Ratzenberger at the 2011 Time 100 gala
John Dezso Ratzenberger
April 6, 1947
Bridgeport, Connecticut, U.S.
|Alma mater||Sacred Heart University|
John Dezso Ratzenberger (born April 6, 1947) is an American actor, voice actor, director, producer, writer and entrepreneur. He is one of the most successful actors of all time in terms of box-office receipts. Ratzenberger is known for portraying Cliff Clavin on the popular comedy series Cheers, for which he earned two Primetime Emmy nominations. He is the only voice actor to appear in every Pixar Animation Studios feature film, including Hamm in the Toy Story franchise, The Abominable Snowman in the Monsters, Inc. franchise, The Underminer in The Incredibles franchise, and Mack in the Cars franchise.
Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Ratzenberger began his entertainment career while living in London in the 1970s. He had minor film and television roles throughout the late 70s and early 1980s before creating, and then landing, the role of the know-it-all mailman Cliff Clavin on Cheers (1982-1993), a role he portrayed throughout the show's eleven seasons. His first Pixar role was the voice of Hamm in Toy Story (1995), and he has voiced Pixar characters in films and video games ever since.
From 2004 to 2008 he hosted the TV documentary series Made in America. Outside of acting, he has promoted American entrepreneurship and manufacturing, and campaigned for several Republican candidates.
Ratzenberger was born on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1947, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the son of Bertha Veronica Ratzenberger (née Grochowski), who worked for Remington Arms, and Dezso Alexander Ratzenberger, a Texaco truck driver. His father was of Austrian and Hungarian descent, and his mother was of Polish ancestry. 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 and stayed there for 10 years.
Ratzenberger was a house framer living in London when he began his career in the performing arts. Through the 1970s, he performed with Ray Hassett as the comedic theatrical duo Sal's Meat Market, which toured across the UK.Peter Richardson and Nigel Planer as The Outer Limits and in The Comic Strip were heavily influenced by Sal's Meat Market. 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, as Lieutenant James Megellas; Superman, as a missile controller; Superman II, as the NASA control man; Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back as Major Derlin; Motel Hell as a drummer; Outland as a doomed mine worker named Tarlow; and Gandhi, playing an American lieutenant (Ratzenberger's voice was dubbed over by Martin Sheen).
Ratzenberger played 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 were not 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 comedian Jacques 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 sixth-season episode "Fear of Flying". Ratzenberger was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1985 and again in 1986.
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.
Ratzenberger's tenure at Pixar was parodied during the end credits of Cars, where his character, Mack, watches car-themed versions of Pixar films (Toy Car Story, Monster Trucks, Inc., and A Bug's Life, the latter of which references the Volkswagen Beetle). Mack notes that all the characters Ratzenberger has played had excellent voice actors until he realizes that they are performed by the same actor, at which point he remarks, "They're just using the same actor over and over," and asks, "What kind of cut-rate production is this?!"
His 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." Although technically not Pixar films, Ratzenberger voiced Harland the jet tug in Disneytoon Studios' Planes (2013) and a mustached plane named Brodi in its sequel, Planes: Fire & Rescue (2014), both of which are set in Pixar's Cars franchise. Additionally, Ratzenberger will reprise his role as The Abominable Snowman in the Disney+-exclusive series Monsters at Work, which is set after Monsters, Inc.
During season six of Last Comic Standing, Ratzenberger was a talent scout with his former Cheers co-star George Wendt.
On March 2, 2007, he replaced Vincent Pastore (who had quit after one week of training) 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.
On June 26, 2011, Ratzenberger was asked by NASCAR to give the shouting command for the 2011 Toyota Save-Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. Ratzenberger accepted and gave the "Gentlemen, start your engines" command.
Ratzenberger developed a packaging-alternatives product made from biodegradable and non-toxic recycled paper as a safe alternative to foam peanuts and plastic bubble wrap. This product, SizzlePak, was manufactured by his company Eco-Pak Industries, which he co-founded in 1989. In 1992 he sold Eco-Pack to Ranpak Corp.
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 whose 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."
In 2016, Ratzenberger launched thegiftbox.com, an e-commerce website that allows customers to subscribe to a variety of monthly boxes.
In April 2020 he announced that he and the company he co-founded, American Made Advertising, will offer free advertising and marketing help to selected companies who'd been hurt by the economic turn-down as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ratzenberger married his first wife Georgia Stiny on September 9, 1984, they remained married for nineteen years when they divorced in 2004. Together they have two children, James John (born 1987), and Nina Kathrine (born 1989).
After dating for nearly four years, Ratzenberger married Julie Blichfeldt on November 6, 2012. Both Ratzenberger and Blichfeldt are described as "avid outdoors enthusiasts, philanthropists, and activists".
