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George Wendt

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George Wendt
Wendt at the 41st Primetime Emmy Awards in September 1989
George Robert Wendt Jr.

(1948-10-17) October 17, 1948 (age 75)
Alma materRockhurst University
Years active1978–present
SpouseBernadette Birkett (1978)

George Robert Wendt Jr. (born October 17, 1948)[1] is an American actor. He is best known for playing Norm Peterson on the television sitcom Cheers (1982–1993), which earned him 6 consecutive nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. After Cheers, he starred in his own sitcom, The George Wendt Show (1995), but it was cancelled after only a few episodes. His numerous film roles include Airplane II: The Sequel (1982), No Small Affair (1984), Fletch (1985), The Little Rascals (1994), Spice World (1997), Outside Providence (1999), Santa Buddies (2009), and Sandy Wexler (2017).

Early life


George Robert Wendt Jr. was born in the Beverly neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, Illinois. His parents were Loretta Mary (née Howard) and George Robert Wendt, an officer in the Navy and a realtor. He is one of nine children, with six sisters—Nancy, Karen, Mary Ann, Kathryn, Loretta, and Marti—as well as two brothers, Tom and Paul.[2][3] His maternal grandfather was photographer Tom Howard.[3] Wendt is of Irish and one quarter German descent.[4]

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 an uncle of actor and former SNL writer and cast member Jason Sudeikis, his sister Kathryn's son.[5]



Early career


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.[6] Second City, located in Chicago, 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.[7]

Wendt appeared in the 1980 film My Bodyguard, and had small roles in the TV series Taxi, Soap, and M*A*S*H. In 1982, Wendt landed his first role as a series regular on the CBS sitcom Making the Grade, which was created by Gary David Goldberg. The series was canceled after six episodes in the spring of that year.



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. He also played the role in the short-lived spin-off The Tortellis and in an episode of Wings.


Wendt's handprints in concrete, in front of Hollywood Hills Amphitheater at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park

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", and 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 early 1997, Wendt joined the cast of the NBC sitcom The Naked Truth as Les Polonsky, the new owner of the celebrity tabloid where the series' main characters worked. Wendt's role only lasted 13 episodes as The Naked Truth underwent further creative changes for its next season. In 1998, Wendt 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."[8] 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,[9] 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.[citation needed][when?]

Beginning in the fall of 2013, Wendt appeared in a television commercial for State Farm Insurance.[10] Wendt and Robert Smigel reprise their roles from SNL as the Chicago Superfans, who encounter quarterback Aaron Rodgers.[11] 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.[12]

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.[13]

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 starred in The Fabulous Lipitones at New Theatre Restaurant in Overland Park, Kansas from November 30, 2016, to February 12, 2017.[14]

Wendt starred as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman at St. Jacob's Country Playhouse in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, from October 18 to November 4, 2017.[15]



In 2023, Wendt competed in season nine of The Masked Singer as "Moose" where he was mostly sitting during the performance. He was eliminated on "'80s Night" alongside Christine Quinn of Selling Sunset fame as "Scorpio".

Personal life


Wendt is married to Bernadette Birkett and has three children: Hilary, Joe, and Daniel.[16]




