Being unable to afford a watch led him to enter a contest where one was a prize. Winning that contest led him to a career as a disc jockey in his native Dayton, Ohio. A disagreement over money with the radio station led him to move to New York City to try his hand at being a professional entertainer. And that move led to immortality for Jonathan Winters.
Winters became one of the most renown comedians of the 1950s, employing a manic wit, skill at improvisation and the ability to create memorable characters such as Maude Frickert and Elwood P. Suggins. The comedian became a big star on the comedy club and talk show circuit, becoming a favored guest on both the Jack Paar and Johnny Carson versions of The Tonight Show. His work during his career served as an inspiration to a whole generation of comedians, most notable Robin Williams.
His first film was a doozy: he starred as Lennie Pike in the memorable It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He followed up that film with roles in fare such as The Loved One, The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming and Moon Over Parador.
To a younger generation, he became known for his role as Mirth on the ABC sitcom Mork & Mindy, the son of Williams’ Mork character.
In recent years, Winters worked extensively providing voice-work for animation, most notably providing the voice of Grandpa Smurf in the Smurfs TV show and Papa Smurf in The Smurfs film. His voice will be heard in July’s The Smurfs 2.