Klaus Heissler is a fictional character on the television series American Dad!. He is voiced by Dee Bradley Baker. Possessing the brain of a German man and living in the body of a goldfish, the Smith family keeps him under the guise that he is their pet goldfish.
Dee Bradley Baker stated in "All in The Family - Creating American Dad!", a featurette on the Season 1 DVD that Klaus' voice came from his background of learning German in college, his ventures in Germany and that he has always wanted to play a "sick" German character.
Klaus is often used as sounding board for other characters to share what would otherwise be internal monologues. Of the main cast, Klaus is the one least featured in the show's various plots, and often does not show up in episodes for more than brief cameos. The show's creators seem to acknowledge this fact in "Big Trouble in Little Langley," in which Francine, asking if each family member is safe after a fire, forgets to mention Klaus, which leaves him frustrated. In "Haylias", he points out the fact that the only time anyone talks to him is when they have no one else to turn to. He also frequently breaks the fourth wall; for example, he provides audio commentary in a fight scene between Stan and Bullock, and bleeps himself to "take the joy away from the censors," using the word "bleep" in place of the actual swear he is implied to have used.
Being that the other family members pay little attention to Klaus, he feels extremely isolated from the others. Because of Klaus' loneliness from his isolation, he often becomes caught up in make-believe or disillusioned states. This includes pretending to call people on an imaginary cell phone, or imagining that he is driving to a salon appointment. At one point, he convinced Steve to hold him so he could infect him with Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, thus forcing Steve to spend time with him, while his other friends avoid him, out of fear of being infected. In the episode "Haylias", Stan asks Klaus for advice, and Klaus refuses, saying, "You only turn to me when there is no one else to turn to", and then angrily calls Stan a selfish bastard, shocking Stan. As Stan leaves, Klaus quietly congratulates himself for asserting himself. However, in the same episode, their relationship briefly becomes warmer and Klaus offers his advice to Stan, only for Stan to lose any memory of Klaus by the episode's end.
Fictional character biography
Klaus Heissler was born to peasant parents in East Germany and became an Olympic ski-jumper. Klaus's grandfather was a train conductor who ran the kiddie train at the Auschwitz zoo (and is appalled when the family assumes he was referring to the concentration camp and reminds them that "It's a big town. There's other stuff there."). Not much else is said of Klaus' true family, and it is presumed that Klaus has no living relatives and there are no inquiries in Germany as to his disappearance. The one mention of family is in "Live and Let Fry", in which Klaus learns that his great-aunt has died. In addition, it was revealed that Klaus had an enormous gambling problem and owed a fortune to the East German mafia. During the 1986 Winter Olympics (which did not exist in reality), the CIA switched his brainwaves with those of a goldfish to prevent him from winning the gold medal. His original body gone and his mind now inhabiting the body of a fish, Klaus poses as the Smith family pet after Stan Smith was ordered by the CIA to keep him, a fact Klaus has still apparently not come to terms with. Klaus is bitter at being confined to live life as a goldfish and losing all his human abilities, more because of his loss of sexual function than loss of his athletic skills. In the episode "The Best Little Horror House in Langley Falls" Klaus admits to Stan that he once traveled in Europe after college, killing students.
As the Smiths' pet
Klaus retains his human intelligence, and his mind seems to have enhanced the goldfish's physiology. Klaus is perfectly fine breathing air so long as at least one small part of his body is in water. Klaus is also able to swim in both salt water and fresh water, swimming pools, coffee, vodka, Jell-O, and even the washing machine, where he enjoys being thrown in with Francine's underwear.
Possibly to parallel Family Guy's Brian's crush on Lois, he lusts after Stan Smith's wife Francine; she is the subject of many of his sexual fantasies, which often revolve around sadism. His desire for Francine diminished over the third season, presumably due to keeping his gratitude to Stan Smith for saving his life after "Finances with Wolves".
In the "Finances with Wolves" episode, Klaus switched his goldfish body for that of a black man's (the front man for an Earth, Wind and Fire cover group who ripped off the CIA at their summer mixer), and almost ran off with Francine, but the body was mortally damaged in the aftermath of an explosion at the mall. Deciding to spare his life, but also to make sure he never try to seduce Francine again (and that the CIA had no human bodies available at the time), Stan placed his brain in another goldfish's body (Klaus flushed the previous fish's lifeless body down the toilet). This episode also gave an indication of his personality; he is more concerned with saving his new human body than Francine, as he did not attempt to rescue her from the blast and makes it his priority to save himself.
Though he is a member of the Smith Family, he is often overlooked and not considered on certain things. Stan rarely refers to him by name, instead calling him "Fish". He also does not go places with the rest of the family unlike Roger who usually needs to disguise himself. In "The One That Got Away", Roger drunkenly tells Klaus that he is useless and everyone hates him, and Klaus begins to accept that he is hated. In "Roy Rogers McFreely" he states Francine cleans his bowl on Monday nights, to which she exclaims "Humans are talking!" and pushes his bowl off the counter, shattering it. He states he is dying as Stan leaves the room, calling him a whiner. In "Great Space Roaster" he was not allowed to speak at Roger's comedy roast, as Roger tells him he hates him not out of anger but as a fact. In "For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls", Francine states that Stan had a hard time getting used to Roger living in the house, as well as "What's-his-name", at which point the scene cuts to Klaus, who disinterestedly states, "My name is Klaus Heissler".
The episode "Of Ice and Men" shows Klaus in the year 2045, where he is inexplicably in a new human body that has hair resembling fins. He has a grandson in this future and the majority of the episode consisted of a story Klaus tells him about the past, with Klaus briefly breaking the fourth wall and describing himself and his grandson as "a framing device". The grandson is surprised to learn that Klaus had once been a fish. He asks if Klaus had ever been a shark and Klaus replies testily "Yes! I was two sharks and a monkey! Now shut up and go to bed!"
In the episode "The One That Got Away", Klaus is supposedly sent to the future or an alternate universe, when he is swallowed by a mutant tentacled creature. He slays it from the inside, stating he was gone 60 years. When Roger asks him where he went, he merely states that he is their king now, and is sitting in a jewel covered grail, a parody of The Chronicles of Narnia. In the episode "Rapture's Delight" when Stan ascends to his own personal heaven, Klaus is seen mounted in a frame on the wall with a shocked look on his face.
"My pain is the bubbling cauldron of molten steel that will forge the saber of your demise."
"It's fun to play dress-up. Not all the time, but sometimes... not this time."
"Allow me to impress upon you the severe mistake you have made. For years my conduct has been largely benign and yet without provocation you have severed our detente and forced me to unleash upon you the vengeful flames of a thousand suns! You shall curse your mothers for the day of your birth. So go now! Go, and begin your life of fear, knowing that when you least expect it the looming sword of Damocles will crash down upon you, cleaving you in twain! And as you gaze upon the smoking wreckage that was once your life you will regret the day you crossed the wrong fish!"
"Stan, these people are monsters. You know what my country's done and even I find this offensive."
"We have a saying in Germany...Don't blame the fish! But then we have other sayings too, mostly involving genocide."
"You know, every time you interrupt someone, your penis gets a little shorter"
"it's true what they say once you go black you can't go back"