Legends of Comedy: Jonathan Winters

Playing straight man to Jonathan Winters was one of the most wonderful experiences of my career. Jonathan and I cut a series of TV commercials for Hudson’s Bay Company in Vancouver in 1976. Neither one of us worked with a script, just a general outline of the commercial. Jonathan threw me a line and I ad libbed the wrong line in reply. Realizing what I said, I fell to one side and Jonathan broke up. I am the collapsing Santa and Jonathan is playing a kid, albeit smoking a Cuban cigar.

Jonathan Winters was not only a great funny man but a wonderful human being. We spent many hours together and he loved to collect Indian art (being part native himself). When Jonathan died in 2013 at 87, my friend and Seattle radio legend Pat O’Day wrote:

“I am so saddened at the departure of Jonathan Winters. I guess I dreamed he would always be alive somewhere. His was a mind and style that somehow always typified the way characters he introduced would think and talk with others. He always painted those mental pictures, taking you to the scene of the conversation. He was never politically concerned. He always told his stories just to me! He had that delightful mind that he could convert to being whatever character he was at the time. You always knew he was such a nice guy in person due to the loving characters he employed. Not the future, nor the past, will ever develop another Jonathan Winters. Truly, one of a kind! I hope up in heaven they book him to do some shows. Even they would love some Winters laughs.”

I miss him as does the world. He brought us the greatest gift of all: humour. Next time you see a stand-up comic, think of Jonathan… because some of the routine you are witnessing most likely began with Jonathan Winters. If there was a Mount Rushmore for comics he would be up there.

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