John Ratzenberger was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut and he attended the Sacred Heart University where he earned a B.A. in English. While in college Ratzenberger and a friend started an improvisational troupe called Sal's Meat Market, which they took on the road to England after graduation. Ratzenberger remained in England for 10 years. While there he landed roles in a handful of major British-based film productions including A Bridge Too Far (1977), Superman (1978), Yanks (1979), Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Gandhi (1982).
In 1981, while on a return trip to the U.S., Ratzenberger auditioned for Cheers. As the story goes, both he and George Wendt auditioned for the part of Norm Peterson. When the creators decided to go with Wendt, Ratzenberger asked if they had a bar know-it-all in the cast, and then put his improv skills to work, breaking into a 10-minute monologue that would eventually lead the producers to create the role of Cliff Clavin -- a blathering postal worker who is a font of completely trivial knowledge, and Norm's best friend.
Ratzenberger's chattering mama's boy became the most ubiquitous of all the show's characters, with appearances on six different series -- Cheers, The Tortellis, St. Elsewhere, The Simpsons, Wings, and Frasier -- during and after the show's 11-season run.
Ratzenberger co-wrote two plays for television while in England, and he also directed several Cheers episodes. He has made quite a career for himself as a voiceover actor, particularly for Pixar Studios. To date he is the only actor to have voiced characters in every major production made by the studio. Ratzenberger can also be seen on John Ratzenberger's Made in America on the Travel Channel. He is divorced from the mother of his two children, Georgia Stiny.
Every bar has its annoying know-it-all, a guy who blathers on at length about everything and anything, little of it being relevant to the conversations at hand or of interest to anyone within earshot. At Cheers, postal worker Cliff Clavin is that guy. A natural-born rambler, Cliff is a veritable font of knowledge more trivial than useful. The only person who really seems to pay him any mind is his best buddy, Norm Peterson. The two sit elbow-to-elbow each night, enjoying their after-work beers, neither too eager to head home. Unmarried mama's boy Cliff still shares an apartment with Ma Clavin. The two are inextricably codependent (Pa Clavin cut out when Cliff was still a boy). It's virtually impossible for Cliff to have anything vaguely resembling a love life, so he lives vicariously through Sam and his sexual intrigues. Cheers is a sanctuary for Cliff, where he can escape his mother's nagging and find a little breathing room. So what if he's perpetually being ridiculed by Carla? He'll take it over hovering Ma Clavin any day.
There's a bit of the tragic clown in Cliff. Though he loves his job at the post office, he does have dreams of bigger things. He gives stand-up comedy a try and even pens a few jokes for The Tonight Show,but Cliff's proudest moment is also his saddest -- a doomed appearance on Jeopardy. When Cliff's mother sells their family home and moves to Florida on the profits, he's both elated and terrified at being without her. That fear is quickly alleviated when he moves into an apartment and begins dating a neighbor. It's his first relationship... ever! The love of Cliff's life is fellow postal worker Margaret O'Keefe, an equally enthusiastic employee Cliff meets when she is assigned to train with him. All goes well until the night of a secret tryst involving the use of a postal vehicle, for which Margaret is reprimanded. Humiliated and disappointed, she flees to Canada, leaving Cliff heartbroken. When she returns she demands a commitment from Cliff, which causes him to suffer a temporary case of hysterical blindness.