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Wendt at the 41st Primetime Emmy Awards in September 1989
George Robert Wendt III
October 17, 1948
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Alma mater||Rockhurst University|
|Norm Peterson in Cheers|
George Robert Wendt III (born October 17, 1948) is an American actor and comedian. He is best known for playing Norm Peterson on the television sitcom Cheers (1982–93), which earned him six consecutive nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. He also appeared in films Fletch, Gung Ho, Dreamscape, House, Forever Young, Hostage for a Day, Man of the House, and Lakeboat.
Wendt was born in the Beverly neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, Illinois, the son of Loretta Mary (née Howard) and George Robert Wendt, an officer in the Navy and a realtor. His maternal grandfather was photographer Tom Howard. Wendt is of Irish and one quarter German descent.
He attended Campion High School in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. He was expelled from the University of Notre Dame after he received a 0.00 GPA the first semester of his junior year. He later attended the Jesuit Rockhurst College in Kansas City, Missouri, where he graduated with a B.A. in economics.
Wendt is a 1975 alumnus of The Second City, which he discovered shortly after college. A viewing had inspired him to join and on his first day of employment, he showed up promptly at 11:30 am as he was instructed. The woman working there handed him a broom and said "Welcome to the theater, kid"; thus, his first job in show business was sweeping the floors. Second City was also where he met his future wife, Bernadette Birkett, who played Cliff's Halloween date in the third season of Cheers and later in the series played the voice of Norm's never-seen wife, Vera.
Wendt appeared in the 1980 film My Bodyguard. He played a handyman working behind the check-in counter at the Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago (now the Public Hotel).
In 1981 Wendt appeared on an episode of the TV series Taxi as an exterminator and on an episode of the TV series Soap as a counterman in a diner. He starred as Private LaRoche in a 1982 episode of M*A*S*H, where he suffered from having a pool ball stuck in his mouth for much of the episode. He had an uncredited appearance in Airplane II: The Sequel as the ticketing agent who tells a woman that she can only have one carry-on bag.
From 1982 to 1993, Wendt appeared as Norm Peterson in all 275 episodes of Cheers. For his work on Cheers, Wendt earned six Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
His first appearance on Saturday Night Live was in a season 11 (1985–1986) episode where he shared hosting duties with director Francis Ford Coppola. In 1988 he played the part of "Witten" in the New Zealand-made film, Never Say Die. In the early 1990s, Wendt made cameo appearances on several episodes of SNL as Bob Swerski, one of the Chicago Superfans (along with cast members Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Robert Smigel, and one-time host, Joe Mantegna). Having grown up as a lifelong fan of his hometown Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bears, Wendt's Bob Swerski character is said to be a "spot-on" characterization of Chicago's south-side citizens.
In 1989, Wendt appeared as the eponymous protagonist in a BBC TV dramatization of Ivan Goncharov's novel Oblomov. He has also appeared twice on the original British edition of Whose Line Is It Anyway? In 1991, Wendt played the father in Michael Jackson's music video "Black or White". He had roles opposite Robert De Niro in 1991's Guilty by Suspicion and with Mel Gibson in 1992's Forever Young.
Following his success on Cheers, Wendt starred in the short-lived The George Wendt Show, which featured him as a garage mechanic with a radio show, based on the NPR radio show Car Talk. The George Wendt Show aired from March through April, 1995.
Wendt starred as the killer in one of the last episodes of the TV series Columbo, portraying a thoroughbred horse owner in the 1995 episode Strange Bedfellows. Wendt appeared as himself on Seinfeld and has reprised the character Norm Peterson on The Simpsons episode "Fear of Flying", two episodes of Family Guy, "Road to Rupert" and "Three Kings", as well as the Frasier episode "Cheerful Goodbyes". In the same year as his Frasier guest appearance, Wendt played the bartender to Ted Danson's character in Becker (the inverse of their relationship on Cheers). In 1994, he appeared in the film Man of the House as Chet Bronski, the stepfather of Norman (Zachary Browne), and starred with Chevy Chase, Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Farrah Fawcett. He also played the role of Old Man Dunphy's closeted homosexual friend Joey in the 1999 film Outside Providence.
