Jonathan Winters
Rare & Riotous
Comedy Clip DVD
Black and White / Color
Passport Video 2007
60 minutes

Jonathan Winters Rare & Riotous: A Collection of Classic Television Shows contains this disclaimer: This DVD is neither endorsed nor authorized by Jonathan Winters. You have to give due credit to the people at Passport Video for at least being honest about it as I have seen similar 60’s TV clips collage collections without the caveat. If you are not a hard-core fan of Jonathan Winters, Rare And Riotous may not be your cup of tea as the clips here, the 1964 A Wild Winter’s Night, an appearance on the Andy Williams Show, and the color PSA on littering do not live up to the Winters legend. If you are a serious fan of the best improve comic ever, this DVD will certainly be welcome in your collection, especially as there are so few such releases available.

The highlight of the Jonathan Winters Rare & Riotous DVD is the 36 minute long A Wild Winters Night, even if the commercials not featuring Winters himself have been kept (granted, they are pretty good anyways, especially the Elgin Watch). It is a rarity in itself but also rare because it is perhaps the only existing footage showing Winters being left at a loss by a guest, in this case Art Carney who spoof Winters’ own style and one of his most famous appearances on the Andy Williams show where he switched twenty or so hats and characters in record time. Carney does a pretty good Maude Frickert too.

Winters does a few of his own commercials including George Washington for Scripto pens. Carney and Winters return for some improve that were obviously edited for the best. This is a bit of a hit and miss set as Carney and Winters do not really show the necessary generosity for good improv and step over each other’s set-ups. Still, you get to see Winters doing Jackie Gleason and a couple of good bits.

Art Carney also plays Maude Frickert’s husband Willard in a pretty good bit involving changing the set on the fly before guest show up for Maude’s 100th birthday. This is an original routine with a few comic unplanned mishaps. The giving presents to Maude bit that follows is a bit long but what the hell. The show closes with a talk by Winters about his family while a few pictures are shown.

One thing the A Wild Winters Night show on Jonathan Winters Rare And RiotousĀ  shows it is why Winters never did very well on TV when it came to having his own show. The small screen does not serve this wild man of comedy’s style very well.

The next clip on this Jonathan Winters DVD is from the Chevy Show Starring Andy Williams featuring a ten-minute or so clip of Winters playing a secession war general’s statue, a high school coach who would rather be a home ec teacher, Maude Frickert, fire chief Elwood P Suggins, before doing a bit of sound improv set up by Williams.

To be honest, the public service announcement Pitch In is a waste, especially since though in color it definitely could have used a bit of cleaning up. Also, Winter’s four litterbug characters and his comedy are not really that interesting.

Fans of early sixties TV might quibble about the unrestored footage but personally I think it has survived well as is even if it is a tad wee bit dusty sometimes. The Andy Williams clip is a little more questionable quality wise especially because it is somewhat fuzzy.

Jonathan Winters’ DVD Rare & Riotous is of interest to serious Jonathan Winters fans though not the best material by the king of improv. Considering the rarity of Winters DVDs, it is still pretty interesting.


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