Tom Poston

Active - 1953 - 2004  |   Born - Oct 17, 1921 in Columbus, Ohio, United States  |   Died - Apr 30, 2007   |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Though many casual observers perceive that comic actor Tom Poston was "discovered" by Steve Allen in 1956, Poston had in fact been a performer long before Allen ever set foot on a stage. At age 9, Poston was a member of the Flying Zebleys, an acrobatic troupe. After Air Force service in World War II, he began his formal acting training at the AADA. Poston made his "legit" New York stage debut in Jose Ferrer's Cyrano de Bergerac (1947). With several years of stage work under his belt, Poston was engaged to host the local New York TV variety series Entertainment (1955), and it was this effort that brought him to the attention of Steve Allen. The story goes that Poston was so flustered at his audition for Allen's TV variety series that he forgot his own name when asked. From 1956 through 1960, Poston was seen along with Louis Nye and Don Knotts as a member of the Allen stock company; appropriately, he was most often cast as a "man on the street" interviewee who could never remember his name. Poston won an Emmy for his work on Allen's show in 1959, and that same year hosted the weekday TV game show Split Personality; this gig led to a long tenure as a guest panelist on other quiz programs. In films from 1953, Poston starred in a pair of offbeat William Castle-directed comedies, Zotz (1962) and The Old Dark House (1963). Poston's TV sitcom credits include such roles as prison guard Sullivan on On the Rocks (1975), absentminded Damon Jerome on We've Got Each Other (1977), cantankerous neighbor Franklin Delano Bickley on Mork and Mindy and Ringo Crowley on Good Grief (1990). In 1982, Poston beat out Jerry Van Dyke for his most famous prime-time TV role: caretaker George Utley on Newhart. Poston died at age 85 in April 2007, of undisclosed causes. Until the time of his death, he was married to Suzanne Pleshette of The Bob Newhart Show.

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Factsheet

  • Was a Captain in the Army Air Corps during World War II, flying missions in England, France and Italy.
  • First acting role was in Jose Ferrer's Cyrano de Bergerac on Broadway in 1946.
  • Known best for his comedic TV roles on The Steve Allen Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Newhart and Mork & Mindy.
  • First met his third wife, actress Suzanne Pleshette, in 1959, when they costarred on Broadway in Golden Fleecing; they later costarred on The Bob Newhart Show, but didn't begin dating until they were both widowed in the late 1990s.