Comic great Jonathan Winters was struggling to make a name for himself in the early 1950s when a man at the nightclub where he was performing offered some life-changing advice.
Winters had a talent for channeling the voices of celebrities like Gary Cooper and Boris Karloff but, the man observed, "All you're doing is shining their shoes. You'd best think up your own characters."
That, Winters told TV Guide many years later, was "the best hunk of criticism I ever got."
With his rubbery, moon-shaped face and pitch-perfect ear for speech patterns, Winters began to unleash a cavalcade of charmingly twisted characters, including a redneck ballplayer, a...