Happy Days star Henry Winkler recently went on the record about his iconic “Jump the Shark” scene from the classic sitcom. While appearing on The Rich Eisen Show, the Night Shift star opened up about one of the most well remembered moments of his days playing the Fonz. The scene in question comes from the 1977 Happy Days episode “Hollywood: Part 3” from season 5. In the episode Fonzie, being the coolest human alive, refuses to back down to a challenge jump live sharks in waterskis… so he does just that. After all, what’s more hip than a 60s greaser complete with leather jacket doing extreme sports paired with deadly aquatic predators?
Rich Eisen asked about how the scene came to be, and Winkler explained that he was a water skiing enthusiast and instructor. Henry Winkler’s proud father insisted that he mention his skiing skills to Happy Days producer and creator Garry Marshall. Winkler eventually relented, and hesitantly told Marshall. Once the Happy Days writers discovered this, they wrote it into the script. “All of a sudden I’m water skiing! We rip the lining out of the jacket,” Henry Winkler explained. “I did all of the water skiing except the jump. They wouldn’t let me do a stunt you know, because if you get hurt then there’s that.”
Henry Winkler’s skiing Fonzie came to represent a show’s decline
Of course decades later, the scene and phrase “Jump the Shark” has become synonymous with a moment that marks a show falling into irreversible decline. “Are you aware of the phrase ‘Jump the Shark’ and its meaning in pop culture?” Eisen asked Winkler. The Scream actor doesn’t seem to mind at all and takes it in stride. “Every time they mentioned [Jump the Shark], it was in the newspaper. They had a picture of me water skiing at that time. I had great legs so I didn’t care for one minute,” Henry Winkler grinned. “We were number one for five years after that! What did I care there was a phrase,” he concluded.
Despite playing such a prolific character like the Fonz on Happy Days for 11 seasons, Winkler continues to play a variety of roles. Many know Winkler first from his roles on more recent shows like Parks and Recreation, Arrested Development and Children’s Hospital. Winkler has also become part of Adam Sandler’s revolving comedy troupe starting in the 90s. Winkler has starred alongside Sandler in The Water Boy, Click, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan and others. Currently, Henry Winkler is enjoying incredible success playing disgruntled acting instructor Gene Cousineau on HBO’s dramedy, Barry. Winkler won his first Primetime Emmy for his portrayal in the Bill Hader series.
Watch the full Henry Winkler interview from The Rich Eisen Show here.