Jonathan Winters, who died on Friday at age 87, had a talent ideal for the small screen. Though he did appear in several comedic classics, including "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" and "The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming," it was the less constrained world of TV that allowed him to flit and morph between comic bits at lightning speed.
One of the first great venues on TV where the comic rose to prominence was on "The Jack Paar Program." This appearance from 1964 demonstrates Winters' ability to improvise at a moment's notice, in this case with the prop of a simple stick.
One of Winters' most popular comic personas was the slightly naughty, extremely frumpy old lady Maude Frickert. Winters frequently appeared as the character on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson. (In fact, the character inspired Carson to develop his own old lady character known as Aunt Blabby.)
In this clip, Winters appeared with Dean Martin on "The Dean Martin Show," and demonstrated how his improv wit allowed him to continue to stay current even as the times went from stodgy to more swingin'.