Actor John Astin, best known for playing Gomez in “The Addams Family,” also appeared in “Maverick,” in the episode “The Town That Wasn’t There.” And he shared a fascinating story about star James Garner’s particular way of telling a joke.
Astin, speaking to the Television Academy Foundation in 2015, said Garner was an enthusiastic joke-teller, as Astin discovered one day. It wasn’t on the set of “Maverick.” It was when they were both at the Universal Studios lot.
“I never worked with him then,” Astin explained of his brief appearance on “Maverick.” “But I knew him, and I worked with him a number of times later in movies. In fact, he had a way of telling a joke…” Astin trailed off, and an impish look crossed his face.
James Garner Tells a Joke
“One day, we were at the gate at Universal, and we were both waiting for something – I don’t know what, but we were both standing there,” Astin went on. “And he says, ‘Let me tell you a story.’ And I said, ‘Okay.’”
Astin was perhaps expecting the more straitlaced character he knew from “Maverick.” But that’s not what he got.
So Garner said, “‘This guy is a drunk. And he gets in the cab, and he says to the cabbie, ‘You got room up there for a six-pack and a bag of Fritos?’ And the cabbie says, ‘Sure.’ [So] he says, ‘Okay.’’” Whereupon Astin mimicked a throwing-up maneuver.
“That’s a disgusting joke, but it’s very funny,” Astin said apologetically. “And the way Jim told it, with his particular voice, with the throwup – because he really did the throwup sound beautifully – I’m still laughing about it.”
‘Maverick’ Star’s Kid Remembers His Sense of Humor
Garner died in 2014 of a heart attack. He was 86. But in a June 2020 interview with Closer Weekly, Garner’s daughter Gigi said she wants people to know who Garner was offscreen. Beyond the characters he played, even on “Maverick,” she said, he was quite funny.
“The truth about my dad is that people think he’s like he was on TV, but there were many sides to his personality,” she said. “He was funny and jovial; in fact, the funniest person I ever knew, so witty and so quick. At the same time, he was shy and introverted in some respects.”
Gigi added that while her father preferred film work to “Maverick,” because television is more physically draining, he really took to acting. And he often went above and beyond. For example, he did all his own stunts for the movie “Grand Prix.”
“For him it wasn’t about the money or the awards,” she explained. “He loved to work; that was his thing. Whatever it was, he was the first one there in the morning.”