One of the craziest men on the planet has left the planet. Jonathan Winters died of natural causes this past Thursday at age 87.
He had an amazing, ridiculous run of comedy. And influenced pretty much anyone worth knowing about. I was trying desperately to find my favorite Winters appearance ever: when he showed up with Robin Williams on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson back in 1991. The Carson folks have actually posted the first part of it here. But it was the very end that slayed me. Carson had lost control of the show and was desperately trying to end the show as there was no more time. Robin leans over to Jonathan, who is dressed like a Civil War Union Army general and is now pretending to be the oldest Civil War veteran still alive–and Robin says, “General?” (This is all from my terrible memory, so it’s heavily paraphrased.)
Jonathan made some sort of disturbed/startled old man noise. Robin tried again, “General, we have to go…we have to go…we’re going to the Quayles’ house [as in Dan Quayle].”
Jonathan said in a wheezy old man’s voice, “I’d rather die here.”
The title card instantly came up: “CARSON PRODUCTIONS.” Done. It was brilliant. The man was a mad genius and the world is poorer for his absence. Here’s some bits I cobbled together that are some of my favorites:
Here he is doing improv for Jack Paar:
And speaking of Carson, here he is being roasted with Jonathan on board for a snippet of mayhem:
And lastly, a classic bit with Robin and Jonathan bouncing off each other. Almost literally.
Goodbye, Mr. Winters. Thanks for everything.