Ratzenberger is a Republican. During the 2008 presidential race, Ratzenberger campaigned for John McCain, appearing with former Cheers co-star Kelsey Grammer at several Republican party events. He was outspoken in opposition of the 2010 health care reform bill, referring to it as socialism. On January 17, 2010, he appeared and endorsed Scott Brown for the United States Senate at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts. 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. He considered running for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut in 2012.
In response to the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting, he 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." Ratzenberger endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012. He appeared on Your World with Neil Cavuto to support Donald Trump's candidacy during the 2016 presidential race, shortly after Trump was declared the presumptive Republican nominee.
In response to concerns over problems with mail-in voting, Ratzenberger expressed his support for the United States Postal Service (USPS). Having played the mailman Cliff on Cheers, Ratzenberger channeled the character in encouraging Americans to provide monetary support to the USPS.
|1977||Twilight's Last Gleaming||Sgt. Kopecki|
|A Bridge Too Far||Lt. James Megellas|
|1978||Warlords of Atlantis||Fenn|
|1979||Hanover Street||Sergeant John Lucas|
|The Bitch||Hal Leonard|
|1980||The Empire Strikes Back||Major Bren Derlin|
|Superman II||Controller No. 1|
|The Good Soldier||Jimmy|
|1982||Battletruck||Rusty||AKA Warlords of the 21st Century|
|Gandhi||American Lieutenant||Voice dubbed over|
|1984||Protocol||Security Guard on TV||Uncredited|
|1985||The Falcon and the Snowman||Detective|
|1987||House II: The Second Story||Bill|
|1988||She's Having a Baby||Himself||Uncredited|
|1997||That Darn Cat||Dusty|
|Bad Day on the Block||Al Calavito|
|One Night Stand||Phil|
|1998||A Bug's Life||P.T. Flea||Voice|
|1999||Toy Story 2||Hamm|
|2002||Spirited Away||Assistant Manager (Aniyaku)||English voice dub|
|2003||Finding Nemo||School of Moonfish||Voice|
|2004||The Incredibles||The Underminer|
|2006||Something New||Brian's Father||Uncredited|
|Cars||Mack, Hamm the Piggy Truck, The Abominable Snowplow, P.T. Flea||Voices|
|2007||Ratatouille||Mustafa The Waiter||Voice|
|2008||The Village Barbershop||Art Leroldi|
|2009||Up||Tom the Construction Worker|
|2010||What If...||Mike The Angel|
|Toy Story 3||Hamm||Voice|
|2011||Hawaiian Vacation||Voice; Short film|
|2012||Brave||Gordon the Guard|
|Partysaurus Rex||Hamm||Voice; Short film|
|Planes||Harland the Pitty|
|Super Buddies||Marvin "Gramps" Livingstone||Direct-to-video|
|In the Name of God||Reverend Thomas|
|2014||Planes: Fire & Rescue||Brodie||Voice|
|Russell Madness||Mick Vaughn|
|The Good Dinosaur||Earl the Velociraptor||Voice|
|2016||Finding Dory||Bill the Husband Crab|
|Pup Star||Mutt||Voice; direct-to-video|
|2017||Pup Star: Better 2Gether||Salty|
|2018||Incredibles 2||The Underminer|
|2019||Toy Story 4||Hamm|
|2020||Onward||Construction Worker Fenwick|
|1979||Secret Army||Staff Sergeant Dexter||Episode: "The Execution"|
|1980||ITV Playhouse||Tom Phillips||Episode: "Friends in Space"|
|1981||The Good Soldier||Jimmy||Television film|
|Goliath Awaits||Bill Sweeney|
|Private Schulz||American Newsreel Commentator||Uncredited voice; episode #1.5|
|Code Red||Inspector Ray Allen||Episode: "All That Glitters"|
|1982||Hill Street Blues||Phony Cop||Episode: "Some Like it Hot-Wired"|
|1982-93||Cheers||Cliff Clavin||268 episodes; directed 4 episodes|
|1983||Wizards and Warriors||Archie||Episode: "The Dungeon of Death"|
|1984||Magnum, P.I.||Walt Brewster||Episode: "The Legacy of Garwood Huddle"|
|1985||St. Elsewhere||Cliff Clavin||Episode: "Cheers"|
|The Love Boat||Marty Elder||Episode: "A Day in Port"|
|1986||Combat Academy||Mr. Barnett||Television film|
|1987||Timestalkers||General Joe Brodsky|
