Born in Bridgeport, CT, master improvisational actor John Ratzenberger gained international fame as Cliff Clavin in the NBC series “Cheers.” During more than three decades of movie making and theater, Ratzenberger has enjoyed success as a screenwriter, director, producer and multi Emmy®-nominated actor. He is also an accomplished entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Ratzenberger’s career began in earnest in the early 1970s, when he formed the improvisational theater duo Sal’s Meat Market. In between his theater touring in Europe, Ratzenberger was a producer and screenwriter for several European TV and theater organizations.
Ratzenberger’s first motion picture role was in the Golden Globe®-nominated film “The Ritz,” and he went on to appear in more than 22 movies over the next few years, including “Gandhi” and Star Wars’ “The Empire Strikes Back.” In all, Ratzenberger has acted in close to 40 movies, including “Superman 1” and “Superman 2,” “One Night Stand,” “Tick Tock,” “That Darn Cat,” “She’s Having a Baby,” “Outland,” “Yanks” and “A Bridge Too Far.”
In 1982 Ratzenberger accepted a writing assignment for CBS in Los Angeles. On the day he was scheduled to return to London, he auditioned for a role on the upcoming “Cheers.” Thus was born the lovable postman and trivia king, Cliff Clavin—American icon. He has portrayed Cliff in eight NBC TV specials (1986-2002), as well as in shows such as “Fraiser,” “The Simpsons,” “Blossom,” “Wings,” “The Tortellis” and “St. Elsewhere.”
As a vocal talent, Ratzenberger is the only actor to voice a role in all of the Pixar films. Pixar artists always find a way to include Ratzenberger’s recognizable eyebrows and mustache. As Pixar’s creative head John Lasseter once said, “John is our good luck charm.”
Ratzenberger has acted in many TV movies, including the Hallmark Channel Original Movie, “Our First Christmas,” AMC’s “Remember WENN,” “The Pennsylvania Miners’ Story,” NBC's “How I Spent My Summer,” “Going to the Chapel” and “Combat Academy,” Largo Entertainment’s “Under Pressure” and CBS’s “Timestalkers.”
Ratzenberger continues to direct, produce and write. He currently heads his own production company, Fiddlers Bay Productions, located in Los Angeles. He has directed more than 50 TV episodes, including several on “Cheers,” “Down Home,” “Madman of the People,” “Pearl” and “Sister, Sister.” He also directed single episodes of MTM’s “Evening Shade” and Warner Brother’s “Sydney.”
He started the Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs Foundation. Ratzenberger is committed to inspiring the next generation to the pleasures of ‘tinkering’ – getting away from their video games and TV sets and into the backyard building things. His tag line has become “Little hands build big dreams. Give children tools and watch them build America.”
Ratzenberger is an outspoken advocate for American-made products and the companies that keep Americans working, and hosted the series “Made in America” from 2004-2005. In 2007, John embarked on a yearlong commitment with the Association for American Manufacturing and U.S. Steelworkers to create a Presidential Town Hall Tour. He is currently in pre-production on a new documentary, “Industrial Tsunami,” which awakens Americans to the shortage of skilled workers that threatens the existence of companies, entire industries, and our country as a whole.
During his free time, Ratzenberger is an avid sailor, fisherman, and billiard player. He enjoys international travel, fencing and collecting antiques. He plays the drums and belongs to a bagpipe band as part of the Emerald Society. Sports such as karate, yoga and skeet shooting keep him active. He has one son and one daughter and lives outside of Los Angeles, but he spends as much time as possible on his boat, cruising up and down the East coast.