‘The Honeymooners’: Joyce Randolph on Jackie Gleason’s Fast-Paced Working Style: ‘I Saw an Actor Vomit From Nerves’

The last surviving member of The Honeymooners television series cast, Joyce Randolph who portrayed Trixie Norton on the show remembers her time on the show with fondness.

She also, in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, recalled the frenetic pace of the show that physically exhausted some cast members.

Joyce Randolph and Art Carney as Trixie and Ed Norton on 'The Honeymooners'
Joyce Randolph and Art Carney as Trixie and Ed Norton on ‘The Honeymooners’ | Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The actor that Gleason requested frequently for ‘The Honeymooners’

One actor who showed he could keep up with Gleason and ad-lib with the best of them was character actor George Petrie. While his name may not be familiar, his face is recognizable.

After The Honeymooners, Petrie went on to appear in dozens of hit shows including The Twilight Zone, My Three Sons, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Andy Griffith Show, The Addams Family, Maude, and Dallas, among many others.

Character actor George Petrie, center, with (left) Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden and Art Carney (right) as Ed Norton in a scene from 'The Honeymooners'
Character actor George Petrie, center, with (left) Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden and
Art Carney (right) as Ed Norton in a scene from ‘The Honeymooners’

“George Petrie was in every Honeymooners skit,” Randolph said. “Because he was so fast with an ad-lib. Jackie discovered that when George fixed something up and saved the day. And so Jackie said to [his producer], ‘Keep using that guy.’ George Petrie was used a lot.

“He would change his looks with glasses, toupees, and hair combs,” she said. “If you see The Honeymooners every night, you realize ‘My God, that’s the same guy that I saw as Alice’s brother last night! Now he’s the judge?'”

Gleason’s show pace was frenzied

Once he arrived on the set of The Honeymooners, Gleason was all business. The man called The Great One started off at a frantic pace, Randolph recalled, and never let up.

“Nerves were very high,” she said. “And then people who came on just for that week were not used to this fast pace. I saw an actor vomit in the wings once from nerves. It was scary.”

Audrey Meadows, left, as Alice Kramden and Jackie Gleason as her husband Ralph in a scene from 'The Honeymooners'
Audrey Meadows, left, as Alice Kramden and Jackie Gleason as her husband Ralph in a scene from ‘The Honeymooners’ Paramount Television/Getty Images

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The Trixie Norton actor commented on her co-stars Audrey Meadows and Art Carney’s abilities to keep up with Gleason, especially when they regularly appeared in so many scenes with the legendary actor.

“I don’t know how Art and Audrey did it,” she said. “They had so many lines with him. They carried the whole thing. My part was generally smaller, I was always thrilled if it was longer. But it was tough. Art’s a genius, [he’s] wonderful.”

Audrey Meadows cried during the series’ 1st episode

Art Carney, Jackie Gleason, and Audrey Meadows on 'The Honeymooners'
Art Carney, Jackie Gleason, and Audrey Meadows on ‘The Honeymooners’ | Paramount Television/Courtesy of Getty Images

According to Joyce Randolph, her co-star was in tears during the show’s first episode. Gleason’s edict of “one and done” rehearsal was difficult for her to work with.

“Audrey was amazed at the small amount of rehearsal,” Randolph recalled. “She said she was in tears on the first show. I didn’t see her crying, but she said she was in tears. But she got through it, because Audrey is very smart. “

The Trixie Norton actor explained that Meadows figured out a way to rehearse that wouldn’t violate Gleason’s rule, mainly because it didn’t involve him.

“Audrey learned everybody’s words in the script,” Randolph said. “And then we would all run after we had this one rehearsal with Jackie on Saturday afternoons, we’d go on up to Audrey’s dressing room.

“Her manager would read in Jackie’s words, and that would help everybody a great deal to run it a number of times that way,” she revealed.