Boston Comedy Festival to Honor John Ratzenberger This Weekend
The Boston Comedy Festival will honor Cheers legend John Ratzenberger with a Lifetime Achievement Award on Saturday night.
Although it’s been a while since the veteran actor played the iconic, beer loving postman Cliff Clavin, Ratzenberger is still blown away by the amount of enthusiasm fans continue to have for the Boston-set sitcom. The New England native believes the series remains beloved by viewers because of the care that went into crafting all of the different characters.
“It was intelligent,” Ratzenberger recently told Boston magazine. “It never insulted your intelligence because the writers of Cheers, they had grown up in a generation where they read books. They didn’t grow up watching TV.”
“It still shocks me to think about it, that it was that popular,” he added.
Ratzenberger believes that any of the Cheers characters could’ve received their own show, however, he doesn’t regret not making a Cliff spin-off. The Connecticut-born star thinks the majority of Hollywood writers at the time didn’t have the working-class background that was necessary to do a Cliff show justice.
“Not a lot of them were postmen. You really had to have writers and producers who understand that world,” Ratzenberger said. “While it would’ve been nice to have a show built around Cliff, I don’t really think there’s a lot of writers who really understood that world.”
The actor knows a thing or two about being “a working guy,” as Ratzenberger had quite a few odd jobs before finding his footing in show business. He even worked as a carpenter in Vermont before moving to England in the early ’70s.
“I was only going to stay a week and I ended up staying for 10 years,” Ratzenberger joked.
The Cheers star extended his stay after starting an improv comedy show with Ray Hassett. The pair traveled across Europe performing 90-minute shows with 10-15 different characters a piece.
From there, Ratzeneberger ended up being cast in several blockbuster films, including Superman, Superman II, as well as Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. He also started writing comedy scripts for television, which eventually landed him a job in Los Angeles.
“I realized I’m too old to learn how to be a brain surgeon or astronaut, so I better stick with this acting,” Ratzenberger said.
Of course, the veteran star went on to amass fame and fortune on Cheers and with so many other notable roles over the years. Plus, Ratzenberger is now one of the most recognizable voices in animation after having lent his talents to every single Pixar movie to date.
Looking back on his career, Ratzenberger realizes that he didn’t get into Hollywood through the traditional channels, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It was a different way of getting into show business,” Ratzenberger said. “When they had the front door locked and everybody was trying to keep me out, I went around and crashed through the kitchen window.”
$25, Saturday, November 19, 8 p.m., Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, bostoncomedyfest.com.