Comic actor Tom Poston, whose brilliant turns as clueless bumblers on such TV shows as “Newhart” and “Mork & Mindy” tickled viewers for a half century, has died. He was 85.
Poston died of an undisclosed illness Monday night, said family spokesman Tanner Gibson.
Suzanne Pleshette, who played Bob Newhart’s wife on “The Bob Newhart Show” and married Poston for real in 2001, was at his side in their Los Angeles home at the end.
The tall, pasty-faced actor with a perpetual hangdog look began tickling the nation’s funny bone in the mid-1950s on “The Steve Allen Show.”
Allen plucked Poston from the Broadway stage to join an ensemble of eccentrics with whom he would conduct “man in the street” interviews.
Don Knotts was the shaky Mr. Morrison; Louis Nye was the suave, overconfident Gordon Hathaway, and Poston’s character was so unnerved by the television cameras that he couldn’t remember who he was - a role that earned him an Emmy.
Poston perhaps was best known for playing hapless handyman George Utley on “Newhart,” but he also had a recurring role in “Grace Under Fire” and guest-starred on “Murphy Brown,” “That 70’s Show,” “Will & Grace,” “Becker” and “Good Morning, Miami.” He was a longstanding panelist on “To Tell the Truth.”
Born in Columbus, Ohio, Poston attended Bethany College in West Virginia. He served as a pilot in the Air Force during WWII.
Although best known as a comic, Poston began his acting career in the 1947 Broadway production of “Cyrano de Bergerac” and had other dramatic roles in “The Barretts of Wimpole Street” and “King Lear.”
He also performed in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Come Blow Your Horn,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Drink to Me Only,” “Mary, Mary” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”
In addition to Pleshette, who is battling lung cancer, Poston leaves a daughter, Francesca, and a son, Jason.
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