In 1998, he was one of the three characters in a London West End production of 'Art' with David Dukes and Stacy Keach. He would later join the Broadway production of the play, starring alongside Judd Hirsch and Joe Morton.
In 2003, Wendt appeared as a celebrity fisherman in the music video for Cobra Verde's "Riot Industry" along with Rudy Ray Moore (of "Dolemite" fame) and The Minutemen's Mike Watt. He appeared in several episodes of The WB's Sabrina, The Teenage Witch in 2001 as the title character's boss. He also was the host of the A&E reality show House of Dreams in 2004. In January 2006, Wendt was seen again on television screens as part of the cast of Modern Men.
He has also appeared on The Larry Sanders Show as a guest on the show. In 2006, Wendt made several appearances on Late Night with Conan O'Brien where he performed short skits. His appearances on Late Night were in all likelihood because the show was having a week-long event in his home town of Chicago. He starred in a 2006 episode of Masters of Horror entitled "Family", directed by John Landis, and played Santa Claus in the ABC Family original film Santa Baby. Wendt performed alongside Richard Thomas in Twelve Angry Men in October 2006 in the Eisenhower Theatre in Washington, D.C.. After the show opened, Wendt was interviewed by local film critic Arch Campbell for a piece on the NBC Washington affiliate WRC. Wendt was asked, "What should people do when they see you around town?" After hesitating for a moment, Wendt held his thumbs up and replied, "If their impulse is to buy me a beer, then by all means, follow that impulse." In spring 2007, Wendt performed in 12 Angry Men in Los Angeles. Wendt appeared as an American GI in the 2007 Christmas Special episode of British sitcom The Green Green Grass.
George starred in the Broadway musical Hairspray as the character of Edna Turnblad until November 2008. He appeared with his former Cheers co-star John Ratzenberger as a talent scout on Last Comic Standing during Season 6. He briefly appeared as Santa Claus in A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!. He also appeared in the 2008 horror film Bryan Loves You directed by Seth Landau.
On October 1, 2009, Wendt appeared on The Colbert Report the day before the IOC announced which city will host the 2016 Summer Olympics. In their way of supporting Chicago's bid for the games, Wendt and Stephen Colbert humorously insulted the three other bidding cities, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, and Tokyo, all while drinking Chicago's favorite Old Style Beer. In 2009, Wendt starred as Santa Claus in Santa Buddies and also had a small role in the film Opposite Day.
Wendt appeared in a production of Hairspray, reprising his role as Edna Turnblad, from September 8 to October 9, 2010, at the Charlottetown Festival in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Wendt played Santa in Elf the Musical on Broadway. The show opened November 14, 2010, and ran through January 2, 2011. Wendt starred in a production of Hairspray as Edna Turnblad at Rainbow Stage in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, from August 2, 2011, to August 21, 2011. Wendt also guest-starred in the TV series Hot In Cleveland as Yoder, based on his character Norm in Cheers. His first of two scenes took place in an Amish bar, where everyone in the bar yelled "Yoder!," referencing what the cast of Cheers would yell whenever he walked in.
Wendt is among the thespians who participated in a poster campaign touting live theatre in Chicago. Other celebrities included John Mahoney, John Malkovich, Terry Kinney, and Martha Plimpton. Wendt has a cameo as a newspaper reporter on Portlandia on January 25, 2013. Wendt was set to play the role of Pap in the Hank Williams bio musical Lost Highway at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Auburn, New York.[when?]
Beginning in the fall of 2013, Wendt appeared in a television commercial for State Farm Insurance. Wendt and Robert Smigel reprise their roles from SNL as the Chicago Superfans, who encounter quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The commercial continued the theme of State Farm commercials featuring Rodgers, using the "discount doublecheck" slogan.
From November 6, 2013, to January 19, 2014, Wendt starred in Never Too Late, a comedy with his wife, actress Bernadette Birkett, at New Theatre Restaurant in Overland Park, Kansas. In this play, Wendt plays a successful lumber yard owner who is king of his castle and whose life is going exactly the way he wants until his wife comes back from a doctor appointment with some big news.
