Jonathan Winters
May 21, 2011 9:59 PM   Subscribe

Improv has never been as good as this. Jonathan Winters on the Jack Parr Show. and, on Johnny Carson. and, with Dean Martin and, with David Letterman and Robin Williams and, roasting Ronald Reagan and, with Steve Allen
posted by tomswift (28 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite

 
Awesome! Thanks for posting.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 10:06 PM on May 21, 2011


He was also featured on Marc Maron's WTF earlier this month.
posted by crataegus at 10:28 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nice! I want to see the mockumentary Certifiably Jonathan, where he loses his sense of humor and tries to regain it.

* crossing Jonathan Winters off the 'potential FPP' list *
posted by not_on_display at 10:31 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


He was great in The Loved One which I just saw for the first time last week. He's not so much funny as he is kind of scary. (As great as Jonathan was in The Loved One, Rod Steiger was even better. Watch this movie!)
posted by ericthegardener at 10:45 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of the best things about living in Santa Barbara back in the day was sometimes you'd see Mr. Winters walking down the street. Now, you'd see a lot of celebrities there but Santa Barbara isn't New York City. In New York you're on the subway and you realize that really short guy next to you is Pacino, right? Well ... you just leave him the fuck alone because a) he's fucking Al Pacino and b) you're a New Yorker and everyone needs their space.

This is NOT how it's done in Santa Barbara. Unless you run into Dennis Miller. I mean, that guy--you just LOOK at him and he's all "YEAH THAT'S FUCKING RIGHT, I'M FUCKING DENNIS MILLER NOW LOOK AWAY BITCH," and you're all "What a DICK!"

But say you're walking into a local burger joint and ... well hey, it's crowded and there's Jonathan Winters and there's no where else to sit, so you get all nicey nice and ask him if you can sit down and have your burger.

From that point on you'd have NO idea what was going to happen next. The man could do stream-of-consciousness conversation like NOBODY's business. He'd tell you the history of the burger joint and segue into the history of the building, and then how he knew all this stuff (shouting out to various regular patrons of the joint, as well as the owner, bringing them into the conversation and then weaving them out of it with ease the whole time). Then, sometimes, right in the middle of the meal he'd grab your arm, take you out onto beautiful downtown State Street and talk about what Santa Barbara was like BACK IN THE DAY. Before the malls and Nordstrom's and shit. He'd talk about the dive bars, the back streets, all the best places to prowl and have a good time and meet far more interesting people than one could find in the present day. Then he'd gently guide you back into the restaurant, still pattering away a mile-a-second and by the time you've finished your burger you realize that he's paid for everyone's meal, learned everyone's names (never to forget them) and dashed out the door.

Just like that. He's gone. I don't know how much he gets around these days but if you were lucky enough to bump into him anywhere in town, he always had moments and more to spare for you. Mind-bending, hilarious, what the fuck moments. Awesome moments.

And they say there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.
posted by PapaLobo at 10:49 PM on May 21, 2011 [50 favorites]


Seconding the shout-out to the recent WTF episode...one of the best. Listening to Maron trying to stifle his giggles as Winters would just fly off somewhere was awesome.
posted by anazgnos at 11:01 PM on May 21, 2011


I've been a Winters fan since "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."

Did he ever cross paths with Tim Conway, or would that be some kind of improv implosion?
posted by ShutterBun at 11:06 PM on May 21, 2011


I caught Winters on Paul Provenza's surprisingly funny show The Green Room earlier this year and he was as sharp and hilarious as ever. Can't find any video, sadly.
posted by Roman Graves at 11:46 PM on May 21, 2011


Can't call yourself a true Winter's fan unless you remember the running gag on his variety show with Stan Ross (Marion Ross's dad) -- the creepy, stringy-haired, Vincent Schiavelli-looking guy whose ONLY shtick (worked into every skit) was catch-phrase "I'm with you", which would, in turn, send Winters off on another improvised bit.
posted by RavinDave at 12:19 AM on May 22, 2011


Did I say "Marion Ross"??? Arggghh!! I meant "Marlon".
posted by RavinDave at 12:25 AM on May 22, 2011


Methinks Marc Maron is responsible for this renewed interest, which is great!
posted by rmmcclay at 1:12 AM on May 22, 2011


I had never heard of Jonthan Winters until WTF and I instantly fell in love. His riffing is amazing. Thanks for this.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 1:16 AM on May 22, 2011


Well, crap, another morning wasted watching YouTube clips.

