 1:30 p.m.

Many comedians, actors, and friends gave personal tributes about Winters on social media shortly after his death. Robin Williams posted, "First he was my idol, then he was my mentor and amazing friend. I'll miss him huge. He was my Comedy Buddha. Long live the Buddha." In September 2013, at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards, Williams again honored the career and life of Winters. The 2013 movie, The Smurfs 2 was dedicated to him.


  • Down to Earth (1960)
  • The Wonderful World of Jonathan Winters (1960; reissued in 2003)
  • Here's Jonathan (1961)
  • Another Day, Another World (1962)
  • Humor Seen through the Eyes of Jonathan Winters (1962)
  • Jonathan Winters' Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
  • Whistle Stopping with Jonathan Winters (1964)
  • Jonathan Winters… Wings it! (1969)
  • Stuff 'n Nonsense (1969)
  • Answers Your Telephone (1988)
  • Finally Captured (1988)
  • Into the '90s (1990)
  • Jonathan Winters is Terminator 3 (1992)
  • Crank(y) Calls (2000)
  • Outpatients (2000)
  • Paul Bunyan (2001)
  • Old Folks (2006)
  • The Underground Tapes (2007)
  • 2007: A Christmas Carol
  • 2007: Maude Frickert [explicit]
  • 2009: A Very Special Time
  • 2011: Final Approach
  • 2011: The Smurfs (voice of Papa Smurf)


  • 1963: Jonathan Winters' Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (in conjunction with the film of the same name)

Video releasesEdit

  • 1968: Jonathan Winters: The Lost Episodes (VHS) (rare TV footage from the 1950s and 1960s including Mickey Rooney, Art Carney, Dinah Shore, Jack Paar, Louis Nye and others)
  • 1986: Say Yes (VHS)
  • 1986: Jonathan Winters: Madman of Comedy(VHS)
  • 1987: On The Ledge (VHS)
  • 1991: Johnny Carson (with Jonathan Winters and Robin Williams)  (On Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination)
  • 1995: Jonathan Winters: Gone Fish'n (VHS/DVD) Winters also credited as editor
  • 2000: The Unknown Jonathan Winters: On the Loose (VHS/DVD)
  • 2005: Jonathan Winters: Rare and Riotous(VHS/DVD)
  • 2007: Certifiably Jonathan (DVD) (features Howie Mandel, Tim Conway, Jimmy Kimmel, Sarah Silvermanand others)
  • 2011: Jonathan Winters: Birth of a Genius(DVD)



  • Alakazam the Great (1960) (voice in English dubbed version)
  • It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
  • The Loved One (1965)
  • The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966)
  • Penelope (1966)
  • Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad (1967)
  • Eight on the Lam (1967)
  • Viva Max! (1969)
  • The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1972)
  • The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh (1979)
  • Pogo for President: I Go Pogo (1980) (voice)
  • Mork and Mindy (1981)
  • E. Nick: A Legend in His Own Mind (1984)
  • The Little Troll Prince (1985)
  • The Longshot (1986)
  • Say Yes (1986)
  • On The Ledge (1987)
  • Moon over Parador (1988)
  • The Thief and the Cobbler/Arabian Knight (1993) (voice) (1995 Miramax version)
  • The Flintstones (1994)
  • The Shadow (1994)
  • The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000)
  • Swing (2003)
  • Comic Book: The Movie (2004)
  • Tell Them Who You Are (2004) (documentary)
  • National Lampoon's Cattle Call (2006)
  • Certifiably Jonathan (2007)
  • The Smurfs (2011)[11]
  • 2013: The Smurfs 2 as Papa Smurf (voice, released posthumously)

Short Subjects:

  • Sonic Boom (1974)
  • Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big (2000) (voice)
  • Santa vs. the Snowman 3D (2002) (voice)


External links

  1. REDIRECT Template:IMDb name

ro:Jonathan Winters sh:Jonathan Winters fi:Jonathan Winters