Naturally, when I learned that one of America’s most unique comedians had died, I thought about my encounter with him. Jonathan Winters, who died at the age of 87, was funniest when he was ad-libbing. His off-the-wall humor definitely found an audience, and I was happy to be in that audience.
I met him when he dropped by WSB Radio and TV in Atlanta for some publicity interviews. I forget what he was promoting. What I remember most is that he was always “on.” He was brought in the WSB Radio newsroom where we were working and started performing for us the minute we shook hands.
He said he had been a Marine gunner on the aircraft carrier Bon Homme Richard in the Pacific during World War II. He told us about a Marine general addressing some Marines about to leave the carrier to go a mission. Imitating the general speaking to the troops, he said, as best as I can remember, “Now, men, you are about to go on an important mission. I had hoped I could go with you, but….” Just as it was with all of the characters he portrayed on TV shows, characters like Maude Frickert, who he played wearing a white wig and a granny dress, and football coach Piggy Bladder, it wasn’t just what he said, it was the way he said it that had people in stitches. He had us in stitches in the WSB Radio newsroom. I ran into him in the mens room before he left. There were two or three of us using it at the time. As we washed our hands, he continued to crack us up with his improvisations.
I was glad I got to meet him. He was definitely an original.