Jonathan Winters, a comedian whose improvisational style began breaking all the rules back in the 1950s, looks back on his long, strange career in this documentary filled with some of his most inspired bits. In a clip from... more » a TV appearance in the early 1960s, Winters enters a room filled with hats ranging from medieval crowns to space helmets. In the course of several minutes he changes hats at a furious pace, and as each hat goes onto his head, Winters also assumes the facial expressions and voice of a new character. It's a very funny and very weird bit that few other comics could pull off. Robin Williams, who has always been lavish in his praise of Winters, appears in typically manic interview segments to comment on him as a performer. Winters's wife and children also provide their perspective, and Winters provides insight into how he comes up with his bizarre performances and some memories on the ups and downs of his career, which includes a dark period when he checked himself into a mental hospital. The biographical material is interesting, but of course the real gems in this production are the many clips of Winters performing. He is seen morphing into characters on television programs dating back to the early 1950s, and in one odd segment, he improvises routines in the aisles of a hardware store. --Robert J. McNamara« less
Algernon D'Ammassa | Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/01/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Jonathan Winters is really a treasure and it is amazing how many people do not know about him. He is clearly Robin Williams's progenitor, starting out in his television career with sound effects and impersonations, but eventually moving into original characters and amazing improvisations, often based on random objects thrown to him.This documentary, however, is constantly teasing the viewer who is eager to watch the master. Seldom does a segment or vignette go uninterrupted by cuts from interviews which are sparse, heavy on adoration and low on information. The subjects of these interviews are limited to Andy Williams, Robin Williams (who seems to have little to say about his hero), and family members who tell few stories. Winters himself makes a statement about his nervous breakdown and hospitalization that is firm and uninformative. There is talk about the work on IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD and MORK AND MINDY but no clips. Even when we watch him at play in public places, the camera holds so closely on him, rarely showing the setting or the people he is catching off-guard, that the spontaneity of what we are witnessing is hidden.A little of Winters is vastly better than none, but this disappoints as a documentary."
Ramona | 08/19/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Jonathan Winters is probably my all-time favorite comedian! I liked this video but wish it had been longer and that many, many more of his comedy routines had been included. The clips were too scattered and too brief, and it just whetted my appetite for more and was frustrating. Appearances by Andy Williams and Robin Williams didn't add much. I did enjoy learning a little about Winters' personal life over the years, and seeing him as he was a couple years ago. I must say I was very glad to locate ANY video about him, but it would be wonderful if someone could put together a complete set of ALL of his routines! That would be fantastic!"
One of the first wild men
Ramona | 08/14/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I just saw this special on PBS and found myself constantly laughing out loud! Many of today's generation only know Jonathan Winters from the egg commercials in California, but he's been in front of the camera a long time. He is one of the first comedians to use sound effects in his acts and he has the art of improvisation down to a science. His style is definitely a precursor to Robin Williams and Steve Martin and it is a treat to see him in action in this special. It will hand you the quick little laugh that you won't find somwhere else."
Johnny Winters One of the All Time Greats
Ramona | 11/27/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I watched him growing up and seeing this tape on PBS brought back memories of the best improvisational comedian of all time. Robin Williams will tell you, this man inspired him to be, what I would argue to be, the second best of all time...not bad because Williams is very good. The early shows with Jack Paar and Andy Williams are truly classic, and demonstrate the comic genius of Johnny or as he is better known, Jonathan."
A Look into a unusual mind
Steve Booth | Pewaukee, WI USA | 07/02/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a video which is sometimes shown on PBS. It is biographical in nature and truly shows the breadth of his comedy. You'll see Winters as you've probably never seen him before. There is improvisational humor galore and there's also black humor (The Execution). It is very amusing to see the "Straight Men" so totally lost and just enjoying "the master" at work."