Poker Face Brought the Legendary John Ratzenberger in For a Vital Episode 2 Role

15 total views

In taking influence from beloved mystery-of-the-week shows of the past like Columbo and The Rockford Files, Poker Face includes an essential piece of the puzzle: the recognizable celebrity popping up.

“Another big part of [the shows I watched growing up] was the celebrity guest star,” creator Rian Johnson said in an interview with Men’s Health. And the notion that, for instance, with Columbo, like, Oh my god, Dick Van Dyke’s in this one. Oh my gosh, Johnny Cash is in this one. Oh my god, Gena Rowlands, holy shit!”

Poker Face manages to capture that same excitement, sometimes multiple times per episode. For example, let’s look at Episode 2, titled “The Night Shift.” The episode’s two main guest stars joining Natasha Lyonne’s human lie detector Charlie Cale are Hong Chau (just nominated for an Academy Award for her role in The Whale) and Colton Ryan (star of last year’s The Girl From Plainville). But they’re far from the only prominent characters in the episode.

Watch Poker Face Here

And while the action of Poker Face starts in Las Vegas, The Night Shift” also moves the action away from the glitz and glam of tall buildings and majors cities, and into the heartland of America; this episode’s major settings are a rest stop, an auto garage, and a mini-mart along the side of a long highway. And once the camera cut into that auto garage, viewers may have seen a face (and voice) that seemed quite familiar.

“That was a big part of the show, this notion of Charlie going into places that you don’t see on a lot of TV shows,” Johnson told Yahoo Entertainment. “It’s not going to be high-rise buildings where she’s taking down executives. It’s gonna be regional dinner theaters and stock car races. Being able to do little deep dives into those corners of America is exciting.”

Abe the Mechanic is played by John Ratzenberger

john ratzenberger poker face cheers


If Abe—the remarkably honest and fair mechanic—seemed familiar, that’s because he’s played by John Ratzenberger. The 75-year-old actor has made live-action appearances a rarity in the last few years, guest starring in sitcom episodes here and there and making his last live-action appearance in a movie in 2015’s Russell Madness.

But Johnson, who directed “The Night Shift,” was looking for a very specific kind of guest star, and Ratzenberger fit the criteria. In Episode 2, we got John Ratzenberger to come. It brought me so much joy,” he told The Daily Beast. “I directed that episode and got to be on set with John Ratzenberger. We’re going for casting that’s gonna give you the tingles.”

Ratzenberger is best known for his role as Cliff Clavin on Cheers


NBC//Getty Images

While Ratzenberger made notable appearances in major films like Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Superman II, his most prominent live-action role is certainly as the bar know-it-all/mailman Cliff Clavin in Cheers—a role that he used his improv skills to conceive from scratch in his initial audition.

Ratzenberger appeared in 274 of the 275 episodes of Cheers, and brought the character to various other shows for guest appearances, including St. Elsewhere, The Tortellis, Wings, The Simpsons, and Kelsey Grammer’s Cheers spinoff, Frasier.

You may also recognize his voice from (almost all of the) Pixar movies

premiere of disney and pixar's "toy story 4" arrivals

Michael Tran//Getty Images

If you didn’t recognize Ratzenberger as Abe the Mechanic but found yourself thinking I know that voice… , then you’re probably a viewer of the wonderful Pixar animated films.

Ratzenberger has long been referred to as the Pixar “good luck charm,” and had voice roles in each of the studio’s first 22 films. Those roles include Hamm in the Toy Story series, circus leader P.T. Flea in A Bug’s Life, and The Abominable Snowman in the Monsters Inc. films.

Headshot of Evan Romano

Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.

Share this Post

About Us

Celebrating our best lives at fifty and beyond! 50ismorefun brings you motivational news and stories centered around life, fitness, fashion, money, travel and health for active folks enjoying the second half of lives.