George Wendt

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George Wendt
George Wendt at the 41st Emmy Awards cropped.jpg
Wendt at the 41st Primetime Emmy Awards on September 17, 1989.
George Robert Wendt III

(1948-10-17) October 17, 1948 (age 70)
Education Campion High School
Rockhurst University
Occupation Actor, comedian
Years active1978–present
Bernadette Birkett(m. 1978)
Relatives Tom Howard (grandfather)
Jason Sudeikis (nephew)

George Robert Wendt III (born October 17, 1948) [1] is an American actor and comedian. He played 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.

Norm Peterson Fictional character from the show Cheers

Hilary Norman "Norm" Peterson is a fictional character on the American television show Cheers. The character was portrayed by George Wendt, and is named Hilary after his grandfather.

<i>Cheers</i> American TV sitcom, 1982–1993

Cheers is an American sitcom that ran on NBC from September 30, 1982, to May 20, 1993, with a total of 275 half-hour episodes for eleven seasons. The show was produced by Charles/Burrows/Charles Productions in association with Paramount Network Television. The show was created by the team of James Burrows, Glen Charles, and Les Charles. The show is set in a bar named Cheers in Boston, Massachusetts, where a group of locals meet to drink, relax, and socialize. The show's main theme song, co-written and performed by Gary Portnoy, lent its refrain "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" as the show's catchphrase.

This is a list of winners and nominees of the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. In early Primetime Emmy Award ceremonies, the supporting categories were not always genre, or even gender, specific. Beginning with the 22nd Primetime Emmy Awards, supporting actors in comedy have competed alone. However, these comedic performances often included actors from miniseries, telefilms, and guest performers competing against main cast competitors. Such instances are marked below:


Early life

Wendt was born in the Beverly neighborhood on the southwestern side of Chicago, Illinois, the son of Loretta Mary (née Howard) and George Robert Wendt, an officer in the navy and a realtor. [2] [3] His maternal grandfather was photographer Tom Howard. [3] Wendt is of Irish and one quarter German descent. [4]

Chicago City in Illinois, United States

Chicago, officially the City of Chicago, is the most populous city in Illinois, as well as the third most populous city in the United States. With an estimated population of 2,716,450 (2017), it is the most populous city in the Midwest. Chicago is the principal city of the Chicago metropolitan area, often referred to as Chicagoland, and the county seat of Cook County, the second most populous county in the United States. The metropolitan area, at nearly 10 million people, is the third-largest in the United States.

Illinois State of the United States of America

Illinois is a state in the Midwestern and Great Lakes region of the United States. It has the fifth largest gross domestic product (GDP), the sixth largest population, and the 25th largest land area of all U.S. states. Illinois is often noted as a microcosm of the entire United States. With Chicago in northeastern Illinois, small industrial cities and immense agricultural productivity in the north and center of the state, and natural resources such as coal, timber, and petroleum in the south, Illinois has a diverse economic base, and is a major transportation hub. Chicagoland, Chicago's metropolitan area, encompasses over 65% of the state's population. The Port of Chicago connects the state to international ports via two main routes: from the Great Lakes, via the Saint Lawrence Seaway, to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River, via the Illinois Waterway to the Illinois River. The Mississippi River, the Ohio River, and the Wabash River form parts of the boundaries of Illinois. For decades, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport has been ranked as one of the world's busiest airports. Illinois has long had a reputation as a bellwether both in social and cultural terms and, through the 1980s, in politics.

Tom Howard (photographer) American photographer

Thomas James "Tom" Howard Jr. was an American photographer who worked at the Washington bureau of P. & A. Photographs during the 1920s. His photograph of the execution of Ruth Snyder, at Sing Sing Prison, on January 12, 1928 has been called "the most famous tabloid photo of the decade".

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.

Campion Jesuit High School was a Jesuit boarding school for boys in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, named for the Jesuit martyr Edmund Campion. The school operated from its founding in 1880 until closing in 1975, and educated several notable figures during its existence. The former school's campus now houses a prison operated by the state of Wisconsin Department of Corrections. The school operated independently of the Roman Catholic Diocese of La Crosse.

Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin Place in City

Prairie du Chien is a city in and the county seat of Crawford County, Wisconsin, United States. The population was 5,911 at the 2010 census. Its Zip Code is 53821.

Wisconsin A north-central state of the United States of America

Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States, in the Midwest and Great Lakes regions. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin is the 23rd largest state by total area and the 20th most populous. The state capital is Madison, and its largest city is Milwaukee, which is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan. The state is divided into 72 counties.

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

<i>Saturday Night Live</i> American late-night live television sketch comedy and variety show

Saturday Night Live (SNL) is an American late-night live television variety show created by Lorne Michaels and developed by Dick Ebersol. The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title NBC's Saturday Night. The show's comedy sketches, which often parody contemporary culture and politics, are performed by a large and varying cast of repertory and newer cast members. Each episode is hosted by a celebrity guest, who usually delivers the opening monologue and performs in sketches with the cast as with featured performances by a musical guest. An episode normally begins with a cold open sketch that ends with someone breaking character and proclaiming, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!", properly beginning the show.

Jason Sudeikis American comedian and actor

Daniel Jason Sudeikis is an American comedian, actor, screenwriter and producer. In the 1990s, he began his career in improv comedy. He has also performed with ComedySportz and The Second City. In 2003, Sudeikis was hired as a sketch writer for Saturday Night Live and was a cast member from 2005 to 2013.


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. 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. [6]

The Second City is an improvisational comedy enterprise, best known as the historically first on-going improvisational theater troupe, continually based in Chicago. It also has training programs and live theatres in Toronto and Los Angeles. The Second City Theatre opened on December 16, 1959, and has since become one of the most influential and prolific comedy theatres in the world.

An unseen character in theatre, comics, film, or television, or silent character in radio, is a character referred to but not directly known to the audience, but who advances the action of the plot in a significant way, and whose absence enhances their effect on the plot. The concept does not apply to the non-visual medium of literature, where all characters are unseen by the reader.

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).

<i>My Bodyguard</i> 1980 film by Tony Bill

My Bodyguard is a 1980 American comedy-drama film directed by Tony Bill, and written by Alan Ormsby. The film stars Chris Makepeace, Adam Baldwin, Matt Dillon, Martin Mull, and Ruth Gordon.

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.[ citation needed ]


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 DeNiro in 1991's Guilty by Suspicion and with Mel Gibson in 1992's Forever Young . 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 .


Wendt's handprints in cement, in front of Hollywood Hills Amphitheater at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park. George Wendt's handprints in cement.jpg
Wendt's handprints in cement, in front of Hollywood Hills Amphitheater at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park.

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 1998, he was one of the three characters in a London West End production of 'Art' with David Dukes and Stacy Keach.

In 2003, Wendt appeared as a celebrity fisherman in the music video for Corba 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 May 2006, Wendt was seen yet again on television. He made several appearances on Late Night with Conan O'Brien where he performed short skits. His appearance on Late Night was 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, [7] 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. [8] Wendt and Robert Smigel reprise their roles from SNL as the Chicago Superfans, who encounter quarterback Aaron Rodgers. [9] 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. [10]

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. [11]

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. [12]

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. [13]

Personal life

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).


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  1. "George Wendt". Biography. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  2. "George R. Wendt, Realtor". Chicago Sun-Times . June 18, 1993. Archived from the original on November 5, 2015.
  3. 1 2 Kogan, Rick (July 28, 2010). "Loretta M. Wendt, 1922–2010". Chicago Tribune . Archived from the original on August 13, 2017.
  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. "The 25 Best TV Characters You Never See On Screen". NME , June 14, 2016.
  7. "'Norm!' Wendt plays Charlottetown Festival". Canada: CBC. August 3, 2010. Archived from the original on July 21, 2012. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  8. 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.
  9. "Bears' Superfans in State Farm commercial with Mike Ditka". Chicago Sun-Times. November 5, 2013. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
  10. Archived January 13, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  11. Clipped, n.d., retrieved May 27, 2015
  12. The Fabulous Lipitones , retrieved December 14, 2016
  13. "St. Jacobs Country Playhouse | Death of a Salesman". Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  14. 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)