|The Tortellis||Cliff Clavin||Episode: "Frankie Comes to Dinner"|
|1988||Small World||Morris Zapp||6 episodes|
|Mickey's 60th Birthday||Cliff Clavin||Television film|
|1990||Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color||Episode: "Disneyland's 35th Anniversary Celebration"|
|Wings||Episode: "The Story of Joe"|
|The Earth Day Special||Television film|
|Camp Cucamonga||Marvin Schector|
|1990-92||Captain Planet and the Planeteers||Rigger||Voice; 24 episodes|
|1992||Nurses||Mr. Hafner||Episode: "Illicit Transfers"|
|1993||Moon Over Miami||Norman Rust||Episode: "Farewell, My Lovelies"|
|1994, 2014||The Simpsons||Cliff Clavin, CGI Homer Simpson||Voices; 2 episodes: "Fear of Flying", "Treehouse of Horror XXV"|
|1995||Murphy Brown||Felix||Episode: "A Rat's Tale"|
|Sister, Sister||Gus Kiamilikimaka||2 episodes|
|1996||Caroline in the City||Mr. Berman||Episode: "Caroline and Richard's Mom"|
|Toy Story Treats||Hamm||Voice|
|1997||Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child||Hinky||Voice; episode: "The Pied Piper"|
|Sabrina, the Teenage Witch||Bob/Santa Claus||Episode: "Sabrina Claus"|
|The Detectives||Edsel||Episode: "Go West Old Man"|
|1998||Remember WENN||Mr. Abernathy||Episode: "And If I Die Before I Sleep"|
|2000||Touched by an Angel||Merl||Episode: "Monica's Bad Day"|
|Pigs Next Door||Ike Stump||Recurring voice|
|2001||That '70s Show||Glen||Episode: "Holy Craps"|
|The Drew Carey Show||Himself/Various||Episode: "Drew Live III"|
|2002||Frasier||Cliff Clavin||Episode: "Cheerful Goodbyes"|
|The Pennsylvania Miners' Story||Thomas "Tucker" Foy||Television film|
|2003||8 Simple Rules||Fred Doyle||4 episodes|
|2004-08||Made in America||Himself||Host; 97 episodes|
|2008||Our First Christmas||Joe Noll||Hallmark movie|
|2011||Melissa & Joey||Arnie||Episode: "A House Divided"|
|2012||Matchmaker Santa||George||Hallmark movie|
|2012-14||Drop Dead Diva||Larry Kaswell||3 episodes|
|2013||Bones||Bill Schumacher||Episode: "The Cheat in the Retreat"|
|CSI: Crime Scene Investigation||Stu Kirchoff||Episode: "Torch Song"|
|2013, 2014||Legit||Walter Nugent||10 episodes|
|Franklin & Bash||Judge Elliot Reid||3 episodes|
|2014||How Murray Saved Christmas||Officer Bender||Voice; television special|
|2015||The McCarthys||Charlie Ellis||Episode: "Hall of Fame"|
|Hell's Kitchen||Himself||Episode: "11 Chefs Compete"|
|2017||Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures||Major Bren Derlin||Voice; episode: "The Storms of Taul"|
|2019||Mom||Stan||Episode: "Audrey Hepburn and a Jalapeño Pepper"|
|The Goldbergs||Digby Yates||Episode: "Food in a Geoffy"|
|2020||Just Roll with It||Grandpa||4 episodes|
|Bob Hearts Abishola||Hank||Episode: "Randy's a Wrangler"|
|2021||Monsters at Work||Yeti, Bernard||Voice|
|1996||Toy Story: Activity Center|
|Disney's Animated Storybook: Toy Story|
|1999||Toy Story 2: Activity Center|
|Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue|
|Toy Story Racer||Hamm|
|2003||Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure|
|2004||Trivial Pursuit: Unhinged||Himself|
|2005||The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer||The Underminer|
|2010||Toy Story 3: The Video Game||Hamm|
|2012||Kinect Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure|
|2014||Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes|
|2015||Disney Infinity 3.0|
|2016||Disney Magic Kingdoms|
|2018||Lego The Incredibles||Underminer|
|2019||Kingdom Hearts III||Hamm|
|2008-16||Toy Story: The Musical||Hamm||Voice|
|1978||Crown Court||Writer||1 episode|
|1990, 1991||Down Home|
|1994||Madman of the People||3 episodes|
|Locals||Executive producer||TV Movie|
|Evening Shade||Director||1 episode|
|1996||The World's Most Incredible Animal Rescues||Executive producer||TV Special|
|1997||The World's Most Incredible Animal Rescues: Part 2|
|1998||The World's Most Incredible Animal Rescues: Part 3|
"I jumped on the environmental bandwagon in 1967, says Ratzenberger, who in 1989 co-founded Eco-Pak Industries in Kent, Wash.