TV Catchphrases You’ll Always Recognize

Wednesday, August 72 min read

Catchphrases are a memorable feature of many of our most beloved TV characters. A well-timed catchphrase has the power to make us laugh time and time again. Hearing one of those catchphrases today fills us with a warm sense of nostalgia, and we will forever recognize where they came from.

“What’choo talkin’ ‘bout Willis?”

Gary Coleman as Arnold Jackson on Diff’rent Strokes

Gary Coleman’s catchphrase was first uttered in 1978, and since then it has been repeated, parodied, and celebrated across a range of movies, TV shows, and general water cooler conversations. Even if you weren't a Diff'rent Strokes fan, you've probably heard this line.

“How you doin’?”

Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani on Friends

In the late ’90s and early aughts, 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’?” and a smile.

“Yabba dabba do!”

Alan Reed as Fred Flintstone on 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 jubilant spirit.

“That’s what she said”

Steve Carell as Michael Scott on The Office

“That’s what she said” is not unique to this workplace comedy. 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 became his catchphrase. 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 Cooper on The Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory follows a group of highly intelligent friends who work as scientists. Their collective sense of humor is full of inside jokes and niche references, which have taken over every day vocabulary as BBT is one of the most popular modern sitcoms.

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.”

“Live long, and prosper”

Leonard Nimoy as Dr. Spock on Star Trek

The only non-comedic entry on the list comes from the godfather of sci-fi television, “Star Trek.”

Mr. Spock had a leading role in the ship’s crew, and his unique farewell suited his logical and literal character. When Nimoy reprised his role in a series of movies, the catchphrase was became an essential inclusion.


Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson on The Simpsons

“The Simpsons” is the longest-running sitcom in American TV history, and it has been dubbed in many languages and shown all over the world.

Critics will claim the writing quality has had peaks and troughs, but the first several seasons are considered some of the greatest in comedy history. The wide range of characters use repeated catchphrases to great effect.

The most famous of them all, however, comes from the patriarch, Homer J. Simpson. Beloved for his slow wit and incompetence, Homer shouts “D’oh” whenever he makes a mistake. Of course, his mistakes are all too frequent, and thus, a catchphrase is born.

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