It was great listening to him on WTF, I'm almost drove the car off the road a few times on the way to work. I hope Maron continues to mix up his guests with older comedians. I miss the long interview format, podcasts are starting to bring them back it seems.
posted by beowulf573 at 6:37 AM on May 22, 2011


Jonathan Winters is without peer. I saw 'The Stick' improv on television back then. Most standups have a schtick; at best, a narrowly-defined signature in the zeitgeist. I put Robin Wiliams in that category (Jonathan Winters' mind, asleep, on cocaine), but he couldn't carry this fellow's jockstrap with a wheelbarrow.
Thank you, tomswift, for a terrific retrospective, and crataegus, for the brilliant WTF interview link. I have worshipped this guy since seeing him on Jack Paar, and I wonder whether anyone could ever take his place. Acutally, I don't. He's a Michelangelo of mind and heart.
posted by nj_subgenius at 7:29 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


He was also featured on Marc Maron's WTF earlier this month.

That was an awesome episode. My favorite thing about his appearance on WTF is when he is recounting stories from his childhood. Winters sounds like an old man now, because he is, but when he recounts what adults said to him when he was young, he does a voice that sounds even older!
posted by The Deej at 8:33 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I know what I'll be listening to as I cook dinner tonight. Thanks crataegus.
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:38 AM on May 22, 2011


Thanks for digging this stuff up. I was a HUGE Jonathon Winters fan as a teenager in the 70s and I appreciate the chance to revisit his genius.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 9:07 AM on May 22, 2011


The kind of greatness that sneaks up on ya and then when you least expect it GOOSEs ya right in the ... never mind!
posted by Twang at 9:08 AM on May 22, 2011


Wow! thanks for this post. I've been a huge fan of his since the 60's. He was/is a true genius. I had all his LPs and wore them out memorizing his routines. I was a huge hit at school with his material. "Don't light that cigarette m'am, don't light...(HUGE EXPLOSION)...What do you mean where's your car? You come down out of that tree and pay for your gallon's worth of gas!" Buaahhhaha! Thanks again.
posted by txmon at 9:27 AM on May 22, 2011


killer. thank you. for something different but got a laugh out of me this morning Eddie Murphy's first appearance on Carson via @nealbrennan on twitter
posted by lslelel at 10:24 AM on May 22, 2011


I love, love, love "The Stick." Of course Robin Williams (at his best) owes a ridiculous amount to Jonathan Winters.
posted by sdn at 10:29 AM on May 22, 2011


After actually watching the clips instead of posting my amalgam Santa Barbara memories whilst buzzed on birthday spirits I must say: dear god how much filthy innuendo sailed over my head when I was a kid. What a delight to watch a bunch of these clips again. Thanks!
posted by PapaLobo at 10:52 AM on May 22, 2011


OMG, this is so great...I was worried that it was an obit thread. But no, just a chance to celebrate one of America's Great Wonders. I adore Mr. Winters.

PapaLobo: " Mind-bending, hilarious, what the fuck moments. Awesome moments."

Such a fantastic story. Thanks for sharing it!
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 1:51 PM on May 22, 2011


I had an American Humor teacher who was always apoplectic about Robin Williams, saying that all he added to Jonathan Winters was cocaine.
posted by klangklangston at 2:20 PM on May 22, 2011


Did he ever cross paths with Tim Conway, or would that be some kind of improv implosion?

He made an appearance in one of Conway's 'Dorf" videos.
posted by MrBadExample at 4:35 PM on May 22, 2011


It's comments like PapaLobo's that make wish there was a MeFi version of /r/bestof.

My first exposure to The Stick, and I'm obliged to have been pointed to it. Good comedy is one of my true joys in life and anyone who doesn't appreciate the sublime genius of that piece of video needs to have their laughing muscle removed.
posted by dry white toast at 7:15 PM on May 22, 2011


One of the funniest ever.
posted by caddis at 8:55 PM on May 22, 2011


Jonathan Winters' YT channel
posted by DU at 11:33 AM on May 23, 2011


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