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John Deszo Ratzenberger (born April 6, 1947) is an American actor, voice actor, and entrepreneur. He is best known for his role as Cliff Clavin in Cheers and his recurring supporting cast roles in Pixar films.
Ratzenberger was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the son of Polish American Bertha (née Grohowski) and German American Deszo Alexander Ratzenberger. He attended St. Ann's School in Bridgeport and Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. In 1969, Ratzenberger was a tractor operator at the Woodstock Festival. He moved to London in 1971, living there for ten years.
Ratzenberger was a house framer living in London when he began his career in the performing arts. His first role was a patron in The Ritz (1976). Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s Ratzenberger appeared in various minor roles in major feature films, 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 as "Major Bren Derlin"; Motel Hell as a drummer; Outland as a doomed mine worker named Tarlow; and Gandhi, playing an American Lieutenant.
Ratzenberger is well 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 sensed that 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. Ratzenberger also came up with the idea for Cliff's trademark white socks, which he wore as a tribute to French comedianJacques Tati. Cliff became known for his outlandish stories of plausible half-truths, uninteresting trivia, and misinformation, and in general for being a 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. The case languished in court for eight years before all sides settled in 2001.
- Hamm the Piggy Bank in the Toy Story series (1995, 1999, 2010)
- P.T. Flea, the Circus Ring Leader in A Bug's Life (1998)
- The Abominable Snowman in the Monsters, Inc. series (2001, 2013)
- The School of Moonfish in Finding Nemo (2003)
- The Underminer in The Incredibles (2004)
- Mack the truck in the Cars series (2006, 2011)
- Mustafa the waiter in Ratatouille (2007)
- John in WALL-E (2008)
- Tom the construction worker in Up (2009)
- Gordon the guard in Brave (2012)
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 films (Toy Car Story, Monsters, Inc., and A Bug's Life). Mack notes that all the characters Ratzenberger has played were excellent, until he realizes that they're performed by 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."
Reality show appearances
On March 2, 2007, it was announced that Ratzenberger would replace Vincent Pastore on the fourth season of the American version of Dancing with the Stars. 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 on an episode of American Chopper to help promote awareness of the Iraq Star Foundation.
Additional voice, TV and film work
- Appeared in the sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch as Bob or Santa Claus.
- Hosted the Travel Channel TV series John Ratzenberger's Made in America, about things made in the USA (2003–2008).
- Guest-starred in four episodes of the first season of John Ritter's sitcom 8 Simple Rules as Paul Hennessy's overly friendly neighbor Fred Doyle.
- Hosts the Wildcard section in the PC version of the board game, Trivial Pursuit.
- 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.
- Played Thomas Foy in the TV movie The Pennsylvania Miners' Story.
- And Shelly Cole star in The Village Barbershop (2008), written and directed by Chris Ford.
- Made an appearance in Bill Nye, The Science Guy.
- Provided the voice of Rigger in the animated series Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
- Made an appearance on British show Live from Studio Five (February 17, 2010).
- Appeared in television commercials promoting the Pitney Bowes personal post office. His sign off tag line is "Hey, I look good in red!"
- Appeared in commercials for Quality Hotels and Zaxby's restaurant chain (2010).
- Plays Mike the Angel in What If..., a Pure Flix Entertainment/Jenkins Entertainment movie release in 2010, also starring Kevin Sorbo, Kristy Swanson, and Debby Ryan.
- Guest starred in Frasier as Cliff Clavin.
- Hosted the documentary, Industrial Tsunami, intended to wake Americans up to the shortage of skilled workers threatening the existence of American companies and entire industries
- Appeared in the final episode of Secret Army entitled "The Execution" as a Canadian officer who is bribed by Standartenfuhrer Kessler's mistress Madeleine Duclos to spring Kessler from the POW camp he is incarcerated in.
- Starred in "A House Divided," the 28th episode of the first season of Melissa & Joey as Arnie the neighbor.
Ratzenberger developed a packaging-alternatives product made from biodegradable and non-toxic recycled paper as a safe alternative to styrofoam"peanuts" and plastic bubble wrap. This product was manufactured by his company Eco-Pak Industries, which he later sold.
