How Did All Those People Get Inside Jonathan Winters? | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

How Did All Those People Get Inside Jonathan Winters?

Play associated audio

You can call anyone but Einstein a genius and start an argument.

Well, maybe Einstein or Jonathan Winters. The comedian, who died Friday at the age of 87, was immediately hailed by Steve Martin, Robin Williams and others as a genius.

He made hit comedy albums, was a regular on the old Tonight Show, memorably knocked down a gas station in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World and co-starred with and inspired Robin Williams.

But Winters was best known for creating a repertory company of characters that he carried around in his head. He told us how he built that cast after some advice from another performer at a club in New York:

"You know, we did Cagney and we did Karloff and John Wayne — Duke Wayne, you know, and these guys. And an old man said to me, 'You know, your routines that you're doing, these impressions are great, Jonathan, but can you accept a little criticism?' I said, 'Sure. You've been here longer than I have, Jack. Let's hear it.'

"And he said, 'Problem is,' he said, 'you know the stars you're doing, they're stars. They've made it and they've made it big. And all you're doing — right now you're the shoeshine boy. You're merely shining their shoes. And if you want to continue to do that, fine. Where are you from?' And I said, 'Well, I'm from Ohio originally. I grew up there.'

"He said, 'Oh, start doing those characters that you grew up with.' And that's when I turned my whole thing around."

Jonathan Winters spoke with Weekend Edition Saturday in September 2000.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

In This Test Kitchen, The Secret To A Great Cookbook Is Try, Try Again

Yotam Ottolenghi and his partner have a thriving food empire that includes wildly successful cookbooks. We go inside their London test kitchen as recipes are put through their paces.
NPR

Bugs: Not What's For Dinner — Until They're Tastier, Maybe

A U.K. researcher says the environmental argument for eating bugs isn't working on its own. She says chefs and policymakers must "make insect dishes appeal as food, not just a way to save the planet."
NPR

Fact Check: 3 Questions Answered About Bill Clinton's LLC

Does Bill Clinton have a secret corporation that he is using to hide money? Is it intended to pay a lower tax rate? Or is it something else entirely?
NPR

Questions Remain About How To Use Data From License Plate Scanners

The scanners are standard equipment for police, but what's not settled is what happens to all the data collected. That data can link people to certain addresses and flag unusual activity.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.