Friday, April 12, 2013

MORE INFLUENTIAL THAN SUCCESSFUL:  That's how the last paragraph of the NYT's Jonathan Winters obit today begins, and that feels right to me. Until I read the Winters chapter in Gerald Nachman's Seriously Funny, I only understood Winters as someone I was supposed to appreciate as having been funny, but whom I hadn't really seen do anything funny. I think it was this quote from one-time costar Robert Morse -- yes, SCDP's Bert Cooper, which explained it to me best:
Jonny sees things fifty-nine-dimensionally. Give me a hairbrush and I see a hairbrush. Give Jonny a hairbrush and it will be a dozen different things. He could break you up with a paper clip.
His comedic heirs include Robin Williams, of course, but also anyone you'd characterize as improv- and character-based, and "zany" - Lily Tomlin, Andy Kaufman, and Jim Carrey are among those whose careers are clearly branches from Winters' comedic tree. Perhaps the best honor comes from a Dick van Dyke tweet: "The first time I saw Jonathan Winters perform, I thought I might as well quit the business. Because, I could never be as brilliant."


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