‘Happy Days’: Ron Howard Explained How Fonzie’s ‘Ayyy,’ Richie’s ‘Blueberry Hill’ Catchphrases Came to Be

by Chris Haney

During an October 2006 interview, Happy Days star and famed director Ron Howard explained how certain catchphrases became popular on the hit sitcom.

One of his character Richie Cunningham‘s trademarks was singing Fats Domino’s hit song Blueberry Hill. Whenever Richie thought he might get lucky with a girl, he’d start singing the first line of the classic track. While speaking with the Television Academy Foundation, he shared how the catchphrase came to be.

“It was some kind of moment where Richie thought he was going to do well with a woman. So he startled everyone by singing this smoky rendition of Blueberry Hill. And it just stuck, people loved that,” Ron Howard explained in the Television Academy Foundation interview.

Howard says those random moments here and there on the show often became notable after the fact. Small things that seemed like a throwaway line caught on because of the reaction it got from fans. That’s how one line or improvised moment would stick and take on a whole new life as a full-on catchphrase.

“That’s the way most of the catchphrases, or iconic phrases [began]. Fonzie’s ‘Ayyy,’ Blueberry Hill, I had a laugh that I did, the other characters started doing that laugh. And ‘yowza, yowza, yowza’ and sit on it, and stuff like that. They all were just jokes that landed really, really well. And somebody said, ‘We can use that,'” Howard added.

‘Happy Days’ Stars Had to Tell Studio Audience to Stop Screaming So Much While Filming

While fans’ reactions may have been a help in pinpointing catchphrases, other times they weren’t quite as helpful. The Fonz star Henry Winkler once opened up about the craze over Happy Days and its cast.

When the show first aired in 1974, no one could’ve known just how big it would become. Winkler in particular definitely didn’t expect the Fonzie frenzy that ensued not long after. Especially since Fonzie was never meant to be a main character on the show. But Winkler and the rest of the cast became household names as fame quickly followed the success of Happy Days.

As Season 2 started, the sitcom began filming in front of a live studio audience. Each Friday, a 300-person audience arrived on set to watch the Happy Days production. As Winkler says, they wanted cheering and screaming, but often had to ask the fans to tone it down so they could simply get through filming.

“It was fun to hear them scream,” Winkler said in a 2006 Television Academy Foundation interview. “We wanted them to scream, but you didn’t want them to scream too long because it got in the way.”

“So we talked to the audience. From about 12 in the afternoon in a shoot day, I would start to get into character and I would only talk like the Fonz. And then I would get into makeup and then I would like really act to anybody like the Fonz,” he added.

Therefore when the cast would come out and introduce themselves to the audience, Winkler would typically be the only actor already in character. So if you were in the studio crowd screaming with excitement at getting to watch Happy Days being filmed, Fonzie himself may have asked you to chill out just a bit.