By Ann Oldenburg, USA TODAY

The world of comedy has lost a legend.

Jonathan Winters, whowas known for his improv work that inspired many a contemporary stand-upcomic including Robin Williams, Jim Carrey and others, has died. He was87.

Longtime family friend Joe Petro III says Winters diedThursday evening at his Montecito, Calif., home of natural causes,reports AP.

A note on his website adds, "Rest in Peace, Mr. Winters."

Winters'career began when he won a talent contest in Dayton, Ohio, which led toradio gigs and appearances at comedy clubs, along with comedy albums.

Hewas a favorite guest on the late night TV circuit for decades, oftenappearing with Jack Paar, Johnny Carson and Steve Allen. And he oftenperformed in character. One one of his best known was Maude Frickert, anold lady with a quick and acid wit. He had his own TV show in the1950s.

Winters also appeared in nearly 50 movies, including a particularly notable role in the 1963 film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

EileenSchauder Winters, his wife of more than 60 years, died on Jan. 11,2009. Jonathan is survived by two children and five grandchildren.

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