Tom Poston

Thomas Gordon Poston (October 17, 1921 – April 30, 2007) was an American television and film actor. He starred on television in a career that began in 1950. He appeared as a comic actor, game show panelist, comedy/variety show host, film actor, television actor, and Broadway performer.

Tom Poston
Poston in 1965.
Thomas Gordon Poston

(1921-10-17)October 17, 1921
Columbus, Ohio, United States
DiedApril 30, 2007(2007-04-30) (aged 85)
Years active1950–2006

According to USA Today Life editor Dennis Moore, Poston appeared in more sitcoms than any other actor.[1] In the 1980s, he played George Utley opposite Bob Newhart's character on the CBS sitcom Newhart, receiving three Emmy Award nominations for the role.

Early life

Poston was born in Columbus, Ohio, the son of George and Margaret Poston. His father was a liquor salesman and dairy chemist.[2]

After completing high school, Poston attended Bethany College in West Virginia, but did not graduate. While there, he joined the Sigma Nu Fraternity. He joined the United States Army Air Forces in 1941. Accepted to officer candidate school and then graduating from flight training, Poston served as a pilot in the European Theater in World War II; his aircraft dropped paratroopers for the Normandy invasion.[3]

Poston served in North Africa, Italy, France, and England. After his discharge, he began studying acting in New York City, graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.[4]


In 1953, as Thomas Poston, he was cast as "Detective" in the film City That Never Sleeps. In 1957, Poston gained recognition as a comedic "Man in the Street" (along with his colleagues Louie Nye, Dayton Allen and Don Knotts) on The Steve Allen Show. For these performances, Poston won the 1959 Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Continuing Character) in a Comedy Series. In the fall of 1959, when the Allen program moved west to Los Angeles, Tom remained in New York, appearing frequently on Broadway and television game shows.

His film career was limited, with appearances in films such as William Castle's Zotz! (1962), The Old Dark House (1963), Soldier in the Rain (1963), Cold Turkey (1971), The Happy Hooker (1975), Rabbit Test (1978), Up the Academy (1980) and Carbon Copy (1981). He was cast as Michael Carrington's uncle Tom Anderson in Grease 2 (1982), but his scenes were deleted.

However, his television career was expansive, covering the better part of five decades. When Mel Brooks submitted his idea for Get Smart to the ABC network, ABC wanted Poston for the lead role of Maxwell Smart.[5] When ABC passed on the show, NBC picked it up and the lead went to Don Adams. Poston, however, made a guest appearance on the show as a KAOS villain. He appeared in Thriller during its second season in 1961. The episode, number six, was entitled "Masquerade" and starred Elizabeth Montgomery.

In 1968, Poston played the role of the Scarecrow, at The Municipal Opera Association of St. Louis, production of The Wizard of Oz. Lana Cantrell played Dorothy Gale, and Betty Low played the Sorceress of the North, also known as Glinda.

Poston was a recurring guest star on The Bob Newhart Show in the 1970s, playing "The Peeper," a buddy of Bob's since college. Whenever the Peeper came from Vermont to visit Newhart's Chicago-based character, Dr. Bob Hartley, the two middle-aged men would still try to one-up each other with practical jokes. Poston later played the role of Franklin Delano Bickley on Mork & Mindy.

A longtime friend of Bob Newhart, Poston played George Utley, a simple country handyman of the Stratford Inn, on Newhart, and appeared with Newhart in Cold Turkey as the town drunk, Edgar Stopworth. He was nominated for an Emmy Award three times for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his performance on Newhart in 1984, 1986, and 1987. He had a third role with Newhart in the short-lived Bob.

Poston had regular roles on many other television series: Family Matters, Murphy Brown, Home Improvement, Cosby, Malcolm & Eddie, ER, Grace Under Fire, That '70s Show (as Kitty Forman's father, Burt Sigurdson), Will & Grace, and guest starred in an episode of The Simpsons as the Capital City Goofball. He played dentist/jeweler, Art Hibke, on ABC's Coach, for which he was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series in 1991. He guest-starred on Home Improvement as a surly airport clerk in Alpena, Michigan when Tim and Al get stuck there during a snowstorm on Christmas Eve, and again as that character's brother in the episode "The Tool Man Delivers", and again as the third brother in the episode “Thanksgiving”.

In 2001, he appeared on The Lone Gunmen episode "The Cap'n Toby Show"[6] and in King of the Hill episode "Now Who's The Dummy?" as Mr. Popper (voice). In 2005, he played the character "Clown" on the brief-lived NBC series Committed and guest-starred on the ABC series 8 Simple Rules as Rory's unlawful friend Jake in the episode "Good Moms Gone Wild". In 2006, Poston guest-starred on an episode of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, entitled "Ah! Wilderness" as Merle, which was his final role.

Personal life and death

Poston and actress Jean Sullivan were married in 1955 and divorced in 1968. Their daughter is actress Francesca Poston.