In 2015, Wendt starred opposite his former Second City co-star Tim Kazurinsky in Bruce Graham's new comedy Funnyman at Northlight Theatre. The same year, Wendt appeared in the TBS sitcom Clipped, which aired for one season.
Wendt appeared as Tracy Turnblad's mother in a production of Hairspray featuring John Waters and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in Baltimore in June 2016.
Wendt has been married to Bernadette Birkett since July 8, 1978. They have three children: Hilary (b. 1985), Joe (b. 1987), and Daniel (b. 1990).
|1980||Somewhere In Time||Student #2|
|1980||The Gift of the Magi||Shopkeeper||Short film|
|1982||Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again||Injured Man|
|1982||Airplane II: The Sequel||Ticket Agent||Uncredited|
|1984||Thief of Hearts||Marty Morrison|
|1984||No Small Affair||Jake|
|1988||Plain Clothes||Chet Butler|
|1988||Never Say Die||Mr. Witten|
|1989||Cranium Command||Stomach||Short film|
|1990||Masters of Menace||Dr. Jack Erheart|
|1991||Guilty by Suspicion||Bunny Baxter|
|1992||Forever Young||Harry Finley|
|1994||Hostage for a Day||Warren Kooey|
|1994||The Little Rascals||Lumberyard Clerk|
|1995||Man of the House||Chet Bronski (Chief Running Horse)|
|1997||Spice World||Film Producer|
|1998||Anarchy TV||Abbey Archer|
|1998||Dennis the Menace Strikes Again||Policeman||Video; uncredited|
|1998||Rupert's Land||Ivan Bloat|
|2000||Garage: A Rock Saga||Pitching Coach|
|2000||Lakeboat||First Mate Collins|
|2000||The Prime Gig||Archie|
|2000||Wild About Harry||Frankie|
|2001||Prairie Dogs||Actor||Short film|
|2001||Odessa or Bust||The Chef||Short film|
|2002||Teddy Bears' Picnic||General Edison "Pete" Gerberding|
|2003||My Dinner with Jimi||Bill Uttley|
|2003||King of the Ants||Duke Wayne|
|2005||As Seen On TV||Donald||Short film|
|2005||Edmond||Pawn Shop Owner|
|2005||Kids in America||Coach Thompson|
|2005||The Life Coach||George|
|2008||Bryan Loves You||Mr. Flynn|
|2009||Opposite Day||Corporate Exec #1|
|2009||Santa Buddies||Santa Claus||Direct-to-DVD|
|2016||Wake Up America!||Richard|
|2018||Dream Flight||Randall||Short film|
|2018||Dr. Sugar||Marvin Saccharine||Short film|
|2018||The Deadbeat||The Great Kazoo||Short film|
|2019||Grand-Daddy Day Care||Big Lou||Direct-to-video|
|2019||I Lost My Body||Georges (voice)||English dub|
|2019||Thank You Kindly||Neighbor Bradley Walden||Short film|
|2020||Stealing a Survivor||Mister Martin|
|1981||Hart to Hart||Sgt. Tate||Episode: "Murder Is a Drag"|
|1981||Taxi||The Exterminator||Episode: "Latka the Playboy"|
|1982||Alice||Monty||Episode: "Monty Falls for Alice"|
|1982||Making the Grade||Gus Bertoia||6 episodes|
|1982||M*A*S*H||Pvt. La Roche||Episode: "Trick or Treatment"|
|1982–1993||Cheers||Norm Peterson||275 episodes; directed 1 episode|
|1983||Garfield on the Town||Ràoul (voice)||TV short|
|1983||Likely Stories, Vol. 4||Wary Witness||Television film|
|1984||Garfield in the Rough||Ranger #2 (voice)||TV short|
|1984||The Ratings Game||Mr. Sweeney||Television film|
|1985||The Romance of Betty Boop||Johnny Throat / Punchie (voice)||TV short|
|1985||St. Elsewhere||Norm Peterson||Episode: "Cheers"|
|1986||The Twilight Zone||Barney Schlessinger||Episode: "The World Next Door"|
|1986–1991||Saturday Night Live||Himself (host)||2 episodes|
|1987||The Tortellis||Norm Peterson||Episode: "Frankie Comes to Dinner"|
|1988||Mickey's 60th Birthday||Norm Peterson||TV special|
|1989||Day by Day||Stan||Episode: "Fraternity"|
|1989||The Magical World of Disney||Norm Peterson||Episode: "Disneyland's 35th Anniversary Celebration"|
|1990||The Earth Day Special||Norm Peterson||TV special|
