‘Happy Days’ Star Henry Winkler ‘Loved’ Playing the ‘Straight Man’ in Film That Came Out During Series

by Clayton Edwards

Ron Howard and Henry Winkler first worked together on Happy Days. However, that was far from the end of their working relationship. In fact, they have worked together on a few projects. One of those was one of Howard’s first theatrically released feature films. The film was a comedy called Night Shift which came out in 1982. Happy Days was still on the air and Winkler was still the Fonz.

Night Shift featured a cast full of people who were on their way to stardom. Henry Winkler and Michael Keaton played the leads. It was an early film role for both actors who would later become stars of the big screen. Both had already had success on television, though. The cast of Night Shift also featured top-notch character actors like Joe Spinell and Clint Howard, who is also Ron Howard’s brother.

Ron Howard talked about Night Shift in a 2015 episode of The Dan Patrick Show. During that time, he discussed both Michael Keaton and Henry Winkler’s roles in the film.

Ron Howard on Henry Winkler and Michael Keaton in Night Shift

Ron Howard was asked about Night Shift which featured both Henry Winkler and Michael Keaton in early roles. The question focused on whether or not Keaton was allowed to improvise while making the film. Howard said that the script and character were both brilliantly written. However, they knew that Keaton had strong improv skills. So, they would do some scripted takes, then let Keaton improvise. This method isn’t unheard of. In fact, Robin Williams was allowed to improvise while making Mrs. Doubtfire which led to several R-rated scenes being cut from the family-friendly film.

Ron Howard said that Henry Winkler loved his part in the film. He was the straight man to Michael Keaton’s comedic acting. This was a huge change for him. While shooting Happy Days, Winkler was always hilarious. Sure, the Fonz was ultra-cool. However, his over-the-top delivery and fish-out-of-water character made just about every one of his lines funny. So, playing the serious guy in the room was new for Winkler.

Since the end of Happy Days and its numerous spin-off shows, Henry Winkler has worked both behind the camera and in front of it as well. Some of his biggest roles to date were in comedies. For instance, he was in The Waterboy and Little Nicky alongside comedy great Adam Sandler. He has also held voice roles in hilarious animated shows such as South Park, Robot Chicken, and All Hail King Julien. Whether he is the center of comedy or the straight man to a comedic actor, the former Happy Days star knows how to get a laugh from his audience.