Jonathan Winters died a few months ago at the age of 87. I always loved his off-the-wall sense of humor (who else could make a commercial for garbage bags hilarious? Check out his HEFTY commercials.)
I also admired his courage in the battles he fought with clinical depression throughout his entire adult life.
He was institutionalized twice in the late 1950s/early 1960s and seriously considered getting electroshock treatments. (He also had an extremely stormy relationship with his father—talk about a guy with whom I can identify.) He even managed to make jokes about his days in the psychiatric ward a part of his act. According to Winters, at one point, he managed to climb a tree on the hospital grounds and when an intern asked him who he thought he was, Winters reputedly replied, “I’m Robin Redbreast!”
To which the intern replied, “That bad?”
And Winters replied, “Okay, I’m a blue jay!”
An old friend of Winters’ called him a few months before his death and asked him how he was doing. Winters replied, “Well, I promised the kids I wouldn’t commit suicide inside the house because that would make it difficult to sell.”
Millions of people loved Jonathan Winters’s comedy and he became a spectacularly rich and famous man, but he still had demons to wrestle. I can’t say that he beat them, but he fought them to a standstill in a battle that lasted well over half a century.