Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

George Wendt

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

George Wendt

Article excerpt

Everyone knows him as "Norm" from the hit television show "Cheers" in the 1980s and '90s. But actor George Wendt has a lot more on his resume than most people realize. He started his career at Chicago's Second City and has appeared on Broadway in a number of shows, including "Hairspray," "Art" and "Elf." His film credits include comedies "Fletch" and "Man of the House" with Chevy Chase. He took his years of sipping beers on "Cheers" and wrote "Drinking With George: A Barstool Professional's Guide to Beer" (2010). He is a self-taught beer aficionado. He and Bernadette Birkett have been married since 1978 and have three children and two stepchildren. He plays a gay man on the TBS comedy "Clipped," which debuted last month. It airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m.

I read that you were expelled from Notre Dame. Tell me more.

[Chuckles] I just sort of dropped out without informing the university. I spent my first year in a dorm and my second year in a dorm, then junior year I moved off campus. I didn't think it through. I didn't have a car. You know it was winter. I was partying too much and I slept through a lot of classes. I just didn't show up for any of my final exams. So it was one of those situations. Zero, zero zero first semester junior year. [He went on to graduate from what is now Rockhurst University]

How did you parents react?

My dad said, "What happened?" And actually this is a line from an old Second City sketch, but it is the absolute truth. "There was this party and then everybody went to Denver." [laughs] So ironically I drove to Denver with - one is now a brain surgeon and the other is an ear, nose and throat surgeon. So they didn't get kicked out, but I did.

When you decided to become an actor was it something you had to convince your family was a good thing?

They had no vote in it because I didn't share it with anybody. I anticipated skepticism on their part, and I also wanted to cut off the notion that if it didn't work out - well, here's the thing. I didn't want to be an actor. I just wanted to be in Second City. You know, just like in college I was pretty much clueless about show business and things like that. Had I realized how hard that was - to be in Second City - that would have been too daunting. But, I didn't because I was an idiot. I called up the box office of all things and inquired about their workshops. They asked for my address, and they sent me a flier. It was for Josephine Forsberg's workshops. It was like 85 bucks for 13 weeks. So I took the workshops, and for the first time ever in my life I applied myself. I put my nose to the grindstone and took workshops for about a year. Being down there you hear about auditions. I auditioned once and didn't get in and auditioned again and got in with a touring company and stayed there for six years. …

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