Jumat, 12 April 2013

Gottfried Jonathan Winters was mad brilliant

.cnn_html_media_utility before color red content '>>' font size 9px line height 12px padding right 1px .cnnstrylccimg640 margin 0 27px 14px 0 .captionText filter alpha(opacity 100) opacity 1 .cnn_html_slideshow_media_caption a .cnn_html_slideshow_media_caption a visited .cnn_html_slideshow_media_caption a link .captionText a .captionText a visited .captiontext a link color 004276 outline medium none .cnnVerticalGalleryPhoto margin 0 auto padding right 68px width 270px > Comedian Jonathan Winters died on Thursday April 11 at his Montecito California home a business associate told CNN. He was 87. Winters appears here on The Jonathan Winters Show in 1956. Click to see more pictures of the man known for his comic irreverence Winters attends the TV Land Awards in 2008. Over the years his appearances on various TV shows made him a beloved figure in the entertainment world. Other comedians hailed him as a genius. Mickey Rooney left and Marvin Kaplan join Winters for a July 2012 screening of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World in Beverly Hills California. Winters stood out in Stanley Kramer's 1963 comedy all star film as a truck driver who destroys a gas station. Karen Kramer the widow of director Stanley Kramer and her daughter Kat Kramer embrace Winters at the TV Land Awards in 2008. The late filmmaker helped revive Winters' career after illness with It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Robin Williams honors Winters on the TV Land Awards in 2008. Williams has often credited Winters as a big influence. They starred together on the sitcom Mork Mindy. Winters celebrates turning 80 at an Academy of Television Arts Sciences event in December 2005. Winters who never had a breakout role appeared in the 1967 film Oh Dad Poor Dad Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad. Winters here circa 1960 started out in nightclubs before becoming popular on television especially in his appearances on The Tonight Show. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Editor's note Gilbert Gottfried is a comedian and actor. Follow him on Twitter realgilbert.

(CNN) Jonathan Winters was not always in his right mind. I don't mean that only in the showbiz sense but in the mental health sense. Jonathan who died Thursday was a nut as a comic but also manic depressive and was institutionalized at least once in his life. He was also brilliantly talented. And the combination of his mental troubles and amazing talent made him the legendary performer that he was. He recognized this himself telling an NPR reporter in 2011 I need that pain whatever it is to call upon it from time to time no matter how bad it was.

That's a common concern for performers when they go into therapy or other treatment ditto performers who give up drugs and alcohol. They worry If I don't have that pain where do I draw my creativity from

Jonathan needn't have worried. He was a bottomless well of creativity. He was someone who could pick up a paper clip and do three hours of impromptu comedy on it.

I was always a fan of the way he could work without a net. There was a fearless just crazy attitude about him of not caring not being afraid that always appealed to me. He influenced me and many other comics.

When you watch Robin Williams you can see a lot of Jonathan Winters. Robin is the first one to admit that he worshiped Jonathan Winters. He insisted that Jonathan be written in as a regular on Mork and Mindy. They wrote him in as an overgrown child which was perfect casting.

It was natural that Jonathan would get into comedy. He was an only child with divorced parents a father he said was alcoholic and he had lots of time alone to make up voices and characters in his room. When Jonathan met his future wife he had just lost his wristwatch the story goes. He was upset about this. But then his wife saw an ad for a talent contest where the first prize was believe it or not a wristwatch. She was certain he would win and he did. His career in comedy followed.

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I've also heard that when his future wife Eileen told her father that she and Jonathan would get married he gave them an ultimatum that after a certain period if Jonathan didn't make it in showbiz he would have to get a real job to support her. Luckily he went on to work in radio and later as a stand up comedian in New York. He made it onto TV appearing on Jack Paar and Steve Allen's shows and later was in films like It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.

He made comedy albums that won Grammys and eventually also won an Emmy for a sitcom in 1991. One bit he did was Jonathan's Attic where he was put in a room with a bunch of odds and ends props wigs etc. and he was left to his own devices. He always could pick up anything and turn it into comedy.

Comedian Jonathan Winters dies 1989 Jonathan Winters says 'goodnight'

Once I was appearing on a television show that Jonathan was appearing on too. That was the first and only time sadly that I met him. He saw me recognized me and invited me to come into his dressing room and sit down. He then started talking no rhyme nor reason to any of it but it was all funny. He would tell sad stories about his life and you'd start laughing. He told me for example that his father drilled it into his head to save his money and not fool around with women. And now he said pointing to himself I have no money and then pointing downward toward his crotch and Mr. Pencil doesn't work.

Every now and then I would get tired and start drifting off. Jonathan would snap his fingers at me and go Come back Gilbert. Are you zoning out there And then immediately he'd have me laughing again.

In a TV interview I saw not long ago Cheech Marin spoke about how he lived near Jonathan Winters and would always see him in the supermarket. He'd be walking up and down the aisles doing voices shtick and talking to himself. Cheech would wait a little while then go over to him and say Jonathan I think it's time to just buy something and leave.

I found out about Jonathan Winters' death a day after it happened. That seems wrong. A talent like his should be more revered. The world knew about Kim Kardashian's divorce before she did. But Jonathan seems to have been forgotten. Well I can only speak for myself but I certainly will never forget him.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gilbert Gottfried

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