|1990||Wings||Norm Peterson||Episode: "The Story of Joe"|
|1991||Tales from the Crypt||Mr. Crosswhite||Episode: "The Reluctant Vampire"|
|1991–2003||Saturday Night Live||Bob Swerski||8 episodes|
|1992||Roc||Stan Mason||Episode: "The Stan Who Came to Dinner"|
|1992||Seinfeld||Himself||Episode: "The Trip: Part 1"|
|1992||The Edge||Various||Episode #1.16|
|1993||Bob||Himself||Episode: "Da Game"|
|1993||The Building||Cappucino Guy||Episode: "The Waiting Game"|
|1994||The Larry Sanders Show||George Wendt||Episode: "Hank's Night in the Sun"|
|1994||The Simpsons||Norm Peterson (voice)||Episode: "Fear of Flying"|
|1995||The George Wendt Show||George Coleman||8 episodes|
|1995||Columbo||Graham McVeigh||Episode: "Strange Bedfellows"|
|1995||Shame II: The Secret||Mac||Television film|
|1995||Bye Bye Birdie||Harry MacAfee||Television film|
|1996||Alien Avengers||Charlie||Television film|
|1996||Spin City||Dan Donaldson||Episode: "The High and the Mighty"|
|1997||Alien Avengers II||Charlie||Television film|
|1997||The Naked Truth||Les Polansky||3 episodes|
|1997||The Price of Heaven||Sam||Television film|
|1997||Whose Line Is It Anyway?||Himself||3 episodes|
|1999||Alice in Wonderland||Fred Tweedledee||Television film|
|2000||The Pooch and the Pauper||Sheldon Sparks||Television film|
|2000||Madigan Men||Carl||4 episodes|
|2000||The List||Guest Host||1 episode|
|2001||Strange Relations||Howard||Television film|
|2001||Robertson's Greatest Hits||Tom Robertson||Television film|
|2001–2002||Sabrina the Teenage Witch||Mike Shelby||6 episodes|
|2002||Frasier||Norm Peterson||Episode: "Cheerful Goodbyes"|
|2004||House of Dreams||Host||Television series|
|2004||Rock Me Baby||Monty||Episode: "Not-So-Grand Parents"|
|2004||George Lopez||Ed||2 episodes|
|2006||Modern Men||Tug Clarke||6 episodes|
|2006||Masters of Horror||Harold Thompson||Episode: "Family"|
|2006||Santa Baby||Santa Claus||Television film|
|2007||Imperfect Union||Duke||Television film|
|2007||Larry the Cable Guy's Christmas Spectacular||Santa Claus||Television film|
|2007||The Green Green Grass||Cliff Cooper||Episode: "Special Relationship"|
|2007–2009||Family Guy||Norm Peterson (voice)||2 episodes|
|2008||A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!||Santa Claus||TV special|
|2010||Cubed||George Wendt||Episode #1.20|
|2010||Less Than Kind||Tiny||Episode: "Road Trip"|
|2010||Ghost Whisperer||George the Plumber||Episode: "The Children's Parade"|
|2011||Hot in Cleveland||Yoder||Episode: "Where's Elka?"|
|2011||Harry's Law||Franklin Chickory||Episode: "American Girl"|
|2012||The Seven Year Hitch||Mr. Henderson||Television film|
|2012||Kickin' It||Uncle Blake||Episode: "Kickin' It On Our Own"|
|2012||A Christmas Wedding Date||Mr. Destiny||Television film|
|2012||Merry In-Laws||Santa Claus||Television film|
|2013||Portlandia||George Heely||Episode: "Off the Grid"|
|2014||Kirstie||Duke||Episode: "Thelma's Ex"|
|2014||Verdene and Gleneda||Uncle Beanie||Episode: "A Town Called Peculiar"; web series|
|2014||Franklin & Bash||Henry "Hank" Shae||Episode: "Honor Thy Mother"|
|2015||Comedy Bang! Bang!||Himself||Episode: "Jesse Tyler Ferguson Wears a Brown Checked Shirt and Stripey Socks"|
|2016||Childrens Hospital||Governor Jasper Ruth||Episode: "By the Throat"|
|2017||Mommy, I Didn't Do It||J.D. Pierce||Television film|
|2017||Bill Nye Saves the World||Hacked Support Group Member / Polio||2 episodes|
|2018||The Greatest American Hero||Bob Rice||Television film|
|2018||Fresh Off the Boat||Harv||Episode: "Workin' the 'Ween"|
|2018||Fancy Nancy||Grandpa Clancy (voice)||Episode: "Nancy Goes to Work"|
