5 Too-Cool Facts About Henry Winkler
Happy birthday, Henry Winkler! Henry Winkler thumbs-upped his way into America’s hearts as the Fonz in Happy Days more than 40 years ago, and he hasn’t been out of the spotlight since, whether it’s playing himself in an Adam Sandler movie, a hospital administrator with a weird obsession with butterflies in Adult Swim’s Children’s Hospital, or a pantomiming Captain Hook on the London stage. In honor of his 70th birthday, here are five things you might not know about Henry Winkler.
1. HE MADE UP A SHAKESPEARE MONOLOGUE TO GET INTO THE YALE SCHOOL OF DRAMA.
After graduating from Emerson College, Winkler applied to Yale University’s drama program. In his audition, he had to do two scenes, a modern and a classic comedy. However, when he arrived at his audition, he forgot the Shakespeare monologue he had planned to recite. So he made something up on the spot. He was still selected for one of 25 spots in the program.
2. HENRY WINKLER’S FATHER INSPIRED “JUMPING THE SHARK.”
In the fifth season of Happy Days, the Fonz grabbed a pair of water skis and jumped over a shark. The phrase “jumping the shark” would become pop culture shorthand for the desperate gimmicks employed by TV writers to keep viewers hooked into a show that’s running out of storylines. But Winkler’s water skiing adventure was partially inspired by his father, who begged his son to tell his co-workers about his past as a water ski instructor. When he did, the writers wrote his skills into the show. Winkler would later reference the moment in his role as lawyer Barry Zuckerkorn on Arrested Development, hopping over a dead shark lying on a pier.
3. HE NOW CAMPAIGNS FOR DYSLEXIA AWARENESS.
Winkler struggled throughout high school due to undiagnosed dyslexia. “I didn't read a book until I was 31 years old when I was diagnosed with dyslexia,” he told The Guardian in 2014. He has co-written 17 chapter books for kids featuring Hank Zipper, a character who has dyslexia. The most recent Hank Zipper book is printed in Dyslexie, a special font designed to be easier for kids with dyslexia to read.
4. HE DIDN'T RIDE FONZIE'S MOTORCYCLE.
On one of his first days on the set of Happy Days, producers told Winkler that he just had to ride the Fonz’s motorcycle a few feet. Because of his dyslexia, he couldn’t figure out the vehicle’s controls, he told an interviewer with the Archive of American Television. “I gunned it and rammed into the sound truck, nearly killed the director of photography, put the bike down, and slid under the truck,” he recalled. For the next 10 years, whenever he appeared on the motorcycle, the bike was actually sitting on top of a wheeled platform.
5. HIS LATEST CREDITS INCLUDE A PERFORMANCE WITH MGMT.
In addition to his roles on Arrested Development, Royal Pains, Parks and Recreation, and others, Winkler has popped up in a few unexpected places in recent years. He appeared for a brief second in the music video for MGMT’s “Your Life Is a Lie” in 2013. He later showed up at a Los Angeles music festival to play the cowbell with the band, too.