Comedian Jonathan Winters, famous for his roles in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Mork & Mindy, and being the voice actor for Papa Smurf in The Smurfs, died of natural causes in his Montecito, California, home at the age of 87, reports CNN.
Called a comedic genius by many, Winters was a wild, irreverant character actor who was a frequent guest on The Tonight Show, games shows like The Hollywood Squares, and celebrity roasts. Playing Robin Williams‘ son on Mork & Mindy, Winters was an inspiration to the young Williams.
Winters created hilarious characters over his long career like Maude Frickert, Lance Loveguard, Elwood P. Suggins, and B.B. Bindlestiff.
But comedy aside, the improv actor dealt with some darker elements in his life. In 1961, after having a nervous breakdown, he was institutionalized for eight months and was diagnosed as bipolar. After being released, ironically on April Fools’ Day, hope came in the form of one of his most memorable gigs:. He was cast in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
“The first time I saw Jonathan Winters perform, I thought I might as well quit the business,” Dick Van Dyke tweeted on hearing of his death. “Because, I could never be as brilliant.”
Winters is survived by his two children. His wife, Eileen, passed in 2009.