Funny Man Jonathan Winters Dies

NPR icon by Mark Memmott
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Jonathan Winters, known to one generation for his 1960s comedy albums, frequent Tonight Show with Johnny Carson appearances and comic movie characters, and to another generation as Robin Williams' baby on Mork & Mindy, has died. The news is coming from The Associated Press, TMZ, the NPR Arts Desk and other news outlets.

Winters was 87. TMZ says he died Thursday night "of natural causes in Montecito, Calif. ... surrounded by friends and family.

In 2011, Winters looked back on his lifetime of laughs for Weekend Edition Saturday. He told the show that he didn't tell jokes:

"I have always classified [myself] as an actor/comedian, a humorist. ... I started out as an artist and what I do is verbal paintings. I paint a picture. Hopefully you'll see the characters and what they're doing and what they're saying."

His recent work included being the voice of Papa Smurf in 2011's The Smurfs. Winters' IMDB bio is here.

Winters was the second person honored (in 1999) with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. His bio page on The Kennedy Center website says:

"In 1953, Jonathan headed for New York for the ;big time' with $56.46 in his pocket. As a performer at Manhattan's Blue Angel nightclub, his reputation as a comic began to grow. Gary Moore, who was substituting for Arthur Godfrey on the TV Show ,Talent Scouts, presented Jonathan on the show. Then came the Jack Paar Show, The Steve Allen Show, and The Tonight Show, where Jonathan was able to demonstrate his comic genius and he became a top name in American Comedy."

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