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Robert "Bob" Brunner (August 3, 1934 – October 28, 2012) was an American screenwriter, film producer, and television producer. He frequently collaborated in film and television with Garry Marshall, the creator of Happy Days.[1][2][3] Brunner is credited with creating the "Fonzie" nickname for Henry Winkler's character, Arthur Fonzarelli, on Happy Days.[1] He also created one of Fonzie's key catchphrases, "Sit on it."[1]

Bob Brunner
Robert Brunner

August 3, 1934
New York City, New York, United States
DiedOctober 28, 2012(2012-10-28) (aged 78)
Northridge, California, United States
OccupationScreenwriter, film producer, television producer

Life and careerEdit

Early lifeEdit

Brunner was born on August 3, 1934, in New York City.[3] In 1959, Brunner met Garry Marshall while both were working at the New York Daily News as copyboys.[1]

He entered the entertainment industry during the early 1960s as a publicist for Louis Armstrong and Tony Bennett.[1][3]

Film and television careerEdit

During the 1970s, Brunner began a career in television, teaming with longtime friend Garry Marshall as a scriptwriter and television producer.[1][3] Brunner wrote for The Odd Couple, which Marshall was executive producing at the time.[3] Brunner also worked on Marshall's Laverne & Shirley and Blansky's Beauties, which premiered in 1977 and was soon cancelled.[3]

Brunner joined the production staff of Happy Days. He produced thirty-seven episodes of Happy Days and wrote or co-wrote fifteen episodes.[3] He became an integral member of the production staff, including stints as its showrunner.[3]

Notably, Brunner contributed to American popular culture by creating the nickname "Fonzie" for Henry Winkler's iconic character, Arthur Fonzarelli, who was originally just a minor player on the show.[1] Brunner also created Fonzie's iconic phrase, "Sit on it," used by Fonzie as a comeback on the show.[3] Fonzie, and his catchphrase, made Happy Days the number one show in the United States at the time.[3]

More infamously, Brunner also wrote the 1977 Happy Days season premiere script which led to the phrase "Jump the shark," now used by television critics to criticize a television series deemed to have been on the air for too long.[1] In the episode, first aired on September 20, 1977, Fonzie travels to Los Angeles to take a screen test and break into acting. When he ties with a local Californian in a water skiing competition, Fonzie has to jump over a shark in the water as a tiebreaker.[3] The episode apparently led radio personality Jon Hein and his former college roommate to coin the term "jump the shark" to describe a television show in creative decline.[3] Still, the episode was watched by 30 million viewers, proving to be a hit in the ratings.[3] "Amazingly, I can't remember – which is frustrating, as I can usually watch a Happy Days episode from any season, hear a joke and recall who wrote it," in an account written by Fred Fox Jr.[3]

Happy Days writer Fred Fox Jr. later wrote about the origin of "jump the shark" and the episode in an article published in the Los Angeles Times in September 2010: "My friend Brian Levant, then a talented new member of the writing staff, believes that Garry Marshall, the show's co-creator and executive producer, and Bob Brunner, the showrunner at the time, made the suggestion. But what I definitely remember is that no one protested vehemently; not one of us said, 'Fonzie, jump a shark? Are you out of your mind?"[3]

In 1979, Brunner co-created (with Arthur Silver) and executive produced the short-lived NBC sitcom, Brothers and Sisters.[1] That same year (1979), Brunner also created another quickly cancelled CBS show, Working Stiffs, starring James Belushi and Michael Keaton.[1] He and Arthur Silver also developed the television adaptation of The Bad News Bears, which aired on CBS from 1979 to 1980.[1] Brunner went on to executive produce a string of television shows, including Love, Sidney, Private Benjamin, Webster, and Diff'rent Strokes.[1] Brunner was co-nominated for an Emmy for outstanding comedy series in 1982 for his work as the producer of Love, Sidney.[3]

Brunner continued to collaborate with friend, Garry Marshall, on several of Marshall's films. He co-wrote the script for Marshall's 1999 romantic comedy, The Other Sister, starring Juliette Lewis and Giovanni Ribisi.[1] He also contributed to Marshall's Frankie and Johnny in 1991 (In which Brunner also appeared on screen in a small role),[3] Exit to Eden in 1994, and The Princess Diaries in 2001.[1]


Bob Brunner died of a heart attack near his residence in Northridge, California, on October 28, 2012, at the age of 78. He was survived by three children Robert Jr, Jennifer and Elizabeth – and six grandchildren.[2] Brunner was buried at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery next to his wife, Ann, who died in 1987.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Bob Brunner, 'Happy Days' writer, dies". Variety. November 8, 2012. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Bob Brunner, 'Happy Days' writer and producer, dies aged 78". Digital Spy. November 7, 2012. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Barnes, Mike (November 7, 2012). "'Happy Days' Writer-Producer Bob Brunner Dies at 78". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 27, 2012.

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