LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Henry Winkler is famous for his 1970s role on television as the unflappably cool “Fonzie,” but on Monday the 72-year-old actor allowed a show of excitement when he won his first Emmy.
Winkler won for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series for his role as an acting teacher in the HBO show “Barry,” which stars Bill Hader as a hitman.
Stepping on stage, Winkler exclaimed “Oh my God” and joked that he wrote his acceptance speech “43 years ago” — around the time he was first nominated for an Emmy for playing “Fonzie” on the sitcom “Happy Days.”
Then, his voice rising, the silver-haired Winkler said, “If you stay at the table long enough, the chips come to you, and tonight I got to clear the table.”
Winkler had his breakout role in 1973 as Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli, a leather-jacket-wearing motorbiker on “Happy Days.”
The New York City-born actor was nominated for Emmys three times in the 1970s for playing “Fonzie,” but never won. The show ended in 1984, establishing “Fonzie” as one of television’s most recognizable characters.
After “Happy Days,” which earned Winkler two Golden Globe awards, he appeared regularly on television.
In 2000, he was nominated for a guest actor Emmy in a drama for “The Practice,” and another for guest actor in a comedy for “Battery Park.” He did not win in either category, and was not nominated again until this year.
Although Monday’s win was Winkler’s first Primetime Emmy, he had previously won two Daytime Emmy awards for roles in children’s television.
While the character “Fonzie” rarely allowed himself to be the butt of jokes, Winkler was quick to laugh at himself when he appeared backstage on Monday.
Winkler jokingly said he was wearing rubber pants to prepare himself in case he wet himself from the excitement of winning.
He said he wanted to be an actor from a young age, despite initial disapproval from his parents.
“I’m very dyslexic and I don’t know that I could have done anything else,” Winkler said.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler