Cheers’: Ted Danson Opens Up About Struggles of Acting in Sitcoms in Front of Live Audience

by Matthew Wilson

Even actors can get stage fright sometimes. Ted Danson discussed filming in front of a live audience while filming the hit sitcom “Cheers.”

It can’t be easy acting in a place where everybody knows your face. Filming a traditional sitcom was a bit like doing the waltz between television and a play. Danson and the show’s crew developed a little trick to keep himself in character as Sam Malone. After he would tell a joke, he would eat a pretzel or peanut to avoid questioning whether the joke landed or not.

“It started out. Just say your joke, eat a peanut,” Danson told talk show host Seth Meyers. “Then we found out that wasn’t funny, so we moved to pretzels. I ate a lot of pretzels. It’s funny, but you do need with an audience, a live audience, you do need that in case your joke isn’t that funny. And you thought it might be. You do need that thing to go to so you don’t just go [surprise stare].”

Ted Danson and Sitcoms

Danson must have ate a lot of pretzels and peanuts during his time. “Cheers” aired for 11 seasons, from 1982 to 1993. Danson starred as everyone’s favorite bartender Sam Malone. The show revolved around the various bar patrons, anchored by Danson’s performance and the will-they-won’t-they relationship he had with Diane in the early seasons.

While “Cheers” will always be one of Danson’s most popular works (he later guest-starred in “Frasier”), Danson couldn’t keep away from sitcoms for too long. The actor recently turned in a scene-stealing performance as Michael on “The Good Place,” which aired its last season in 2020. That sitcom ditched the live audience, not a popular staple in modern sitcoms. So the actor didn’t have to worry about eating any pretzels or peanuts.

Instead, the comedy explored the afterlife and its various moral issues in a show that was as much high concept as it was chasing after the laughs. “The Good Place” gave Danson the opportunity to briefly step back into the role of Sam Malone for a small guest cameo as well. Danson was briefly once again behind the bar.

Now, Danson has moved on to starring in another sitcom “Mr. Mayor,” which is currently airing its first season.