|2019||Eddie's||The Captain||Television film|
|2019||Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell||Famine||Episode: "The Poor Horsemen of the Apocalypse"|
|2019||Peyton's Places||Bob Swerski||Episode: "Da Bears"|
|2019||The Goldbergs||Ned Frank||Episode: "Food in a Geoffy"|
|2019||Christmas 9 to 5||Manny O'Quinn||Television film|
|1984||Ray Parker Jr.: Ghostbusters||George Wendt||Uncredited cameo|
|1991||Michael Jackson: Black or White||Father||Uncredited|
|1993||Soul Asylum: Black Gold||Guy Pushing Car|
|1993||Dangerous: The Short Films||Father||"Black or White" video segment|
|1995||Michael Jackson: Video Greatest Hits||Father||"Black or White" video segment|
- "George Wendt". Biography. Archived from the original on December 4, 2017. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
- "George R. Wendt, Realtor". Chicago Sun-Times. June 18, 1993. Archived from the original on November 5, 2015.
- Kogan, Rick (July 28, 2010). "Loretta M. Wendt, 1922–2010". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on August 13, 2017.
- "Nineteen years on American funnyman Wendt returns to Kilkenny". www.irishexaminer.com. May 26, 2014. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
- McRady, Rachel (February 12, 2012). "Jason Sudeikis Hangs Out With Uncle, Cheers Star George Wendt: See the Epic Picture!". US Weekly. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
- "George Wendt in Auburn production". Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
- "The 25 Best TV Characters You Never See On Screen". NME, June 14, 2016.
- ABC7. "Guest List: George Wendt | ABC7 Chicago | abc7chicago.com". ABC7 Chicago. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
- "'Norm!' Wendt plays Charlottetown Festival". Canada: CBC. August 3, 2010. Archived from the original on July 21, 2012. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
- McMains, Andrew (September 6, 2013). "Ad of the Day: Aaron Rodgers Is Hounded by 'Da Bears' Fans for State Farm It's brats vs. cheese with Robert Smigel and George Wendt". Adweek. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- "Bears' Superfans in State Farm commercial with Mike Ditka". Chicago Sun-Times. November 5, 2013. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- Newtheatre.com Archived January 13, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
- Clipped, n.d., retrieved May 27, 2015
- The Fabulous Lipitones, retrieved December 14, 2016
- "St. Jacobs Country Playhouse | Death of a Salesman". www.draytonentertainment.com. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
- Responding to whether he appeared uncredited in A Wedding (1978) and Bronco Billy (1980), Wendt said in Lovece, Frank (December 5, 2017). "George Wendt plays Santa in 'Elf: The Musical'". Newsday. New York City / Long Island. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
I don't remember 'Bronco Billy,' but there was one summer they shot 'A Wedding' in Chicago and they were looking for extras to play caterers, waiters and waitresses and the like. So all these guys from [The Second City and] Steppenwolf were waiters: Me and Dennis Franz, John Malkovich, Alan Wilder, Tim Evans — lots of people. And we had fun; it was a bonding summer with the Steppenwolf guys. We'd turn up at dawn every morning and just hang out and wait around in our outfits. ... I don't even know if anything I shot is in the movie.(subscription required)
- Dawn, Randee (September 17, 2019). "A mini-'Cheers' reunion is coming to TV! See the pics". Today. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
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