John Allen Astin (born March 30, 1930) is an American actor who has appeared in numerous films and television shows, and is best known for the roles of Gomez Addams on The Addams Family, Evil Roy Slade, and other similarly eccentric comedic characters. Astin played Clamp Center Janitor in Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990).
Astin was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Margaret Linnie (née Mackenzie) and Dr. Allen Varley Astin, who was the director of the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology). He graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1952, after transferring from Washington & Jefferson College. He studied mathematics at Washington & Jefferson and then at Johns Hopkins; he was a member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at Johns Hopkins.
Astin started in theater, making his first Broadway appearance as an understudy in Major Barbara, and also did voice-over work for commercials. His first big break in film came with a small part in West Side Story in 1961.
During this period, his talent for also playing comedy was spotted by actor Tony Randall, leading to guest starring roles on the situation comedies Dennis the Menace, starring Jay North, The Donna Reed Show, and Harrigan and Son, starring Pat O'Brien, the first carried on CBS and the latter two carried on ABC. In 1961, he appeared in the final episode of the ABC police drama The Asphalt Jungle. In 1962–1963, Astin starred with Marty Ingels in the unusual ABC sitcom I'm Dickens, He's Fenster, which lasted for thirty-one episodes. From 1964 to 1966, he starred in The Addams Family as Gomez Addams, the head of the macabre family. He appeared in the TV show The New Addams Family as Grandpapa Addams in 1998, with the role of Gomez Addams played by Glenn Taranto.
Astin joined the retooled The Pruitts of Southampton (re-titled The Phyllis Diller Show) for the second half of the 1966-1967 season, playing Diller's brother-in-law, Angus Pruitt. He also played the Riddler in the second season of Batman (Frank Gorshin returned for the third and final season.) He played submarine commander Matthew Sherman in the 1970s TV series Operation Petticoat. He also made a notable appearance in the popular mystery show Murder, She Wrote, as the villainous Sheriff Harry Pierce. He had a recurring role on the sitcom Night Court as Buddy, eccentric former mental patient and the father of lead character Harry Stone. He also played the regular role of Ed LaSalle in the short-lived Mary Tyler Moore sitcom Mary during the 1985–86 television season. He guest starred on numerous television series too, including a Gunsmoke appearance in 1967 as Festus's cousin Henry, Jack Palance's ABC circus drama, The Greatest Show on Earth, Duckman, and Homeboys in Outer Space.
Astin received an Academy Award nomination for Prelude, a short film that he wrote, produced, and directed. He was nominated for an Ace Award for his work on Tales from the Crypt, and received an Emmy nomination for the cartoon voice of Gomez on ABC-TV's The Addams Family. He also voiced the character Bull Gator on the animated series Taz-Mania. Astin served for four years on the Board of Directors of the Writers Guild of America, and has been active in community affairs in Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
He has continued to work in acting, appearing in a string of Killer Tomatoes films as Professor Gangreen and as Professor Wickwire in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.. He also has toured the one-man play Edgar Allan Poe: Once Upon a Midnight, written by Paul Day Clemens and Ron Magid. In a December 2007 Baltimore Examiner interview, Astin said of his acting experience: "We all struggle, and I had plenty of that, but I've had a great time. I've done hundreds of TV shows and 30 to 40 movies, and I love acting. I'm very happy having done the Poe. That's been really terrific."
Astin currently teaches method acting and directing in the Theater Arts and Studies Department at Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater. Commenting on his dual career, he said in 2007, "I don't know one major university that has a known actor teaching every day." He hopes to re-establish a drama major at the university, noting that he is one of only a handful to earn a drama degree from Hopkins. Astin can be seen singing and playing cowbell in a music video from JHU released in December 2009.
John Astin has five sons; three (David, Allen, and Tom) with his first wife, Suzanne Hahn; two with his second wife, actress Patty Duke - one adopted (Sean, Patty's son from an earlier relationship, whom John adopted after their marriage) and one biological (Mackenzie). Astin is currently married to Valerie Ann Sandobal and lives in Baltimore. He practices Nichiren Buddhism as a member of the worldwide Buddhist association Soka Gakkai International.
His younger brother, Alexander Astin, is a professor emeritus at UCLA.
He has six granddaughters: Alexandra, Elizabeth, Isabella, Sedona, Jaya, and Dov.