Jonathan Winters, known to generations of fans for his frantic array of characters and voices, died on Thursday of natural causes. He was 87.
Winters died at his California home in Encino, longtime friend Gary Owens told The Los Angeles Times.
“He was one of the great comedy talents in the history of the United States. Just brilliant,” Owens told the Times.
Winters’ career spanned generations, beginning in 1950s radio before he moved into movies and television.
He soon became a regular on late-night talk shows, getting his first big break thanks to Jack Parr and The Tonight Show.
“Well, if you ask me who are the 25 most funny people I know, I would say, ‘Here they are: Jonathan Winters,’” Parr once said, according to the Times.
His success on TV translated into roles in classic movies such as “The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming” and “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.”
Winters introduced himself to a new generation of fans with his guest appearances alongside Robin Williams in the 1980s TV classic “Mork and Mindy.”
For his role as Randy Quaid’s father in the 1991 TV series “Davis Rules,” Winters won an Emmy award for best-supporting actor. Ten years later, he was nominated for an Emmy for his turn in “Life with Bonnie.”
He continued to work into his final years, also, providing the voice of Papa Smurf in the Hollywood reboot of the cartoon series, “The Smurfs,” in 2011.
Away from the cameras, Winters became one of the first actors to go public about his battles with mental health disorders.
According to Variety, he spent time institutionalized for bipolar disorder early in his career.
Judging by his comments on the subject, it appears he was jaded about the stigma of mental disease.
“There are bigger stars than me with all kinds of coke problems, sauce problems, guys that are married four, five times,” he once said, according to Variety.
“Then they put them in picture after picture. Why should I have to go through my life auditioning and proving I’m sane?”