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John Ratzenberger

Ratzenberger at the 2008 Rhode Island International Film Festival
Born John Deszo Ratzenberger[1]
April 6, 1947 (1947-04-06) (age 62)
Bridgeport, Connecticut, U.S.
Occupation Actor/Voice actor
Years active 1976–present
Official website

John Deszo Ratzenberger (born April 6, 1947)[1] is an American actor. He is best known for his role as Cliff Clavin in the sitcom Cheers.


Early life

Ratzenberger was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the son of Bertha (née Grohowski) and Deszo Alexander Ratzenberger.[2] He attended St. Ann's School in Bridgeport and Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut.[1] In 1969 Ratzenberger was a tractor operator at the Woodstock Festival.[3] He moved to London in 1971, living there for ten years.[1]


Ratzenberger was a house framer[4] living in London when he began his career in the performing arts.[1] His first role was a Patron in The Ritz (1976). He appeared in minor roles in movies including Firefox; A Bridge Too Far; Superman as a missile controller; Superman II as the NASA control man; Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) as "Major Bren Derlin"; Motel Hell (1980) as a punk rocker; Outland (1981) as a doomed mine worker named Tarlow, and Gandhi (1982), playing as an American Lieutenant.

Ratzenberger's work for Pixar, as well as his parts in Superman and The Empire Strikes Back, makes him the 6th most successful actor of all time, as measured by a total box office of over $3,000,000,000.[5]


Ratzenberger at the 1992 Primetime Emmy Awards

Ratzenberger is best known for playing mail carrier Cliff Clavin on the sitcom Cheers. He had read for the part of Norm Peterson, but after the audition, he could tell they weren't going to give him the part. Sensing an opportunity, he asked if they had written a bar know-it-all, which the producers decided was a great idea.[6] Cliff became known for his outlandish stories of plausible half-truths, irrelevant trivia, and ignorant misinformation, and was known for being an overall pretentious blowhard. Cliff and Norm, the primary customer characters, became iconic bar buddies. Ratzenberger provided the voice for an animated version of Cliff on The Simpsons 6th season episode "Fear of Flying".

When Paramount Television licensed the look of the Cheers bar to the Host International subsidiary of Host Marriott Services for use in airports in the U.S. and New Zealand, the group also created animatronic barflies. They were called "Hank" and "Bob"; Ratzenberger and George Wendt claimed Hank and Bob resembled them, and in January 1993 sued Host for using their likenesses without permission.[7] The case languished in court for eight years before all sides settled in 2001.[8]


Ratzenberger has had a voice part in all of Pixar's feature films made to date. His roles include:

He also voiced the bathhouse's assistant manager, Ao-gaeru, in the English dub of Spirited Away, a film whose U.S. executive producer was Pixar's John Lasseter.

Ratzenberger had the chance to make fun of his tenure at Pixar during the end credits of Cars, where his character, Mack, watches car-themed versions of Pixar movies ("Toy Car Story", "Monster Trucks, Inc.", and "A Bug's Life"), notes that all the characters Ratzenberger has played were excellent, until he realizes that they're the same actor, at which point he remarks, "They're just using the same actor over and over. What kind of cut-rate production is this?"

Ratzenberger's favorite of his Pixar characters was P.T. Flea, because "in real life I always get a kick out of those kinds of characters, people who just go into a rage for [no] explicable reason. He was always on edge. His blood pressure was always way over the top, and everything that he did was done in a panicked state. So it was a lot of fun to play him."[4]

Reality show appearances

During season 6 of Last Comic Standing, Ratzenberger was a talent scout with his former Cheers costar George Wendt.

On March 2, 2007, Ratzenberger was announced as a replacement for Vincent Pastore on fourth season of the American version of Dancing with the Stars.[9] He was partnered with professional ballroom dancer Edyta Sliwinska, who had been Pastore's partner; the two were the sixth couple to be eliminated from the show.

On December 3, 2009, Ratzenberger appeared as himself on an episode of American Chopper to help promote awareness of the Iraq Star Foundation.