Year Title Role Notes
1978 A Wedding Caterer Uncredited[17]
1980 Bronco Billy Bartender Uncredited
My Bodyguard Engineer
Somewhere In Time Student #2
The Gift of the Magi Shopkeeper Short film
1982 Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again Injured Man
Airplane II: The Sequel Carry-on Baggage Attendant Uncredited
1984 Young Lust Unknown
1984 Dreamscape Charlie Prince
Thief of Hearts Marty Morrison
No Small Affair Jake
1985 Fletch Fat Sam
1986 House Harold Gorton
Gung Ho Buster
1988 Plain Clothes Chet Butler
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
The Little Rascals Lumberyard Clerk
1995 Man of the House Chet Bronski (Chief Running Horse)
1996 Space Truckers Keller
1997 The Lovemaster Therapist
Spice World Film Producer
1998 Anarchy TV Abbey Archer
Dennis the Menace Strikes Again Policeman Video; Uncredited[18]
Rupert's Land Ivan Bloat
1999 Outside Providence Joey
2000 Garage: A Rock Saga Pitching Coach
Lakeboat First Mate Collins
The Prime Gig Archie
Wild About Harry Frankie
2001 Prairie Dogs Actor Short film
Odessa or Bust The Chef
2002 Teddy Bears' Picnic General Edison "Pete" Gerberding
2003 My Dinner with Jimi Bill Uttley
King of the Ants Duke Wayne
2005 As Seen On TV Donald Short film
Edmond Pawn Shop Owner
Kids in America Coach Thompson
The Life Coach George
2007 LA Blues Mickey
Saturday Morning Harold
2008 Clean Break Chuck
Bryan Loves You Mr. Flynn
Unnatural Causes Chuck
2009 Opposite Day Corporate Exec #1
Santa Buddies Santa Claus Direct-to-DVD
2016 Wake Up America! Richard
2017 Sandy Wexler Testimonial
2018 The Independents Eduardo
Dream Flight Randall Short film
Dr. Sugar Marvin Saccharine
The Deadbeat The Great Kazoo
2019 Grand-Daddy Day Care Big Lou Direct-to-video
The Climb Jim
I Lost My Body Georges (voice) English dub
Bliss Pops
VFW Thomas Zabriski
Thank You Kindly Neighbor Bradley Walden Short film
2020 Stealing a Survivor Mister Martin
2021 Americanish Douglas Smarts
2022 Christmas with the Campbells Robert Campbell


Year Title Role Notes
1981 Hart to Hart Sgt. Tate Episode: "Murder Is a Drag"
Soap Counterman Episode #4.15
Taxi The Exterminator Episode: "Latka the Playboy"
1982 Alice Monty Episode: "Monty Falls for Alice"
Making the Grade Gus Bertoia Main role
M*A*S*H Pvt. La Roche Episode: "Trick or Treatment"
1982–1993 Cheers Norm Peterson Main role, 275 episodes, also directed 1 episode
1983 Garfield on the Town Ràoul (voice) TV short
Likely Stories, Vol. 4 Wary Witness Television film
1984 Garfield in the Rough Ranger #2 (voice) TV short
The Ratings Game Mr. Sweeney Television film
1985 The Romance of Betty Boop Johnny Throat / Punchie (voice) TV short
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 TV special
1989 Day by Day Stan Episode: "Fraternity"
The Magical World of Disney Norm Peterson Episode: "Disneyland's 35th Anniversary Celebration"
1990 The Earth Day Special TV special
Wings 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"
The Edge Various Episode #1.16
Seinfeld Himself Episode: "The Trip: Part 1"
1993 Bob Episode: "Da Game"
The Building Cappucino Guy Episode: "The Waiting Game"
1994 The Larry Sanders Show George Wendt Episode: "Hank's Night in the Sun"
The Simpsons Norm Peterson (voice) Episode: "Fear of Flying"
1995 The George Wendt Show George Coleman Main role
Columbo Graham McVeigh Episode: "Strange Bedfellows"
Shame II: The Secret Mac Television film
Bye Bye Birdie Harry MacAfee
1996 Spin City Dan Donaldson Episode: "The High and the Mighty"
Alien Avengers Charlie Television film
1997 Alien Avengers II
The Naked Truth Les Polansky 3 episodes
The Price of Heaven Sam Television film
Whose Line Is It Anyway? Himself 3 episodes
1999 Alice in Wonderland Fred Tweedledee Television film
2000 The Pooch and the Pauper Sheldon Sparks
Madigan Men Carl 4 episodes
The List Guest Host 1 episode
2001 Strange Relations Howard Television film
Robertson's Greatest Hits Tom Robertson
2001–2002 Sabrina the Teenage Witch Mike Shelby 6 episodes
2002 Becker Frank Episode: "V-Day"
Frasier Norm Peterson Episode: "Cheerful Goodbyes"
2004 House of Dreams Host Television series
Rock Me Baby Monty Episode: "Not-So-Grand Parents"
George Lopez Ed 2 episodes
2006 Modern Men Tug Clarke 6 episodes
Masters of Horror Harold Thompson Episode: "Family"
Santa Baby Santa Claus Television film
2007 Imperfect Union Duke
Larry the Cable Guy's Christmas Spectacular Santa Claus
The Green Green Grass Cliff Cooper Episode: "The 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
Less Than Kind Tiny Episode: "Road Trip"
Ghost Whisperer George the Plumber Episode: "The Children's Parade"
2011 Hot in Cleveland Yoder Episode: "Where's Elka?"
Harry's Law Franklin Chickory Episode: "American Girl"
2012 The Seven Year Hitch Mr. Henderson Television film
Kickin' It Uncle Blake Episode: "Kickin' It On Our Own"
A Christmas Wedding Date Mr. Destiny Television film
Merry In-Laws Santa Claus
2013 Portlandia George Heely Episode: "Off the Grid"
2014 Kirstie Duke Episode: "Thelma's Ex"
Verdene and Gleneda Uncle Beanie Episode: "A Town Called Peculiar"; web series
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"
Clipped Buzzy Main role
2016 Childrens Hospital Governor Jasper Ruth Episode: "By the Throat"
2017 Mommy, I Didn't Do It J.D. Pierce Television film
Bill Nye Saves the World Hacked Support Group Member / Polio 2 episodes
2018 The Greatest American Hero Bob Rice Television film
Fresh Off the Boat Harv Episode: "Workin' the 'Ween"
2018–2020 Fancy Nancy Grandpa Clancy (voice) 10 episodes
2019 Eddie's The Captain Television film
Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell Famine Episode: "The Poor Horsemen of the Apocalypse"
Peyton's Places Bob Swerski Episode: "Da Bears"
The Goldbergs Ned Frank Episode: "Food in a Geoffy"[19]
Christmas 9 to 5 Manny O'Quinn Television film
2023 The Masked Singer Himself/Moose Season 9 contestant

