15 Comedians’ Signature Jokes’ Origin Stories And History
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Be honest… Who immediately comes to mind when you hear, “That’s what she said”? From 2005 to about 2012, it was as common as “Your Mom” jokes, but it’s still out there lurking, ready to strike.
Whether it’s as innocent as “Hot Pockets”, or as controversial as “Seven Dirty Words," these 15 comedians will forever be synonymous with their signature catchphrase or joke. Here's a look at how they happened and what happened after they happened.
At the time, he hadn’t ever eaten one, but the terrible advertising was enough to inspire the joke. "It was really that the commercial was so bad. It showed this mom giving her kids Hot Pockets, and the song, and the jingle was so silly. I never said anything positive about them, but people assume I love them. It's made more complicated by the fact that people yell 'Hot Pockets' to me in airports and grocery stores.” He became so well known for it that Hot Pockets actually wanted him to be a spokesperson. “There was talk of me being in a commercial, but I didn't want to do it. I don't want to just be known for that." Complaining about getting no respect could lead to serious respect. Let that be a lesson, kids. Rodney Dangerfield’s iconic catchphrase, “I get no respect” wasn’t just the centerpiece for his standup, but his career as a whole. His comedy album No Respect won a Grammy in 1981. The dark side of the bit is the actual hardships he faced as a kid. In 2004, he said that if he could change anything about his life, he’d choose a “different mother, different father, different sister, different everything, but I’ll stay the same.” The greats can spin pain into gold.
Jim Gaffigan - “Hot Pockets”
Rodney Dangerfield - “I get no respect”
At the time, he hadn’t ever eaten one, but the terrible advertising was enough to inspire the joke.
"It was really that the commercial was so bad. It showed this mom giving her kids Hot Pockets, and the song, and the jingle was so silly. I never said anything positive about them, but people assume I love them. It's made more complicated by the fact that people yell 'Hot Pockets' to me in airports and grocery stores.”
He became so well known for it that Hot Pockets actually wanted him to be a spokesperson. “There was talk of me being in a commercial, but I didn't want to do it. I don't want to just be known for that."
Complaining about getting no respect could lead to serious respect. Let that be a lesson, kids.
Rodney Dangerfield’s iconic catchphrase, “I get no respect” wasn’t just the centerpiece for his standup, but his career as a whole. His comedy album No Respect won a Grammy in 1981.
The dark side of the bit is the actual hardships he faced as a kid. In 2004, he said that if he could change anything about his life, he’d choose a “different mother, different father, different sister, different everything, but I’ll stay the same.” The greats can spin pain into gold.
Leslie Nielsen - “Don't call me Shirley”
Say these funny lines in a not funny way. Copy that.
Nielsen was a dramatic actor for 30 years before we saw his comedic genius in 1980’s Airplane! After the line, “Surely you can’t be serious,” he perfectly delivers, “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.” That (and other classics) spawned a comedy career, starting with Police Squad! and then a string of Naked Gun movies.
Just try to find an article on him that doesn’t mention it. When he passed in 2010, Roger Ebert’s obituary was titled, “And Don’t Call Me Shirley.”
Jeff Foxworthy - “You might be a redneck if…”
In 1987, Foxworthy performed next to a bowling alley that offered valet parking. After a heckler called him a redneck, he responded, “Look out the window, for crying out loud. If you’ve got valet parking at a bowling alley … you might be redneck.”
He’s made an entire career out of the many ways you might be a redneck.
“I never thought it was a template, or a hook or a book, but I went to my hotel room and I wrote 10 more. So I figured, if I can write 10, then I can write 50, or 100.”
Dave Chappelle - “I'm Rick James, b!tch”
The sketch had other classic lines like, “F*ck yo’ couch”, but, “I’m Rick James, b!tch” had this quotability that college kids ate right up.
In his 2004 special, For What It’s Worth, he says, “I took the kids to Disney World and everybody at the park… Everybody… Was like, ‘Hey! Hey! I’m Rick James, b!tch. I’m Rick James, b!tch! I was like hey man, you mind not calling me a b!tch in front of my kids? Time out. Can we take a day off?”
Christopher Walken - “More Cowbell”
Yes, we know he’s not a comedian. But when you’re known for a line in an SNL sketch, you get an honorary mention.
