There was nothing in the norm when it came to George Wendt's success on Cheers
Image credit: The Everett Collection
George Wendt is best known for playing the role of Norm, the beer-loving underachiever who could be found at the local Boston pub in Cheers. Despite his many vices, we still loved him.
The role of Norm was originally supposed to be a background part, but the viewers at home turned him into a series regular.
There was something about Norm that wasn't normal. Perhaps he was easy to relate to. Maybe it was because Norm felt so accessible and real to the viewer. Kind of like the type of person you'd run into in real life while visiting your local bar on a Friday night, or a Monday morning if you're Norm.
Wendt had no intention of becoming an actor. The Chicago native never did well in school and dropped out of college. In a 1983 interview with Tulsa World, Wendt said he never expected the reactions he got from both press and fans during his time on Cheers. He added that good writing and odd lines made for a good TV show.
"Some of the stuff we do, Ratz and I call Joka Obscura," Wendt said. "That's the stuff we don't think anyone will laugh at."
His unexpected success on Cheers landed him six Emmy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, with one win. He also went on to guest star in shows including Taxi, Hart to Hart, Alice and more. He was also in the films Gung Ho and Fletch.
Wendt said there were many positives to playing the role of Norm, but surprisingly, drinking beer wasn't one of them. According to a 1985 interview with The Tampa Tribune, Norm's beer would come with a hefty amount of salt in it to create the foam on top.
"There I was slamming those down for a whole day," Wendt said. "It not only tastes disgusting, I was afraid of keeling over from high blood pressure. Then I got the knack. I didn't have to put all those brews away. It only mattered when the camera was [pointed] my way. It took a couple of years, but now I watch the camera. That's how I make my money. That's acting."
Despite the on-set hassle of drinking beer, Wendt said bar fans would often recognize him. They would shout at him, buy him drinks and talk with him. Maybe that's what made Norm so iconic; he felt like a real person you'd meet at a local bar.
"I get a lot of free beers. It's one of the great perks of employment history," Wendt said. "Whenever I go out, people are always sending over a beer, or a round, for me and my friends."
You deserved it, George.
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