Music videos

Year Title Role Notes
1984 Ray Parker Jr.: Ghostbusters Himself Uncredited cameo
1991 Michael Jackson: Black or White Father Uncredited
1993 Soul Asylum: Black Gold Guy Pushing Car
Dangerous: The Short Films Father "Black or White" video segment
1995 Michael Jackson: Video Greatest Hits
2000 MxPx: Responsibility Boss Uncredited


  1. ^ "George Wendt". Biography.com. Archived from the original on December 4, 2017. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  2. ^ "George R. Wendt, Realtor". Chicago Sun-Times. June 18, 1993. Archived from the original on November 5, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Kogan, Rick (July 28, 2010). "Loretta M. Wendt, 1922–2010". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on August 13, 2017.
  4. ^ "Nineteen years on American funnyman Wendt returns to Kilkenny". Irish Examiner. May 26, 2014. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "George Wendt in Auburn production". Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
  7. ^ "The 25 Best TV Characters You Never See On Screen". NME, June 14, 2016.
  8. ^ "Guest List: George Wendt". ABC7 Chicago. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
  9. ^ "'Norm!' Wendt plays Charlottetown Festival". Canada: CBC. August 3, 2010. Archived from the original on July 21, 2012. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Bears' Superfans in State Farm commercial with Mike Ditka". Chicago Sun-Times. November 5, 2013. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
  12. ^ Newtheatre.com Archived January 13, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Clipped, n.d., retrieved May 27, 2015
  14. ^ The Fabulous Lipitones, retrieved December 14, 2016
  15. ^ "St. Jacobs Country Playhouse | Death of a Salesman". www.draytonentertainment.com. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  16. ^ "George Wendt". TV Guide. Retrieved January 31, 2021.
  17. ^ 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)
  18. ^ "George Wendt". IMDb. Retrieved December 3, 2022.
  19. ^ Dawn, Randee (September 17, 2019). "A mini-'Cheers' reunion is coming to TV! See the pics". Today. Retrieved September 18, 2019.