John Ratzenberger Biography

Environmental Activist, Actor, Director, Writer(1947–)
American actor John Ratzenberger, best known as mailman Cliff Clavin from the television series Cheers, has also contributed voice-acting to every animated Pixar feature film.

Synopsis

American actor John Ratzenberger was born April 6, 1947 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. From 1982 to 1993, he played Cliff Clavin on the television situation comedy Cheers, making the know-it-all mail carrier a household name. Since the 1990s he has voiced characters in every animated Pixar film. Beyond his acting career, he speaks out on behalf of American manufacturing and job training.

Early Life and Career

John Ratzenberger was born on April 6, 1947, to Bertha Grohowski and Deszo Alexander Ratzenberger. He grew up in the working-class town of Bridgeport, Connecticut. He began acting as a student at Sacred Heart University. After graduating from college he worked as a carpenter to earn a living while he began his career as a performer. He lived in London for 10 years, touring as a member of an improvisational comedy group and playing minor roles in more than 25 films, including The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, Superman in 1978 and Ragtime in 1981.

Career Highlights

After returning to the United States, Ratzenberger auditioned for the television comedy Cheers. During the audition, he suggested creating a talkative, “know-it-all” character to the show's writers, and showed them what he meant. Thanks to this idea, he was cast as mail carrier Cliff Clavin, a trivia-spouting barfly always dressed in his postal service uniform. He played Cliff for the full run of Cheers, from 1982 through 1993.

In the mid-1990s, Ratzenberger began providing voices for animated characters in Pixar’s feature films. Among various roles, he played Hamm, the piggy bank in 1995’s Toy Story and its two sequels; the Abominable Snowman in Monsters, Inc.; Mack Truck in Cars; the waiter Mustafa in Ratatouille; and Construction Foreman Tom in Up. Ratzenberger has performed in every Pixar movie released from 1995 to 2012, and is slated to perform in the corporation’s future films.

Ratzenberger still makes regular television appearances. He performed on Dancing with the Stars in 2007. From 2004 to 2008, he produced and hosted the Travel Channel documentary series Made in America, for which he traveled nationwide, visiting American manufacturers and learning how everyday items are made. He also wrote a tie-in book about the series, We've Got it Made in America: A Common Man’s Salute to an Uncommon Country which was published in 2006.

Activism

Beyond his acting career, Ratzenberger has spoken out on a number of social issues. As a co-owner of the company Eco-Pack, he produced environmentally conscious packaging materials. He also co-founded Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs, a foundation aimed at encouraging young people to explore careers in manufacturing, and is involved in the nationwide Mobile Outreach Skills Training program. Additionally, he has worked to raise awareness of juvenile diabetes.

Personal Life

Ratzenberger married Georgia Stiny in 1984, and the marriage ended in divorce in 2004. He has two children: James, born in 1987, and Nina, born in 1989.

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