‘Happy Days’ Star Henry Winkler Revealed the Time His Yale Professor Confronted Him for ‘Undermining’ His Class

by Chris Haney

During a 2018 interview, Happy Days star Henry Winkler opened up about an awkward encounter with his professor while attending Yale University.

While speaking about his experience playing Gene Cousineau on HBO’s Barry, the actor ended up sharing an anecdote from his time in college. Winkler attended Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1967. Subsequently, he got into the prestigious Yale School of Drama where he received a Master of Fine Arts in 1970.

While diving into his Barry character – an acting coach and mentor to Bill Hader’s title character – he spoke about some of his past teachers. He called some of them “brutal.”

“I have had teachers who were brutal. If you look up brutal in a dictionary, you will see their names,” Winkler said in a Vulture interview. “And I think that it’s under the guise of wanting to change the actor’s habit — wanting to break bad habits and replace them with brand-new ones you can use for the rest of your career.”

The famous Happy Days actor says some of his theatrical education stemmed from tough love. However, he did point out that the lessons he learned, no matter how “brutal,” came back to help him at some point in his career.

“Now, let me just say, as a person who went to a lot of drama school, some of that is true. I have used almost every inch of what I have learned along the way,” he added. “Even in slow-motion work, which I used in the [Happy Days] episode with Mork from Ork, with Robin Williams when he froze me, and then moved me in slow motion.”

‘Happy Days’ Actor Henry Winkler Recalls Tense Interaction With Professor

Following Henry Winkler‘s time at Emerson, he continued his education at Ivy League school Yale. Some of the habits the Fonzie actor picked up from previous teachers didn’t exactly fly with one of his first Yale professors.

Winkler remembered one class in particular during his first week on Yale’s campus. While in one of his drama classes, the actor put his previous professor’s teachings to use. But his professor obviously didn’t appreciate his antics.

“I did that at Yale in class. But on the other hand, sometimes it’s so mean that I’m not sure habits are involved. I’m not so sure. When I was a freshman at Yale, one teacher brought me up after class, and said, You’re trying to undermine my class. And I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to be kicked out of school on the first week.’ Not only do I not have a sense of self, I don’t even know what she’s talking about. I don’t even know how to undermine anything,” Henry Winkler told Vulture.

Although he didn’t expand on exactly what he said or did, Winkler admitted he was a “smart aleck” at the time. Whatever it was, the Happy Days actor’s professor didn’t take kindly to it and let him have it.

“I don’t know, maybe because I was a smart aleck. Maybe because I couldn’t control a joke. If I saw something funny, it came flying out of my mouth,” he recalled. “But let me tell you that at that moment in time, I was like the bowl of Jello before it solidifies when you put it in the refrigerator. I had no idea what the hell that woman meant. That’s not even hyperbole.”