We’re sad to hear of the passing of comedian Jonathan Winters, who died last night at the age of 87 of natural causes in Montecito, California. Winters had a prolific career in television and film, and was known for many of the memorable characters he created, including “Maude Frickert”, “Elwood P. Suggins”, and “King Kwasi.” He made several appearances on The Tonight Show over the years, had his own program, The Jonathan Winters Show, and won an Emmy for his role on Davis Rules.
Below are some selections from Winters’ 2002 Archive interview:
On May 22, 1992, Johnny Carson’s record-setting thirty-year reign as host of The Tonight Show came to an end. Carson took over The Tonight Show from predecessor Jack Paar on October 1, 1962, and over the next three decades delighted the world with “Carnac the Magnificent” skits, the wedding of Tiny Tim, and the national debuts of young comics Garry Shandling and Jerry Seinfeld. Carson left The Tonight Show twenty years ago today, and many would argue that every late-night host since has been trying to fill his shoes.
Bette Midler was a regular on the program, and memorably appeared as the last guest on Carson’s Tonight Show:
Many of the Archive’s interviewees worked on or appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Have a look as they reflect upon the show’s thirty-year run and gracious host.
Sidekick Ed McMahon on the legacy of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson:
Jonathan Winters does characters like nobody else. A staple on The Tonight Show with Steve Allenand the star of two shows called The Jonathan Winters Show, Winters is one of comedy’s consummate chameleons. From 1956-57, he hosted the first Jonathan Winters Show, a fifteen-minute entertainment program on NBC. The second Jonathan Winters Show was an hour-long variety show that aired from 1967-69. The 1956 program lays claim to a couple of television firsts: the first use of videotape on network television occurred on the program on October 23, 1956, with a pre-recorded two minute and thirty second tape of singer Dorothy Collins performing. And According to Winters in his Archive interview, the fifteen-minute show was also one of NBC’s first color broadcasts.
Winters featured some of his most beloved characters on the 1956 Jonathan Winters Show, including the unforgettable Maude Frickert, whom he discusses in this clip:
“Never say goodbye to your day job or any job. Seriously, I’m not one to discourage anybody.. I would say this- if you’re going to go into this business, you should go into it. But know this going in: your chances of just making a decent living it’s tough, it’s really hard. You’ve got to study. You must be an observer. You must look at everything around you, and if you’re in doubt about characters- take your car, take the bus, or walk to the closest terminal. Just sit there, in a beat-up old raincoat, pair of shades.. And you’re going to see America go by.” - Jonathan Winters
About This Interview
Jonathan Winters was interviewed for nearly two-and-a-half hours in Santa Barbara, CA. Winters reminisced about his early career in Ohio, and about his early days in New York. He specifically recalled appearing on early television programs including The Garry Moore Showand The Tonight Show, hosted by Steve Allen. Next, Mr. Winters talked about the evolution of some of his well-known characters, including Maude Frickert, Elwood P. Suggins, and King Kwasi. He discussed some of the many well-known television personalities with whom he worked during his career, including Jack Paar, Andy Williams, Dean Martin, Bob Hope, and Johnny Carson. Finally, he talked about his work on programs in the 1980s and 1990s including Mork and Mindy, Hee Haw, and Davis Rules. The interview was conducted by Dan Pasternack on October 11, 2002.