I just heard the news that Jonathan Winters has died. It is a blessed life when you can bring joy and laughter to so many people.
When we lived in southern California, my wife and I went into a furniture store on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City. Jonathan Winters was there, holding a pillow and talking to an invisible person in one the beds on display. The invisible person was a relative he was fed up with. He proceeded to use the pillow to smother this “person”. I remember it very clearly. He was doing comedy, with an audience of about 5 people. The guy can not turn it off.
I used to watch Jonathan Winters on TV as a kid. My family loved him. A documentary about Winters, apparently made in 2007, is just now being released. Here is a link to the film’s web page.
Winter’s great genius was improvisation. Here is a clip of him from 1964. With a plain stick he can easily create a character using it as a prop. His voice, expression, body position and the prop all instantly fall in place, and he makes it funny. And not just one character, but a series of them.
If you are having a hard time thinking up a character to animate, try to remember Jonathan Winters.