On The Tonight Show, Will Ferrell told Fallon that years after the sketch, Christopher Walken told him, “You know… You’ve ruined my life. People, during the curtain call, bring cowbells and ring them. The other day I went for an Italian food lunch, and the waiter asked if I wanted more cowbell.” From Deer Hunter to Pulp Fiction, most people know him for that one perfect SNL sketch.
Tina Fey - “I want to go to there”
Although she’s written a ton of great lines over the years, this gem was actually coined by her then 7 year-old daughter, Alice.
In 30 Rock, “I want to go to there” is Liz Lemon’s response to “They have popcorn on the plane.” The line, paired with Fey’s delivery, usually tops every “Best Tina Fey Quotes” list, and in 2009, Fey thanked Alice during her SAG acceptance speech.
Larry David - “Prett-ay, prett-ay, prett-ay good”
Topping lists of best Larry David quotes, Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good is also the title of a book that follows Larry’s stand-up career, his days writing for Seinfeld, and the development of Curb.
The phrase originated in one of his old stand-up routines about making conversation with your parents as an adult. “They ask, ‘How are you?’ and you say, ‘Pretty good. Prett-ay, prett-ay, prett-ay good.’”
Little did he know that would become the phrase he’d be best remembered for.
Steve Carrell - “That's what she said”
"Steve Carrell owns “that’s what she said. He owns it!” - Liz Lemon. Because it can pop up at any moment, Michael Scott’s “that’s what she said” might always be a thing.
The writers at GQ got sick of it back in 2010, but we’ve loved it since day one. The line took the world by storm, and he even did a hilarious “That’s what she said” call-and-response in his People’s Choice Awards acceptance speech.
Chris Farley - “Living in a van down by the river”
We know Chris Farley for his many larger-than-life characters, but he’ll forever be synonymous with Tommy Boy and van-dweller, Matt Foley. Well, la dee frickin’ da!
The character ended up appearing in eight SNL sketches and “livin’ in a van down by the river” will forever be seared into our subconscious.
Foley first appeared at The Second City in Chicago. Co-written by Bob Odenkirk, it did so well night after night that when Farley was hired as a cast member and Odenkirk was hired as a writer, they brought the almost word-for-word sketch along with them.
Jerry Seinfeld - “What's the deal with…”
Seinfeld made "what's the deal with..." synonymous with a specific brand of 90s observational comedy. So much so, that you probably just read those words in Jerry's voice.
Jimmy Fallon and every other human being has tried their hand at a “what’s the deal” impression.
It got so popular that you’d think he said it every episode, but it's actually only said in 5 of Seinfeld's 180 episodes.
Larry The Cable Guy - “Git 'R Done”
Dan Whitney, better known as redneck comedian Larry the Cable Guy, didn’t set out to create a catchphrase, but the Blue Collar Comedy Tour just wouldn’t be the same without a at least a dozen “Git ‘R Dones”.
He said, “It’s just something that happened by mistake. It’s something that I’d say on the radio all the time or as an inside joke, but I didn’t go out looking for it”.
The catchphrase basically defines his act, and much like Urkel’s “did I do that,” he will forever be known for that one line.
Tiffany Haddish - “She Ready”
Whatever comes at Tiffany Haddish… “She Ready.” Fans instantly associate her with the catchphrase, and she’s leaned right into it.
Her Showtime Special in 2017 was titled, Tiffany Haddish: She Ready! From the Hood to Hollywood.
Haddish titled her Netflix series, They Ready, she launched a She Ready internship program, and in 2021, she got “She Ready” buzzed into her hair cut by Los Angeles stylist Robert LaMarr Randle.
Rob Schneider - “You can do it!”
In 1998’s The Waterboy it was followed by, “Cut his f*cking head off," and “All night long.” Sandler told him, “You’re not gonna go anywhere without people yelling, "You can do it!”
It became a running gag in Sandler films, Little Nicky, 50 First Dates, The Longest Yard, Bedtime Stories,& a deleted scene from Click.
George Carlin - Seven Dirty Words
Fifty years later, we're still gonna soften these bad boys… Sh*t, p*ss, f*ck, c*nt, c*cks*cker, m*therf*cker, and t*ts. There they are. All seven gems.
On May 27, 1972, George Carlin recorded his Class Clown album at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. He didn't think much about the influence a routine on seven words would have on the culture, but he was aware that it could put his career in jeopardy.
In November 2008, Carlin became the first posthumous recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, and will always be remembered for bringing the ridiculousness of censorship to light.
Top image: Deedle-Dee Productions