Certifiably Jonathan


Most people know 80-year-old Jonathan Winters from his Maudie Frickert character — whose frequent appearances on Laugh-In gave the show a surreal bite that its political content couldn’t begin to match. Despite being idolized by comedians (and given his due as an early recipient of The Mark Twain Prize for Humor), Winters doesn’t enjoy the icon status of others from his golden era of performing. Perhaps that’s because his cerebral, improvisational, eccentric riffs are somewhat impenetrable on the first viewing. So many cogs and gears are firing before his mouth opens, Winters’ comedy often comes across as the work of a truly, deeply mad genius.

That hint of insanity is brought out into the light of day in the new documentary “Certifiably Jonathan.” Between various testimonials to his utterly unique comic chops, we see how Winters (a gifted painter) dreams of having his paintings hang in the Museum of Modern Art. After failed exhibitions in Beverly Hills and Las Vegas, he’s about to give up. Then in walk the filmmakers, who hunt down an influential art critic who believes Winters is “the missing link between Miro and Dali” and convinces the Museum of Modern Art to give him a show if he paints three new paintings. Many great artists thrive on deadlines, but some become paralyzed by the imposed quest to produce great work. When his favorite painting is stolen, Winters loses his comic and artistic mojo, then goes on a quest to get it back. Helping him on the road to Oz are Sarah Silverman, Howie Mandel, Nora Dunn, Ryan Stiles, Gary Owens and others. Running time: 1:20. Opens Fri., Feb. 11, at the Quad Cinema (34 W.13th St. btw. Fifth & Sixth). For screening times, call 212-255-2243 or visit quadcinema@aol.com. Filmmakers Jim Pasternak and Richard Marshall will be present for a Q&A session following the 7:40pm shows on Feb. 11 and 12.