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Comedian Jonathan Winters Dead at 87

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Actor Jonathan Winters poses in the audience at the 6th annual 'TV Land Awards' held at Barker Hangar on June 8, 2008 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for TV Land)
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Beloved groundbreaking funny man Jonathan Winters has died, according to a family friend. Winters, 87, died Thursday evening at his home in Montecito, California, reports the Associated Press. He was surrounded by family and friends, and died of natural causes.

Winters was born in Ohio, where he began his performing career in his 20s by entering a talent contest to win a wristwatch. He went on to do radio locally, then transitioned to doing standup in New York clubs in the late 1950s, and began to work in television.

In 1964 he appeared on the "Jack Paar" program, showing the country his wide range of eclectic characters, many of them riffs on real-life types animated by Winters' mugging and physicality.

Winters suffered two nervous breakdowns in the late 50s and early 1960s. The comedian also endured depression and alcoholism in his life.

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In 1981, Winters joined the cast of TV's "Mork and Mindy," introducing the comedian to a whole new audience. Both Winters and the show's legendary star Robin Williams often deviated from the script, with hilarious improvised results.

Later in his career, Winters was sought for his voice for animated projects. In his off-stage life, he was an accomplished abstract painter and wrote short stories.

Winters married Eileen Schauder in 1948 and they remained together until her death in 2009.

"I've done for the most part pretty much what I intended — I ended up doing comedy, writing and painting," Winters said to U.S. News. "I've had a ball. And as I get older, I just become an older kid."

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