12 Postal Service Pop Culture All-Stars
By Emma Adler, the mag
They might not have handled real mail, but they still delivered.
1. MR. MCFEELY // MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD
Named after Fred Rogers’s grandfather (Fred Brooks McFeely), the legendary postman was involved from the first to the last episode (383 appearances, total), with a catchphrase epitomizing an ideal all postal workers can appreciate: “Speedy delivery!”
2. KARL MALONE // UTAH JAZZ
Two-time NBA MVP Malone earned his nickname “The Mailman” for consistently delivering on the court. The power forward still holds the record for most starts in the NBA (1471), helped bring home two Olympic gold medals, and scored the second-most points in NBA history.
3. MR. ZIP // USPS
Mr. ZIP was introduced in 1963 to help raise awareness when the USPS adopted ZIP codes, but he also gigged as the postal service’s bearer of bad news, showing up on promotional material about increased postage rates. But who could shoot a messenger with a smile like that?
4. REBA THE MAIL LADY // PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE
Delivering the mail to Pee-wee’s Playhouse could not have been easy. Talking chairs. A disembodied genie’s head. Secret words. But Reba, played by S. Epatha Merkerson—who would go on to win Emmys, Golden Globes, and SAG awards—was up to the task. A saint, really.
5. CLIFF CLAVIN // CHEERS
Actor John Ratzenberger received angry letters from real postmen, because he wore his mail keys to the bar (a cardinal USPS sin). But Cliff was the bad boy of postal carriers, a one-man cliché-defying machine. Then again, the character was originally supposed to be a security guard.
6. PAPERBOY // PAPERBOY
The titular character of Atari’s classic 1984 arcade game had to dodge tornadoes, break dancers, bees, supersized cats, storm drains, and the Grim Reaper. And for what? Kid didn’t even get a government pension. He may not technically be a postal worker, but he’s still one of the greats.
7. NEWMAN // SEINFELD
Postal service faux pas: Blackmailing people by withholding their mail; calling in sick on account of rain; paying someone to work his route. Newman knew how to make the most of his profession even if he wasn't always a stellar employee. In one episode, he describes being a mailman as such: “When you control the mail, you control...information.”
8. AGENT K // MEN IN BLACK II
Tommy Lee Jones’ character in MIIB briefly joins the postal service after retiring from life as a secret agent, and then comes out of retirement after Will Smith's Agent J convinces him that his USPS co-workers are, in fact, aliens. Who said the shipping business was boring?
9. THE POSTMAN // THE POSTMAN
The titular character—played by Kevin Costner—has the unenviable task of attempting to deliver the mail in a post-apocalyptic world. Among other issues, there are a lot fewer curbside mailboxes.
10. CHARLIE UTTER // DEADWOOD
His vocation didn’t really factor into the plot of Deadwood, but this member of Wild Bill Hickok’s entourage—based on a real historical figure—was, indeed, a postman.
11. POSTMAN PAT // POSTMAN PAT
Postman Pat is the star of the stop-motion TV show, which has aired in more than 20 countries. A British icon, Pat is affable and assiduous, and never without his red post van or his black-and-white cat Jess.
12. HERMAN POST // GARFIELD
This long-suffering mailman is often tormented by the fat cat (who regularly ripped off his pants). Occasionally, Post succeeds in delivering Jon’s mail by resorting to unconventional tactics (like wearing a suit of armor, or folding up the mail into paper airplanes).