He was a pal down through all the years was Jonathan Winters.

A most available mad person.

He’d perform in an isle at the local drug store for an old lady and a dog…

His brain only stopped being original and surreal when he went to sleep and heaven knows what went on during his dreams…If that stuff could’ve been bottled we’d have a never ending supply of material from other planets.

Later we both lived in Santa Barbara County..and that brought us to a sometimes weekly lunch arrangement …just the two of us…and I always paid..that was a given…These were classic events shared by who ever else was there and the waitresses who knew all his angles.

When his wife died a year or so ago we attended her memorial at his house. For almost an hour he did a brilliant hilarious monologue about their relationship.

It made me think I wish I had somebody like that to sum up my life so completely and with such humor when I go.

He appeared a few years ago in a charity show we did at the Labero Theatre in Santa Barbara. It was a old time radio production Milt Larsen and I put together with radio historian Roger Rittner.

Along with Bette White , Joanne Worley, Adrienne Barbau, Kelly Lebrock ,Gary Owens and Peter Marshall… Jonnie brought the house down in front of 600 people.

He asked me before the show about what he should do with the material.. and I said ..”this stuff was written by some of the greatest comedy writers  of all time just read the lines.” To say this to the World’s greatest improviser was a tough one.

Here’s the twist…he just read those great lines and did not deviate from one word in any of the scripted pieces. But when he played Tonto to Peter Marshall’s Lone Ranger..he brought a new meaning to the words ” UP SCOUT!”

You see Jonathan was all comedy…completely.

As with all his amazing characters, as an actor in the classic movies he was in… and when he stood there on that stage and just did his job.

Those lunches will be my memory of him as the curmudgeon philosopher who overcame the demons in his head and turned them into some of the most important comedic expressions of the last 50 years.

We all took a university course in insanity when we got around him

Jonathan loved life almost as much as he loved ice cream….


10 Responses

  1. right now he is making the undertaker laugh .

    • thanks Dave..this’ll take a bit of getting used to…

  2. Chris, thanks for sharing the above.! He was the best of his time. I can visualize the expressions on his face after delivering the punch line. He will forever make his fans LOL, just remembering a monologue or two!

    • Thanks Wendy you’re a beaut!!….

  3. What a great loss for the world but a big gane for Heaven today! I want to thank my friend Richie Lewis for introducing me to my idol!
    I always felt honored when Richard Lewis would have a three-way conversation with me on the other end Listening to these two geniuses go at it for a half an hour!
    Thank you God so much for putting a Jonathan Winters in the world and thank you Richard Lewis for sharing this comedy genius with me!
    God Bless
    Jimmy Labriola

  4. Really nice, Chris. Someone else I know said he was once on location with Mr. Winters somewhere in the desert and swears he saw him do twenty minutes to a cactus. I’ll bet it was a brilliant set. You were lucky to know him. And, okay, he you.

    • thanks dave..I knew he was on the way out a few weeks ago when I called and he said he couldn’t talk…that was just not Jonnie…I’ve known him since 1968…he was a one off original treasure….cb

  5. Thank you Chris for this wonderful concise tribute to a really great guy. I pre interviewed him years ago for a talk show but needless to say what was discussed never made it to air. Our paths crossed briefly one time at a Toluca Lake gas station. I can’t do justice to how that went. RIP Jonathan and thanks for the ride.

    • Happy to hear from you Ken…was in the Tower recently with Vin Di Bona brought back memories of good times. Hope all is working for you..retirement didn’t last more than a few years…working also with Howie Mandell putting stuff together.

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