‘Happy Days’: How Dustin Hoffman Played a Role in Ron Howard’s Recognizable Richie Laugh

by Keeli Parkey

One of the things that made “Happy Days” such a beloved sitcom was the uniqueness of its characters. From Fonzie to Potsie to Mrs. Cunningham to Al Delvecchio and more, there was someone pretty much every viewer could identify with. Maybe the most relatable of the “Happy Days” characters was Richie Cunningham. He was played by Ron Howard on the show. And, one of the most recognizable characteristics of Richie Cunningham’s was his laugh.

During an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Howard discussed the inspiration behind Richie Cunningham’s unique laugh. And, that source of inspiration just might surprise you. It comes from a film with a topic that is very far removed from the wholesome nature of “Happy Days.”

According to Ron Howard, the inspiration for Richie Cunningham’s laugh has its roots in the film, “The Graduate.” This film starred Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. She plays Mrs. Robinson, remember? Also, Hoffman played the young man who begins having an affair with her. However, he also falls for Anne Bancroft’s character’s daughter. It is widely considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made. And, if you haven’t seen it – you should.

Anyway, back to Richie’s laugh on “Happy Days.” According to Ron Howard’s interview, he drew inspiration from Dustin Hoffman’s character in “The Graduate” for the laugh.

“… That laugh was sort of, a little bit inspired by ‘The Graduate,'” Howard said during the interview. “Not literally, but Dustin Hoffman made a lot of little strange little sounds in ‘The Graduate.'”

You can watch a few of Ron Howard’s more interesting moments as Richie Cunningham on “Happy Days” below.

Ron Howard Played Richie Cunningham, But What Happened to His Brother, Chuck Cunningham, on ‘Happy Days’?

While Ron Howard’s Richie Cunningham was able to laugh throughout the run of “Happy Days” when it originally aired on television, his on-screen brother wasn’t quite so lucky.

When the popular sitcom began its run, Richie and younger sister Joanie Cunningham, had an older brother. He name was Chuck. However, Chuck Cunningham didn’t stick around too long.

According to an article on the “Happy Days” Wiki, Chuck was a basketball player at Jefferson High. Actor Gavin O’Herlihy was first cast as Chuck. He was then replaced with actor Randolph Roberts. However, Chuck didn’t last for long on the show.

Chuck appears in the first two seasons of “Happy Days.” But, he is pretty much not heard of after the second season. According to the article, many people believed Chuck no longer appeared on the show because he was off at college.

Before his death in 2016, “Happy Days” creator and producer Garry Marshall talked about the absence of Chuck Cunningham from the show.

“Everybody asks me, ‘What happened to Chuck on ‘Happy Days?’” Marshall said during the interview. The famous television producer also said that one reason Chuck was removed as a character from the show was that Fonzie, who was played by Henry Winkler, was becoming so popular.