In this episode of Happy Days, Arthur Fonzarelli, Fonzie, The Fonz, slaps Richie, hard, across the face. Void of context, we don’t know why.
Richie’s jaw drops. He is in shock. He holds his hand against his crimsoned cheek. Richie careens out of time, out of character. He tells Arthur Fonzarelli, the Fonz, Fonzie, that he’s made a big mistake and he would be really sorry, did he know who he just slapped? You’ve just slapped someone who was a child-star, remember Mayberry motherfucker, and I’m gonna go on and become a bigtime director who makes lots and lots of films, Backdraft and Born on the Fourth of July and Apollo 13, all kinds of films, I’m gonna be the shit, and you, what are you gonna be doing Fonz?
When Richie—stranded somewhere between the character, Richie, and Ron Howard, the actor playing Richie—is done with his rant, the rest of his face has joined his cheek in blazing crimson. Henry Winkler, a.k.a., The Fonz, Arthur Fonzarelli, Fonzie, is baffled, and looks around, as if trying to pick up the feel of a gag. Was he on Candid Camera? Yet everyone looks as baffled as he does, an awkward quiet thickening the air. One of the cameramen coughs.
Ron Howard/Richie storms off the set, muttering something heated under his breath. The Fonz, still not sure what to do, defaults to his signature move—thumbs jacked up and out, like a jazzy hitchhiker, as he mouthgrooves—Ayyyyy! The live studio audience applauds. Or it is canned applause. It is hard to tell the difference.