Poston married Kay Hudson in 1968. They had two children, daughter Hudson Poston and son Jason Poston. They divorced in 1975 but remarried in 1980 and remained together until her death in 1998 from ALS.[7]

In 2001, Poston married actress Suzanne Pleshette, who played the wife of Newhart's character Bob Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show. It was his fourth marriage, and her third marriage.[8]

After a brief illness, Poston died of respiratory failure on April 30, 2007, in Los Angeles, California at the age of 85.[4] He predeceased Pleshette by nine months. Although he was not Jewish, he is interred in the Jewish Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery alongside Pleshette, who was Jewish.[9]



1952Skirts Ahoy!Walk-onUncredited
1953City That Never SleepsDetectiveCredited as Thomas Poston
1962Zotz!Professor Jonathan Jones
1963The Old Dark HouseTom Penderel
Soldier in the RainLieutenant Magee
1971Cold TurkeyMr. Stopworth
1975The Happy HookerJ. Arthur Conrad
1978Rabbit TestMinister
1980Up the AcademySisson
1981Carbon CopyReverend Hayworth
1989Murphy's Laws of GolfGeorgeShort Film
1998Krippendorf's TribeGordon Hargrove
1999The Story of UsHarry
2003Beethoven's 5thJohn Giles / Selig
2004The Princess Diaries 2: Royal EngagementLord Palimore
Christmas with the KranksFather Zabriskie


