Wendt was born in the Beverly neighborhood on the south-side of Chicago, the son of Loretta Mary (née Howard) and George Robert Wendt, a navy officer and Realtor. His maternal grandfather was photographer Tom Howard. He is of both German and Irish descent. He attended Campion High School in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. He was expelled from the University of Notre Dame after he received a 0.00 GPA the first semester of his junior year and later attended the Jesuit Rockhurst College in Kansas City, where he graduated with a B.A. in economics.
George Wendt appeared in the 1980 film My Bodyguard. He played a handyman working behind the check-in counter at the Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago (now the Public Hotel). In 1981 George appeared on an episode of the TV series Taxi as an exterminator. Wendt starred as Private Mosconi in a 1982 episode of M*A*S*H, where he suffered from having a pool ball stuck in his mouth for much of the episode.
From 1982 to 1993, Wendt appeared as Norm Peterson in all 275 episodes of Cheers. His first appearance on Saturday Night Live was in a Season 11 (1985–1986) episode where he shared hosting duties with director Francis Ford Coppola. In 1988 he played the part of "Witten" in the New Zealand-made film, Never Say Die.
In the early 1990s, Wendt made cameo appearances on several episodes of SNL as Bob Swerski, one of the Chicago Superfans (along with castmembers Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Robert Smigel, and one-time host, Joe Mantegna). Having grown up as a lifelong fan of his hometown Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bears, Wendt's Bob Swerski character is said to be a "spot-on" characterization of Chicago's south-side citizens. Wendt is also the uncle of former SNL writer and cast member Jason Sudeikis. In 1989, Wendt appeared as the eponymous protagonist in a BBC TV dramatization of Ivan Goncharov's novel Oblomov. He has also appeared twice on the original British edition of Whose Line Is It Anyway?.
In 1991, Wendt played the father in Michael Jackson's music video, Black or White. In 1994 he appeared in the film Man Of The House as Chet Bronski, the stepfather of Norman (Zachary Browne), and played on this stage with Chevy Chase, Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Farrah Fawcett. He also played the role of "Old Man Dunphy's" closeted homosexual friend Joey in the 1999 film, Outside Providence.
Following his success on Cheers, Wendt starred in the short-lived The George Wendt Show, which featured him as a garage mechanic with a radio show, based on the NPR radio show Car Talk. The George Wendt Show aired from March through April, 1995. Wendt starred as the killer in one of the last episodes of the TV series Columbo, portraying a thoroughbred horse owner in the 1995 episode Strange Bedfellows.
Wendt has since appeared as himself on NBS-TV's Seinfeld and has reprised the character Norm Peterson on the The Simpsons episode "Fear of Flying", two episodes of Family Guy "Road to Rupert" and "Three Kings" as well as the Frasier episode "Cheerful Goodbyes". In the same year as his Frasier guest appearance, Wendt played the bartender to Ted Danson's character in Becker (the inverse of their relationship on Cheers). In 2003, Wendt appeared as a celebrity fisherman in the music video for Corba Verde's "Riot Industry" along with Rudy Ray Moore (of "Dolemite" fame) and The Minutemen's Mike Watt. He appeared in several episodes of The WB's Sabrina, The Teenage Witch in 2001 as the title character's boss. He also was the host of the A&E reality show, House of Dreams in 2004. In January 2006, Wendt was seen again on television screens as part of the cast of Modern Men.
George has also appeared on The Larry Sanders Show as a guest on the show. In May 2006, Wendt was seen yet again on television. He made several appearances on Late Night with Conan O'Brien where he performed short skits.
Beginning in the fall of 2013, Wendt appeared in a television commercial for State Farm Insurance. Wendt and Robert Smigel appeared as two prototypical Chicago Bears fans, who encounter quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The commercial continued the theme of State Farm commercials featuring Rogers, using the "discount doublecheck" slogan. The characters played by Wendt and Smigel were first introduced on Saturday Night Live in the 1990s, when their catchphrase "Da Bears" became popular among fans. The commercial, by DDB Worldwide, Chicago, was positively reviewed by Adweek. The video of the commercial can be found here.
From Nov. 6, 2013 – Jan. 19, 2014 George starred in Never Too Late a comedy with his real life wife, actress Bernadette Birkett at New Theatre Restaurant in Overland Park, KS. In this Broadway hit, George plays a successful lumber yard owner who is king of his castle and whose life is going exactly the way he wants until his wife comes back from a doctor appointment with some big news.
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- George Wendt at the Internet Broadway Database (IBDB)
- George Wendt cast bio on The WB
- 2009 interview with Bullz-Eye.com