(Reuters) - Comedian Jonathan Winters, star of TV shows and movies like “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” and “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming,” died on Thursday at age 87.
* Winters was 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served in the South Pacific during World War Two. After the war, he studied at an art school and worked as a disc jockey in his native Ohio before starting a stand-up comedy career in New York.
* Winters had a breakdown on stage in San Francisco in 1959 and afterward was found climbing the rigging of a sailboat at Fisherman’s Wharf. He told police he was from outer space and eventually spent eight months in a mental institution.
* Among Winters’ characters were Maudie Frickert, the salty tongued old lady; Elwood P. Suggins, the drawling overall-clad hick who once was “fire chief a while back until they found out who was setting the fires”; King Kwasi of Kwasiland, whose country was 200 miles long and 2 feet wide; trillionaire B.B. Bindlestiff, who boasted that he could “plant poor people in the ground and money comes out”; and Piggy Bladder, football coach at the State Teachers’ Animal Husbandry Institute for the Blind.
* Winters told an interviewer that he got his sense of humour from his quick-witted mother, Alice, who had a radio show in Springfield, Ohio.
* In the book “The Great Clowns of American Television,” Winters said everyday observation provided him with material for his act. He said he often used characters or situations he came across while taking part in two of his favourite activities - antique hunting and fishing.
* In addition to acting and stand-up comedy, Winters wrote humour books, a collection of short stories, and was a painter.
* He often did voice-over work for animated cartoons, including providing the voice of Papa Smurf in the U.S. version of “The Smurfs.”
Writing by Bill Trott; editing by Christopher Wilson