1950Tom Corbett, Space CadetThe AlkarianEpisode: "The Mystery of Alkar"
1950 - 1951 Lights OutSir John02 Episodes
1951 Studio One in HollywoodSentry / Alec Gordon02 Episodes
1953 Hawkins Falls: A Television NovelToby WinfieldUnknown Episodes
1955 Goodyear PlayhouseCurrently UnknownEpisode: "Tangled Web"
1956Playwrights '56FletcherEpisode: "You Sometimes Get Rich"
Robert Montgomery PresentsCurrently UnknownEpisode: "Who?"
1956 - 1957The Phil Silvers ShowGuard House Lieutenant / The Lieutenant02 Episodes
1956 - 1960The Steve Allen Plymouth ShowComedian / Guest / Himself44 Episodes
1957The United States Steel HourChesterEpisode: "The Change in Chester"
The Steve Allen ShowComedianEpisode: "#3.11"
1958The Christmas TreeTomTelevision Film
1958 - 1966What's My Line?Himself / Mystery Guest / Panelist10 Episodes
1959The Ed Sullivan ShowLieutenant Ferguson HowardEpisode: "#13.9"
1959 - 1967To Tell the TruthHimself / Panelist317 Episodes
1960 The TempestTrinculoTelevision Film
Play of the WeekSupervisorEpisode: "The Enchanted"
1961 ThrillerCharlie DenhamEpisode: "Masquerade"
1963 - 1964Match GameHimself / Team Captain35 Episodes
Missing LinksHimself / Panelist27 Episodes
1964 The DefendersSheldon Lowell02 Episodes
1965Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler TheatreJanitor / Lieutenant CourtneyEpisode: "Double Jeopardy"
1968Gentle BenJoe CardiganEpisode: "Trophy Bear"
1969 The Good GuysJulian BrentEpisode: "The World's Second Greatest Lover"
Get SmartDoctor ZharkoEpisode: "Shock It to Me"
1974Bobby Parker and CompanyHis PsychiatristTelevision Film
1975Harry and MaggieArlo WilsonTelevision Short
1975 - 1976 On the RocksMister Sullivan13 Episodes
1975 - 1977The Bob Newhart ShowCliff Murdock05 Episodes
1976 AliceJerry DittmeyerEpisode: "Vera's Mortician"
1976 - 1977Match GameHimself / Panelist10 Episodes
1977All's FairHarold BanksEpisode: "Save the Yak"
The Magnificent Magical Magnet of Santa MesaWilliam BensingerTelevision Film
1977 - 1978We've Got Each OtherDamon Jerome13 Episodes
1977 - 1987The Love BoatTom Poston / Daniel Baker / Mickey O'Day03 Episodes
1978A Guide to the Married WomanMarty GibsonTelevision Film
Flying HighZarkyEpisode: "The Vanishing Point"
FameCar SalesmanTelevision Film
1979$weepstake$LeedsEpisode: "#1.2"
CHiPsBill ConnerEpisode: "Quarantine"
Beane's of BostonMister Frank BeanePilot Episode
1979 - 1980The Hollywood Squares (Daytime)Center Square / Himself / Panelist21 Episodes
1979 - 1981Mork & MindyMister Bickley54 Episodes
1980Good Time HarryBen YoungerEpisode: "Ben Younger"
1981The Girl, the Gold Watch & DynamiteOmar KreppsTelevision Film
1981 - 1982Password PlusCelebrity Contestant / Himself11 Episodes
1982King's CrossingBrian GunshoreEpisode: "The Home Front"
I've Had It Up to HereCurrently UnknownTelevision Film
1982 - 1990NewhartGeorge Utley184 Episodes
1983 - 1984Match Game-Hollywood Squares HourHimself / Panelist24 Episodes
1984 - 1985Body LanguageHimself15 Episodes
1984 - 1989Super PasswordCelebrity Contestant / Himself70 Episodes
1985 HotelTommy RooneyEpisode: "Pathways"
1986 Crazy Like a FoxCurrently UnknownEpisode: "A Fox at the Races"
FresnoDoctor ParseghianMiniseries 04 Episodes
1987D.C. FolliesTom PostonEpisode: "Pilot"
1988Save the Dog!Currently UnknownTelevision Film
St. ElsewhereJim MorrisonEpisode: "The Abby Singer Show"
1990A Quiet Little Neighborhood, a Perfect Little MurderDon CormanTelevision Film
The SimpsonsCapital City Goofball (voice)Episode: Dancin' Homer
1990 - 1991 Good GriefRingo Prowley13 Episodes
1990 - 1995CoachDr. Art Hibke / Art Hibke04 Episodes
1991 Harry and the HendersonsCurrently UnknownEpisode: "Harry and the Homless Man"
1992 - 1993 BobJerry Fleisher04 Episodes
1993 Dream OnSidney 'Uncle Bouncy' BarishEpisode: "Oral Sex, Lies and Videotape"
Dr. Quinn, Medicine WomanMysterious 'Dead Man'Episode: "Halloween"
1994Big Daddy's BarbecueVirgilTelevision Film
1994 - 1995Family MattersMr. Looney03 Episodes
1994 - 1996Murphy BrownOld Man Swenson02 Episodes
1995Aaahh!!! Real MonstersRalph / Burly Man (voices)Episode: "Eau de Krumm/O'Lucky Monster"
1995 - 1997Home ImprovementTed / Ned / The Clerk03 Episodes
1995 - 1998Grace Under FireFloyd Norton32 Episodes
1996The Larry Sanders ShowTom PostonEpisode: "My Name Is Asher Kingsley"
1997George and LeoTraffic CopEpisode: "The Pilot Episode"
Sabrina the Teenage WitchMortgage BankerEpisode: "Witch Trash"
1998Just Shoot Me!HerbEpisode: "Jack's Old Partner"
Touched by an AngelEd YablonskyEpisode: "Cry and You Cry Alone"
Suddenly SusanMr. VanceEpisode: "Sleeping with the Enemy"
Maggie WintersLester MulfordEpisode: "Mama's Got a Brand New Bag"
RugratsRoy (voice)Episode: "Baking Dil/Hair!"
Contempt of CourtCoronerTelevision Film
1999CosbyTim02 Episodes
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV ShowUncle CosmoEpisode: "Honey, It's the Ghostest with the Mostest"
Diagnosis: MurderTom PorterEpisode: "The Roast"
1999 - 2000Malcolm & EddieGarth Dubin02 Episodes
2000Dharma & GregDr. GillespieEpisode: "The Spy Who Said He Loved Me"
Normal, OhioStanleyEpisode: "Just Another Normal Christmas"
2001The Drew Carey ShowRoscoe HarveyEpisode: "Oswald's Dad Returns"
King of the HillMr. Popper (voice)Episode: "Now Who’s the Dummy?"
EREarl02 Episodes
The Lone GunmenCaptain Toby / Fred TabalowskiEpisode: "The 'Cap'n Toby' Show"
The Ellen ShowJoeEpisode: "Joe"
2002Apple Valley KnightsJustice Knight Sr.Unknown Episodes
BeckerJoe WillakieEpisode: "Talking Points"
Will & GraceNormanEpisode: "Went to a Garden Potty"
Liberty's Kids: Est. 1776Currently Unknown (voice)05 Episodes
2002 - 2003That '70s ShowBurt Sigurdson03 Episodes
2003Good Morning, MiamiLenny02 Episodes
8 Simple RulesJakeEpisode: "Good Moms Gone Wild"
2005CommittedClown13 Episodes
2006The Suite Life of Zack & CodyMerleEpisode: "Ah! Wilderness!"


  1. Moore, Dennis (August 5, 2013). "Which American Actor Appeared in the most TV Sitcoms?". USA Today. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  2. "Tom Poston profile". Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  3. Astor, Gerald (1999). The Greatest War - Volume II: D-Day and the Assault on Europe. New York: Warner Books. p. 247. ISBN 044661047X.
  4. Fox, Margalit (May 2, 2007). "Tom Poston, Virtuosic Comic Actor, Is Dead at 85". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  5. Parish, James Robert (February 28, 2008). It's Good to Be the King: The Seriously Funny Life of Mel Brooks. John Wiley & Sons. p. 165. ISBN 978-0470225264.
  6. "Tom Poston". Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  7. Bernstein, Adam (May 2, 2007). "Tom Poston; Played the Comically Clueless". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  8. Donnelley, Paul (September 1, 2010). Fade to Black: A Book of Over 1500 Movie Obituaries. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1849382465.
  9. Archerd, Army (May 2, 2007). "Tom Poston Farewell". Variety. Retrieved November 15, 2019.
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