Other television work

Ratzenberger hosts the Travel Channel TV series about things made in the USA called John Ratzenberger's Made in America (2003-2008). Ratzenberger guest-starred in four episodes of the first season of John Ritter's sitcom 8 Simple Rules; he played the neighbor of Ritter's character.

John also appeared on That '70s Show as Glen, a man stuck in an awful marriage with his high school sweetheart whose negative example gives Eric second thoughts about marrying Donna.

Ratzenberger played Thomas Foy in the TV movie The Pennsylvania Miners' Story.

Ratzenberger also provided the voice of Rigger in the animated series Captain Planet and the Planeteers.

On 17 February 2010, Ratzenberger made an appearance on British show Live from Studio Five.

Other work

Ratzenberger hosts the Wildcard section in the PC version of the board game, Trivial Pursuit. Ratzenberger made a appearance in "Bill Nye The Science Guy" Ratzenberger appeared on television commercials promoting the Pitney Bowes personal post office. His sign off tag line is "Hey, I look good in red!" Ratzenberger co-authored We've Got it Made in America: A Common Man's Salute to an Uncommon Country (ISBN 1-931722-84-6). Ratzenberger co-founded the Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs Foundation,[10] dedicated to raising awareness of skilled trades and engineering disciplines among young people.[11]

Ratzenberger developed packaging alternatives made from biodegradable and non-toxic recycled paper as a safe alternative to Styrofoam "peanuts" and plastic bubble wrap.[12]

Personal life

Ratzenberger has two children from a 19-year marriage.

Political Activity

Ratzenberger, a Republican, has said that he is considering running for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut in 2012.[13]

During the 2008 presidential race, Ratzenberger campaigned for John McCain, appearing with former Cheers co-star Kelsey Grammer at several Republican party events.[14][15] He also has been outspoken in opposition of the 2009 health care reform bill, referring to it as socialism.[16]

On January 17, 2010, he appeared and endorsed Scott Brown for the United States Senate at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA.


  1. ^ a b c d e About John from Ratzenberger's official website
  2. ^ John Ratzenberger Biography (1947-) from
  3. ^ (wma) [mms:// The Mark Levin Show]. [Radio]. 2008-05-08. mms:// Retrieved 2008-12-06. 
  4. ^ a b Ian Spelling (2009-05-21). "John Ratzenberger, Pixar's good luck charm, on Up, Bugs and Toys 3". Sci Fi Wire. Retrieved 2009-05-22. 
  5. ^ "All Time Top 100 Stars at the Box Office". The Numbers accessdate=2008-12-06. 
  6. ^ Toasting Cheers, Dennis A. Bjorklund, p.7
  7. ^ Norm and Cliff Fight Cheers Robots from ABC News
  8. ^ Bar Association Plus, Norm and Cliff settle Cheers robot lawsuit from the Entertainment Weekly website
  9. ^ "'Dancing' adds Cliff from 'Cheers'". Associated Press ( February 20, 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-02. 
  10. ^ Official website of the Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs Foundation
  11. ^ "Early recruitment: Foundation draws youth to careers in manufacuring". Industrial Engineer. May 2009. p. 12.
  12. ^ About John: Innovator from Ratzenberger's official website
  13. ^ Rachel E. Stassen-Berger (November 5, 2009). "Pawlenty draws wallets fat ... and famous". Minneapolis Star Tribune. 
  14. ^ John Ratzenberger and Kelsey Grammer greeted McCain supporters, called voters on behalf of the Republican ticket, participated in voter-registration activities at the local campaign headquarters, and held a McCain victory rally in Henderson, Nevada. "Political emissaries descend on valley: Richardson, Grammer rally voters at events". Las Vegas Review-Journal. 2008-10-11. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  15. ^ "Stars stump in Las Vegas Valley". NBC-affiliated KVBC website. 2008-10-11. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  16. ^ "Tea Party activists hit the Hill, arrested outside Pelosi's office". CNN Political Ticker. 2009-11-05. Retrieved 2009-11-5]]. 

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