8 TV catchphrases you’ll always recognize

3 min read

Catchphrases are an essential feature of many of our most beloved TV characters. Their often-repeated sayings become a key facet of their personality. A truly great catchphrase will always fill us with a warm sense of nostalgia, and we will forever recognize where they came from.

A well-timed catchphrase has the power to make us laugh time and time again. For this reason, most examples are from sitcoms. However, some less comedic shows have also come up with timeless classics.

“What’choo talkin’ ‘bout Willis?”

Gary Coleman, as Arnold Jackson in “Diff’rent Strokes”

Gary Coleman’s line was first said back in 1978. Since then it has been repeated, parodied, and celebrated countless times, across a range of movies, TV shows, and general conversations.

Young people who have never seen an episode of “Diff’rent Strokes” still know this catchphrase, and its ability to be applied in many situations means it has endured the test of time.

“How you doin’?”

Matt LeBlanc, as Joey Tribbiani in “Friends”

In the late ’90s and early 2000s, "Friends" was the biggest TV show in America. The six friends all had their own quirky charms, but it was LeBlanc’s Joey who delivered the most laugh-out-loud moments.

In his relentless pursuit of (and success with) women, Joey would more often than not break the ice with a smooth, “How you doin’?”

“Oh my god, they killed Kenny!”

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, as Stan Marsh and Kyle Boflovski in “South Park”

At times during its 20+ year run, “South Park” has been the most controversial show on television.

As the creators, writers, and stars, Parker and Stone deliver a ubiquitous and ruthless mockery of pop culture, politics, and people of interest.

The crude satire often involves one of the main characters, Kenny, being killed. Each time this happens, his friends Stan and Kyle react in the same way.

Parker and Stone have said that they themselves are being addressed by the characters, not the culprits in the episode, as they’re who write in the many deaths of Kenny.

“Yabba dabba do!”

Alan Reed, as Fred Flintstone in “The Flintstones”

“The Flintstones” originally aired in the early ’60s and pushed the boundaries of what television viewers were used to. Supposedly, the cartoon was the first show to depict a married couple in bed together.

Fred Flintstone would exclaim, “Yabba dabba do!” when he was excited, or when events unfolded in his favor. The made-up words perfectly captured his emotion. This, along with the character’s popularity, turned the phrase into a widely-known catchphrase.

“That’s what she said”

Steve Carell, as Michael Scott in “The Office”

“That’s what she said” is not an original line on the show. It’s a very simple joke that has long been used to transform seemingly innocent phrases into innuendos.

This type of humor was so well suited to the persistently-immature Michael Scott that it was adopted as his favorite line. The show quickly became a fan favorite and ran for over 200 episodes.

As Steve Carell crafted a beloved comedy character, “That’s what she said” became a far bigger part of the public consciousness.


Jim Parsons, as Sheldon in “The Big Bang Theory”

"The Big Bang Theory" is one of the most popular sitcoms of modern times. The show follows a group of highly-intelligent friends who work as scientists. Their unique sense of humor is full of inside jokes and niche references.

Sheldon is the most socially awkward of the bunch, but, as his social skills develop, he begins to play tricks on his friends. When his punchline is realized, he delivers a quick “bazinga.”

Now, the word can be found on T-shirts and coffee mugs across the world.

“Live long, and prosper”

Leonard Nimoy, as Spock in “Star Trek”

This is the only non-comedic entry on the list and it comes from (arguably) the godfather of sci-fi television, “Star Trek.”

Spock has a leading role on the ship’s crew, and his unique farewell is perfectly suited to his character. When the show was reimagined as a series of movies years later, Nimoy was recast in his old role, and the recurrence of his line was an essential inclusion for fans.


Dan Castellaneta, as Homer Simpson in “The Simpsons”

“The Simpsons” is the longest-running sitcom in American TV history (with 662 episodes at the time of writing). It has been dubbed in many languages and shown all over the world.

Although the writing quality has had peaks and troughs, its first 12 or so seasons are considered some of the greatest in comedy history. The show has a huge range of characters and is littered with hilarious catchphrases.

The most famous of them all, however, comes from the patriarchal character, Homer Simpson. Famed for his slow wit and incompetence, Homer shouts “D’oh” whenever he makes a mistake. Of course, his mistakes are all too frequent.

“D’oh” will forever have its place in TV and pop culture history.

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