John Ratzenberger is best known for his role as Cliff the mailman on Cheers. Today he hosts Made in America, a documentary-style television show on the Travel Channel in which he travels around the United States visiting American manufacturing companies and meeting factory workers. He also recently started the Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs Foundation to encourage and help kids develop the manual skills required to work in the manufacturing industry.
NG: John, tell me about your family background. What did your parents do?
JR: I grew up in a factory town. My mother worked in a factory, my dad drove a truck. I was a carpenter before I became an actor.
NG: Like Harrison Ford?
JR: No, No, everyone says that, but Harrison Ford was a different kind of carpenter. I was a house framer, he was a fine carpenter. I actually did it for a living. I traveled around the country and throughout Europe building houses before I became an actor.
NG: Why did you start the Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs Foundation?
JR: Traveling with my show, Made in America, it occurred to me after about 50 factory visits that the biggest problem [our country] is facing is the fact that kids now come out of high school without any manual skills. The average age of a factory worker is 52-years-old. So in six to 10 years, that’s it. And without people who manufacture things, there is no civilization. It’s over.