A multi-Emmy-nominated actor and accomplished screenwriter, director, producer and author, John Ratzenberger may be best known for playing mail carrier Cliff Clavin on the long-running NBC sitcom “Cheers.” Prior to creating his character on Cheers, john lived overseas for 10 years and has worked as a carpenter, archery instructor, and deck hand on a fishing boat. He produced and starred in the Travel Channel series “Made in America,” which highlighted U.S.-made goods and workers. He is passionate about how important it is for this country to recognize the need for, and to provide the training to produce skilled laborers.
“My mother used to give me old radios and toasters, with the cords cut off,” said Ratzenberger. “She told us to take them apart. Growing up, everyone we knew could make something, and knew how to fix things. We are losing that and we need to get it back.”
“Kids today are not making things,” he said. “Instead they are going to college to get degrees and can’t get a job. There are plenty of jobs out there. We just need to teach kids the skills. Many today, do not even know how to use simple tools, hammers and screwdrivers. Manufacturers today say high school kids can’t even read a ruler. How are they going to build airplanes, build homes, or even perform simple household repairs?”
With “Made in America,” John established a television precedent and led the way for a new series of Dirty Jobs, Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers to celebrate the work ethic that built America. He co-authored A Common Man’s Salute to an Uncommon Country, published by Time Warner.
Along with work in feature films, from major studio blockbusters like Superman and Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back to independent films like the recent drama The Woodcarver, animation has been a natural home to his versatile vocal talents. Ratzenberger is the only actor to participate in every Pixar film, voicing the iconic characters of Mack the Truck, and Hamm the Piggy Bank. Due to John’s volume of film work, he is listed as the 6th most successful actor of all time in terms of box office receipts.
John is currently in pre-production on a new Television Series with the purpose to awaken Americans to the shortage of skilled workers that threatens our country as a whole. It will be a show about everything, highlighting America, its products, workers and citizens.
Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, he attended St. Ann’s School in Bridgeport and Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. In 1971, he moved to London and while working as a carpenter in London, he began his career in the performing arts. John is also the developer and founder of ECOPACK, a biodegradable shipping material that replaces Styrofoam and is now used world wide.
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.
John also developed packaging alternatives made from biodegradable and non-toxic recycled paper as a safe alternative to Styrofoam “peanuts” and plastic bubble wrap.
Ratzenberger was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the son of Bertha (née Grohowski) and 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.
John 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). 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.
John currently recurs on Legit on FX. He recently shot episodes for Bones on Fox, CSI on CBS, Drop Dead Diva on Lifetime, and Franklin and Bash on TNT.
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. 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”.
John has had a voice part in all of Pixar’s feature films made to date. His roles include:
- Hamm the Piggy Bank in Toy Story (1995), Toy Story 2 (1999) and Toy Story 3 (2010)
- P.T. Flea, the Circus Ring Leader in A Bug’s Life (1998)
- The Abominable Snowman in Monsters, Inc. (2001) and Monsters University (2013)
- School of Moonfish in Finding Nemo (2003)
- The Underminer in The Incredibles (2004)
- Mack the truck in Cars (2006) and Cars 2 (2011)
- Mustafa the Waiter in Ratatouille (2007)
- John in WALL-E (2008)
- Tom the construction worker in Up (2009)
- Gordon the Scottish Guard in Brave (2012)
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.”
John produced and hosted “Made in America”, a show for the Travel Channel, which established a television precedent and led the way for a new series of shows including: “Dirty Jobs”; “Deadliest Catch”; “Ice Road Truckers”; and more. These shows celebrate the work ethic that built America to be its strength.
John co-authored We’ve Got it Made in America: A Common Man’s Salute to an Uncommon Country, which was published by Time Warner.
John is on the boards of Pepperdine and Sacred Heart Universities.
Follow John on Facebook and Twitter.