Recently I heard Henry Winkler interviewed on NPR about the latest children’s book he wrote about a fictional boy who shares his own learning disability — a severe reading problem. To this day, Winkler does readings from his books by having memorized almost the entire text so he won’t have to read from the page.
Winkler is best known for his Fonzie character from the ’70s TV show “Happy Days.” In the first few scripts, since Fonzie carried lots of the show’s content, he had lots of lines. Winkler says part of the reason that he developed Fonzie’s facial expressions and single-word phrases like “Ayyyyyy” was to take some of the excess verbiage out of his part. Less reading for him.
But that’s not why I’m writing about Henry tonight. Toward the end of the interview, the NPR interviewer said, “I have to ask you, before you go, about the whole ‘jump the shark’ thing.”
Winkler said, “I have three things to say about ‘jump the shark.’
“First of all, no one remembers that ‘Happy Days’ remained the number one show for six years after the ‘Jump the Shark’ episode.
“Two, every time someone mentions ‘jump the shark,’ they show a picture of me on water skis and in swim trunks. Well, I had great legs in those days, so I have no problem with that.
“Three, I’m the only actor to have jumped the shark on two shows, ‘Happy Days’ and ‘Arrested Development.'” (But the second time he merely hopped over a dead shark lying on a pier in reference to the original.)
During the interview, Winkler said “Ayyyyyyyyy” with more attitude and lassitude than he ever did in the ’70s.
Henry, I love you for your attitude, lassitude, and humanity.
And I bet you still have great legs.