During more than three decades of movie making and theatre, John Ratzenberger has enjoyed success as a screenwriter, director, producer and multi-Emmy-nominated actor. He is also an accomplished entrepreneur and philanthropist.
John’s career began in earnest in the early 1970s, when he formed the improvisational theatre duo “Sal’s Meat Market,” which performed to standing-room-only crowds throughout Europe for 634 straight performances. To help pay the bills, John also worked as a house framer, archery instructor and deck hand on a fishing boat. Learning a few trades allowed him to pursue his dream of acting.
In 1982, John accepted a writing assignment for CBS in Los Angeles. On the day he was scheduled to return to London, he auditioned for a role on the upcoming Cheers. At the time of his audition, the character of the postman did not exist. As he walked out of the room, he turned and asked the creators “Do you have a bar know-it-all?” They didn’t know what that was, so John gave them five minutes of improv, demonstrating exactly what it meant with the perfect Boston accent. They loved what they saw and Cliff Clavin was born.
In the history of television, only a handful of series have achieved the worldwide success of Cheers, on which John portrayed Cliff for the show’s entire 11-year run. To this day, thanks to daily syndication, Cliff continues as one of America’s most beloved characters.
John is better known to a younger generation as the only actor to voice a character in nearly every Pixar film including: the witty Hamm the piggy bank in Toy Story 1 (1995), Toy Story 2 (1999), Toy Story 3 (2010) and Toy Story 4 (2019); P.T. Flea, the circus ringmaster in Bug's Life (1998); the lovable snow monster Yeti in Monsters, Inc.(2002) and Monsters University (2013); the ever-changing school of Moonfish in Finding Nemo (2003); the philosophical character The Underminer in The Incredibles (2004) and The Incredibles 2 (2018); a Mac-truck in Cars (2006), Cars 2 (2011) and Cars 3 (2017); Mustafa, the head waiter in Ratatouille (2007); as John, a human in WALL-E (2008), the construction worker in Up! (2009); Gordon the guard in Brave (2012); Harland in Planes (2013), Fritz in Inside Out (2015); Earl in The Good Dinosaur (2015); Bill the Crab in Finding Dory (2016); and Juan Ortodoncia in Coco (2017) again as The Underminer The Incredibles 2 (2018) and Hamm again in Toy Story 4 (2019); Fenwick in Onward (2020) and a special cameo appearance in Soul (2021). Choosing to follow Pixar co-founder John Lassister to Skydance studios, John appeared as Rootie, the mayor of Bad Luck in the studio’s Apple Original film Luck (2022).
In all, John has acted in 38 major motion pictures including blockbusters such as Superman, Star Wars: Episode V –The Empire Strikes Back and Ghandi to independent films like his hit The Woodcarver. He has written, directed or produced hundreds of television projects over the span of his career making him the 6th largest grossing actor of all time based on box-office receipts.
Since climbing off the barstool at Cheers over a decade ago, John has immersed himself in what makes America great, a country in which a truck driver’s son wound up being a TV icon. He wrote the book: We’ve Got it Made in America, A Common Man’s Salute to an Uncommon Country, a collection of essays from his five years on the road visiting factory towns throughout the country on the Travel Channel show “John Ratzenberger’s Made in America.”
John is Hollywood’s most outspoken advocate for American manufacturing, skilled labor and the companies that are the foundation of our great country, working tirelessly to shine a light on the importance of manufacturing and trades. He addressed the Congressional Manufacturing Caucus with his oft-quoted speech “The Industrial Tsunami Heading Our Way”; the House Small Business Committee on the “New Faces of Manufacturing” and the Senate Commerce Committee about “Saving American Manufacturing” – all three speeches detailed the crushing regulations on American enterprise and the fact that we are running out of skilled tradesman to fill the hundreds of thousands of available skilled trades jobs in America. To combat this issue, he works with legislators on both sides of the aisle to bring back trades training in schools, build apprentice programs for returning veterans and support the reshoring of American companies.
John created “Nuts Bolts and Thingamajigs”, a foundation that hosts and funds manufacturing summer camps and scholarships nationwide - inspiring the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs. Once the program had a solid and successful foundation, John turned the reins over to the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association to run it.
In October 2017, John was appointed to the President's Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion whose mission is to identify strategies and proposals to promote apprenticeships, especially in sectors where apprenticeship programs are insufficient.
He speaks to groups across the country about eliminating the stigma around the trades while providing much-needed training opportunities for students, returning veterans and out-of-work Americans. “Our country’s infrastructure is falling apart and there aren’t enough skilled tradesmen to fill the jobs. Parents are encouraging their kids to go deep into debt to pay for a college education while more than half of our graduates are working jobs that don’t require a college degree.” And for the innovators who are studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), they will need the final piece of the puzzle – manual arts including welding, machining, carpentry, etc. – to bring their ideas to life. Technology is nothing without the skilled workers who turn that invention into an actual product (even if the product is the computer used to create the technology).
“My mother used to give me old radios and toasters,” said John. “She told us to take them apart and put them back together. Growing up, everyone we knew could make something and knew how to fix things.” It’s the common-sense problem-solving he learned as a kid that he credits for his role as developer and founder of ECOPACK, a biodegradable shipping material that replaces Styrofoam and is now used worldwide, most often seen as the shredded accordion paper used in gift bags.
Born on April 6th, 1947 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, John attended St. Ann's School in Bridgeport, Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut and presently sits on the University Board of Pepperdine University. John is an avid sailor, shooter, fisherman, and billiard player. He plays the drums and belongs to a bagpipe band as part of the Emerald Society. He splits his time between California and Connecticut, getting back and forth in his Little Guy Max RV.
Since climbing off the barstool at Cheers over a decade ago, John has become Hollywood’s most outspoken advocate for manufacturing, skilled labor and the companies that are the foundation of our great country, detailing the crushing regulations on American enterprise and the fact that we are running out of skilled tradesman to fill the hundreds of thousands of available skilled trades jobs in America.
He is an author, entrepreneur, philanthropist and activist – all while remaining true to his blue-collar roots. Join John in the Main Stage for his opening address at Breakbulk Americas on Thursday morning.
Thursday 29 September 10:30 - 11:20 Room 1