Jonathan Winters, voice of Schultz and Dooley, dies

By ANDREW DONOVAN

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Jonathan Winters, a well-known comedian, has died at the age of 87. He was the voice of both Schultz and Dooley in the original Utica Club commercials of the 1950s and 1960s.

The commercials launched following Prohibition and put the Schultz and Dooley steins into comic situations, such as landing on the moon and picking out a criminal from a police line-up.

Beyond the commercials, Winters is widely credited with breakneck improvisations and misfit characters and inspiring the likes of Robin Williams and Jim Carrey.

The Ohio native died Thursday evening at his Montecito, Calif., home of natural causes, said Joe Petro III, a longtime family friend. Petro said Winters was surrounded by family and friends.

Winters was a pioneer of improvisational standup comedy, with an exceptional gift for mimicry, a grab bag of eccentric personalities and a bottomless reservoir of creative energy. Facial contortions, sound effects, tall tales - all could be used in a matter of seconds to get a laugh.

The humor most often was based in reality - his characters Maude Frickert and Elwood P. Suggins, for example, were based on people Winters knew growing up in Ohio.

A devotee of Groucho Marx and Laurel and Hardy, Winters and his free-for-all brand of humor inspired Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal, Tracey Ullman and Lily Tomlin, among others. But Williams and Carrey are his best-known followers.

Winters, who battled alcoholism and depression for years, was introduced to millions of new fans in 1981 as the son of Williams' goofball alien and his earthling wife in the final season of ABC's "Mork and Mindy."

Winters' only Emmy was for best-supporting actor for playing Randy Quaid's father in the sitcom "Davis Rules" (1991). He was nominated again in 2003 as outstanding guest actor in a comedy series for an appearance on "Life With Bonnie."

Winters had made television history in 1956, when RCA broadcast the first public demonstration of color videotape on "The Jonathan Winters Show."

Winters was born November 11, 1925, in Dayton, Ohio. Growing up during the Depression as an only child whose parents divorced when he was 7, Winters spent a lot of time entertaining himself.

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