In Memoriam: Jonathan Winters, USMC

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

In Memoriam: Jonathan Winters, USMCJonathan Winters, a legendary comedian and the widely acknowledged king of improvisational comedy – and a U.S. Marine Corps World War Two veteran, passed away last week. He was 87 years old. Winters got his start as a comedian in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Mr. Winters is best known to younger audiences for his appearances on the 1970s television show “Mork & Mindy,” though he came to national prominence with appearances on the Jack Paar Show and Steve Allen Show in the 1960s. He also appeared in the movies The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Winters was a huge influence on Robin Williams and many other improvisational comedians of later generations. Here is Winters at his sublime best, improvising on being handed a stick on the Jack Paar show in 1964.

Winters dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War Two, at the age of 17. He served as a gunner aboard the aircraft carrier USS Bon Homme Richard during the final months of the war against Japan. 

Here is Winters starring opposite Jack Klugman in the Twilight Zone episode, “A Game of Pool,” in which Winters says the line, “As long as people speak your name you continue. The legend doesn’t die, just because the man does.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Winters.


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