Ratzenberger co-authored We've Got it Made in America: A Common Man's Salute to an Uncommon Country (ISBN 1-931722-84-6), published in 2006.
In 2010, Ratzenberger became affiliated with and now represents the Center for America (formerly the Foundation for Fair Civil Justice) to further develop his work and increase awareness about the skilled worker shortage facing the United States and the changes needed to positively impact and increase the number of skilled workers. He joined as a Board Member in 2010. CFA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization (www.centerforamerica.org/). Their mission is to "educate, motivate and empower the American people to understand they have the greatest stake in removing obstacles to a fair civil justice system, innovation, entrepreneurism, and job creation." CFA creates multi-media educational programs, publications and website features that reach millions of Americans through radio, television and the internet."
Ratzenberger is also on the University Board at Pepperdine University and the Board of Directors at Sacred Heart University.
Ratzenberger has two children, James John born in 1987, and Nina Kathrine born in 1989, both from a 19-year marriage to Georgia Stiny that ended in divorce in 2004.
Ratzenberger, a Republican, said he considered running for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut in 2012.
During the 2008 presidential race, Ratzenberger campaigned for John McCain, appearing with former Cheers co-star Kelsey Grammer at several Republican party events. He also has been outspoken in opposition of the 2010 health care reform bill, referring to it as socialism.
Ratzenberger campaigned for Republican Josh Mandel of Ohio for the State Treasurer position during the 2010 election and on January 10, 2011, served as master of ceremonies for Mandel's swearing into office.
In response to the 2012 Aurora shooting, Ratzenberger said "Hollywood has to, at some point, admit that what they produce does affect the minds of people.... If you just want to shock 'em... society will pay the price for that at some point."
|1977||A Bridge Too Far||Lt James Megellas|
|1978||Superman: The Movie||Missile controller||Cameo|
|1980||Superman II||NASA control man|
|Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back||Major Bren Derlin|
|Warlords of the 21st Century||Rusty|
|Gandhi||American Lt. Driver for Bourke-White|
|1982–1993||Cheers||Cliff Clavin||TV Series|
|1987||Timestalkers||General Joe Brodsky|
|House II: The Second Story||Bill|
|1990||Camp Cucamonga||Marvin Schector|
|1990–1992||Captain Planet and the Planeteers||Rigger||Voice
|1994||The Simpsons (episode: "Fear of Flying")||Cliff Clavin||Cameo|
|1995||Toy Story||Hamm the Piggy Bank||Voice|
|1997||Sabrina, the Teenage Witch||Bob/Santa Claus||TV Series|
|1998||A Bug's Life||P.T. Flea, the Circus Ring Leader||Voice|
|1999||Toy Story 2||Hamm, the piggy bank|
|2001||Monsters, Inc.||The Abominable Snowman|
|That '70s Show||Glen||TV Series|
|The Drew Carey Show||Himself/Various|
|2002||Spirited Away||Assistant Manager||Voice|
|Frasier||Cliff Clavin||TV Series|
|2002–2005||8 Simple Rules||Paul Hennessy's neighbor, Fred Doyle|
|2003||Finding Nemo||School of Fish||Voice|
|2004||The Incredibles||The Underminer|
|2006||Cars||Mack the truck/Hamm Car/Yeti Snowplow/P.T. Flea Car|
|2007||Ratatouille||Mustafa the waiter|
|2008||The Village Barbershop||Art Leroldi|
|2009||Up||Tom, the construction worker|
|2010||Toy Story 3||Hamm, the piggy bank|
|What If...||Mike the Angel|
|2011||Hawaiian Vacation||Hamm, the piggy bank||Voice|
|Cars 2||Mack the truck|
|Melissa & Joey||Arnie||TV Series|
|Small Fry||Hamm, the piggy bank||Voice|
|2012||WWJD II: The Woodcarver||Ernest Otto|
|Drop Dead Diva||Larry Kaswell||TV Series|
|Brave||Gordon, the guard||Voice|
|Partysaurus Rex||Hamm, the piggy bank|
|2013||Legit||Walter Nugent||TV Series|
|Monsters University||The Abominable Snowman||Voice|