April 12, 2013

Groundbreaking improv comic Jonathan Winters dies

The Associated Press

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Comedian and actor Jonathan Winters: In the mid-1950s, "The Jonathan Winters Show" pioneered the then-new videotape technology with such stunts as showing up as two characters onscreen together.

AP

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Comedian Jonathan Winters appears in drag to play his mother in a scene from the 1967 movie "Eight on the Lam," which also starred Bob Hope and Phyllis Diller.

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"I finally opened up and realized I was in charge," Winters told PBS interviewers for 2000's "Jonathan Winters: On the Loose." ''Improvisation is about taking chances, and I was ready to take chances."

Roles in other movies followed, as did TV shows, including his own.

While show business kept Winters busy, the former art school student was also a painter and writer. His paintings and sketches were often filled with humor.

"I find painting a much slower process than comedy, where you can go a mile a minute verbally and hope to God that some of the people out there understand you," he said in the 1988 U.S. News and World Report interview. "I don't paint every day. I'm not that motivated. I don't do anything the same every day. Discipline is tough for a guy who is a rebel."

Among his books is a collection of short stories called "Winters' Tales" (1987).

"I've done for the most part pretty much what I intended — I ended up doing comedy, writing and painting," he told U.S. News. "I've had a ball. And as I get older, I just become an older kid."

Winters' wife, Eileen, died in 2009. He is survived by two children, Lucinda Winters and Jay Winters.

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A 1967 photo of Jonathan Winters hosting ABC's "Holiday on Ice."

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Comedian Jonathan Winters is shown in Hollywood, Ca., Aug. 12, 1955.

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Jonathan Winters poses with his carvings and sculptures at his home in Toluca Lake, Calif., in 1966.

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