|First seen||Give Me A Ring Sometime - Cheers|
|Last seen||Cheerful Goodbyes - Frasier|
|Date of birth||?|
|Family||Esther Clavin (mother)|
The character was co-created by Ratzenberger, who had earlier auditioned for the Norm Peterson role. The producers let him know that he had impressed them, but that he didn't really click as Norm. Ratzenberger responded by pointing out that what the ensemble didn't have was a "bar know-it-all". They asked Ratzenberger for an example, he improvised some dialogue for the know-it-all, and he was invited to play the role for a two-show tryout; he remained a regular throughout the show's 11-year run. He was also featured in an episode of Frasier, when he decided to leave Boston for Florida only to change his mind, much to the annoyance of Carla. Ratzenberger also appeared as Cliff in a series of New Zealand Post advertisements in the 1990s, each featuring a different service of the postal administration. He also appeared in a Pitney-Bowes commercial for automated postal scales for small businesses.
On the Cheers 200th Episode Special, host John McLaughlin asked Ratzenberger about Cliff Clavin. Ratzenberger said that Cliff would describe himself as the "wingnut that holds western civilization together." However Ratzenberger said that he would describe Cliff simply as "A winged nut." When McLaughlin asked Ratzenberger if there was anything of him in Cliff, Ratzenberger said that he was also interested in fascinating facts and that the only part of Cliff in him was that he wears white socks.
Cliff appeared in 273 episodes of Cheers between 1982–1993 and originally appeared as a guest star. He appeared as an animated character (voiced by Ratzenberger) in The Simpsons episode "Fear of Flying". He also made guest appearances in the Wings episode "The Story of Joe" and the Frasier episode "Cheerful Goodbyes" (his final appearance).
Cliff was a postal worker and Norm Peterson's best friend. He lived with his mother, Esther Clavin (Frances Sternhagen) in a two-story house, where Cliff spent his childhood. It was bulldozed after Esther sold her property and moved with her newfound nest egg to Florida. Cliff then moved into a small apartment of his own, in which the couch doubled as a bed.
A chatter-box by nature, Cliff was well known as a storehouse of useless trivia, often of dubious veracity and bearing little relation to the conversation going on at the bar. Carla did not like Cliff and often insulted him or his opinions (Carla's hatred ran so deep that in the Frasier episode "Cheerful Goodbyes" Carla has to be dragged out of Cliff's retirement party after she finds out he isn't leaving - a decision he made after misinterpreting a vicious tirade as a show of affection - and has to have a diver's spear gun wrestled from her hands). Cliff took great pride in his job as a postal worker and often became agitated when people (often barfly Paul) insulted his job or the U.S. Postal Service. He sometimes talked about his job as if he were in the police force. Cliff's father made a brief appearance on Cheers before fleeing the country to Australia to avoid prison for fraud.
Socially awkward and generally ignored by women, Cliff didn't have any real relationship (or, for that matter, any sexual experience) until meeting fellow oddball postal worker Margaret O'Keefe (Annie Golden) in the seventh season. After using a postal vehicle to drive to a tryst with Cliff and then falsely reporting it stolen to cover up the deed, Margaret was fired from the postal service. Feeling compelled to remain a postal worker, she left Boston and moved to Canada to work for Canada Post. Cliff briefly considered going with her, but ultimately his patriotism would not let him leave the United States.
Cliff was a contestant on Jeopardy! in the Cheers episode "What Is... Cliff Clavin?", but lost after betting all his money on the Final Jeopardy question, answering: "Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?". Cliff was winning by enough that, had he made a small wager, he would have been guaranteed a win. Alex Trebek has jokingly referred to this situation (making a risky Final Jeopardy bet with a dominating lead) several times in the actual show as "pulling a Cliff Clavin."
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The "Buffalo Theory" is an urban legend that is popularly misattributed to Cliff Clavin from Cheers and regards the effects of alcohol on the brain. Although couched in language the character of Cliff could have used, it is not from the actual show, but is presented as such, akin to as follows:
"Well you see, Norm, it's like this... A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo and when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Now, as we know, excessive drinking of alcohol kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. And that, Norm, is why you always feel smarter after a few beers."
Cliff Clavin was always a proponent and friend to the USPS Letter Carrier. This work has allowed him to be inducted as the first honorary member of the Ye Old Farts Club, the Retirees group for Branch 43 of the National Association of Letter Carriers in Cincinnati, Ohio. A large autographed photo of Cliff, in uniform, anchors the wall and is surrounded by members on their day of induction, their last day on the job.
Cliff, as well as the rest of the Cheers cast, also appear in a training video for new U.S. Postal Services members. In the Frasier episode "Cheerful Goodbyes", Cliff stated email had hurt postal mail for the time being, but dismissed it saying "The computer's going to be dead in about 5 years anyway. The Post Office will rise again, my friend, will rise again."