On HBO’s Extras, Ricky Gervais played an unsuccessful actor who became an overnight sensation when his fumbling TV character acquired a catchphrase—“Are you having a laugh?” Audiences have been having a laugh with catchphrases (or otherwise reacting to them) since the medium was introduced. March 19 marks the 30th anniversary of the final episode of the sassy hit Alice, so here are 30 of our prime-time favorites. . .and if you don’t like them, well, as Flo the waitress said once (and twice, and 100 times after that during the show’s nine-season run), “Kiss my grits!”
“Lucy, you got some splaining to do!” — I Love Lucy (1951-1957)
And so Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) almost always did, after another harebrained scheme fell through and her Cuban-born husband Ricky (Desi Arnaz) found out about it. Married in real life, the two were a winning pair on this early sitcom smash, which maintains a timeless appeal.
“Bang, zoom…straight to the moon!” — The Honeymooners (1955)
Spun off from The Jackie Gleason Show, the show introduced several catchphrases. When easily harassed Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden (Gleason) felt besieged by his wife Alice (Audrey Meadows), he used this one, or some variant, on her. Never carrying out his threat, he’d retreat with a loving “Baby, you’re the greatest.”
“Danger, Will Robinson!”— Lost in Space (1965-1968)
Given its continuing popularity, you’d think The Robot was always flailing its circuitry and bailing space castaway Will Robinson out of trouble. But in fact it was only spoken once on the show, late in its run, becoming a retroactive catchphrase after reuse in episodes of The Simpsons, CSI, NCIS, How I Met Your Mother, Gilmore Girls, and the 1998 big screen adaptation.
“Would you believe…?”— Get Smart (1965-1970)
Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, the spy spoof was a catchphrase generator, as bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) operated in a constant state of ineptitude. “Would you believe…?” was usually followed by “Sorry about that, Chief,” as Max bungled another crisis situation.
“Book ’em, Danno!” — Hawaii Five-O (1968-1980)
Having caught the bad guy at the end of every paradise-set episode, Det. Lieutenant Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) would turn to his subordinate, officer Danny Williams (James MacArthur), and say his catchphrase. Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan repeat the drill on the current reboot.
“Sock it to me” —Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (1968-1973)
The irreverent sketch comedy show featured ensemble members Goldie Hawn, Judy Carne, and Teresa Graves as the “Sock it to Me Girls,” who were tricked into uttering the catchphrase, then got socked with water or some other substance. The most noteworthy person to say it on the hit show was 1968 Republican presidential nominee Richard Nixon, who is said to have earned a few deciding votes from the playful image tweak.
“What you see is what you get!” —The Flip Wilson Show (1970-1974)
Comedian Flip Wilson’s variety show was a ratings sensation in its first two seasons. Part of what drove it to No. 2 in the ratings from 1970 to 1972 was his outspoken drag character Geraldine, who had a way with catchphrases, which also included “The devil made me do it!”
“Just one more thing…” — Columbo (1971-1978)
Peter Falk originated his rumpled detective character in a 1968 TV movie, had a seven-year run with him in the 70s, and played him in additional TV movies until 2003. With the whodunit established at the outset of every story, it was up to Columbo to piece together the clues and catch the perpetrator—and you knew he would the second he asked the criminal for just one more thing…
“Stifle!” — All in the Family (1971-1979)
Command issued by the lovably bigoted Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) when his “dingbat” wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) fell out of line—which was almost every episode, though they always reconciled.
“Good night, John-Boy.” — The Waltons (1971-1981)
Most episodes of the acclaimed rural drama ended with the characters bidding each other good night as the hour-long show came to its close and the lights in each window went out. John-Boy (Richard Thomas) was the oldest of the seven Walton children.
“Who loves ya, baby?” — Kojak (1973-1978)
Catchphrase associated with Telly Savalas’s tough but principled NYPD lieutenant Theo Kojak, often spoken through the Tootsie Roll Pops he favored (as cigarette smoking fell out of fashion on TV).
“Aaay!” “Whoa!” and “Sit on it!” —Happy Days (1974-1984)
Three catchphrases, one character: The Fonz (Henry Winkler), who didn’t have much to do in Happy Days’ early days, then with an infusion of coolness (and catchphrases) became a breakout star in the 50s-set show. Another, TV-related catchphrase, “jump the shark” (to describe a program that’s run out of ideas) was born when The Fonz did just that, on waterskis, in a cliffhanging episode in its fifth season.
“Dy-No-Mite!” — Good Times (1974-1979)
As fast-talking Chicago teen J.J. Evans, Jimmie Walker hit it big with this catchphrase—much to the annoyance of the veteran co-stars playing his parents, John Amos and Esther Rolle, who felt his antics distracted from the sitcom’s serious themes about inner city life.
“Up your nose with a rubber hose” —Welcome Back, Kotter (1975-1979)
Popular high school “Sweathog” Vinnie Barbarino (John Travolta) had this to say when he wanted to change the subject. “Up Your Nose with a Rubber Hose” was the name of the Kotter board game.
“Kiss my grits!” — Alice (1976-1985)
In Martin Scorsese’s film 1974 film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, waitress Flo (Diane Ladd) tells her boss Mel to “Kiss me where the sun don’t shine!” For the subsequent TV sitcom, Flo (now played by Polly Holliday, replacing Ladd, who later played a Flo-like character on the show) told Mel (Vic Tayback, in the movie and the show) to “Kiss my honeydew!” When that got no laughs, a vital change was made, perfectly suited to Carter-era America, and one that got audiences not from the South curious about grits. Flo got a show of her own from 1980-1981.
“De plane, de plane!”— Fantasy Island (1977-1984)
Spoken in the inimitable French accent of Tattoo (Herve Villechaize), sidekick to the enigmatic Mr. Roarke (Ricardo Montalban), who welcomed visitors to his wish-fulfilling island retreat with the show’s other catchphrase: “Welcome to…Fantasy Island!”
“Na-Nu, Na-Nu” — Mork & Mindy (1978-1982)
Words of greeting from Mork from Ork, the irrepressible alien who catapulted Robin Williams to fame. When perplexed, Mork uttered the expletive “Shazbot!”
“Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”— Diff’rent Strokes (1978-1986)
Phrase uttered by an uncomprehending Arnold (Gary Coleman) to his older brother (Todd Bridges) as they adjusted to penthouse life. After much painful public readjustment once the series ended, Bridges titled his 2010 autobiography Killing Willis.
“Let’s be careful out there.” — Hill Street Blues (1981-1987)
Sgt. Phil Esterhaus (Michael Conrad) ended each morning briefing of cops in the rough Hill Street neighborhood with this catchphrase. Conrad, who won two Emmys for the role, died from cancer in 1983, and not long before his passing asked the producers that Esterhaus be reported dead of a heart attack during sex. He was.
“Norm!” — Cheers (1982-1993)
The greeting with which regular bar patron Norm Peterson (George Wendt) was met upon his entrance, which was pretty much all of its 275 episodes. The first word spoken by Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) and Lilith Crane’s (Bebe Neuwirth) son Frederick? “Norm.”
“D’oh!” — The Simpsons (1989- )
As Homer, Dan Castellaneta introduced what was scripted as “[annoyed grunt]” on the very first episode. Almost 600 episodes later all of the Simpsons have used it at one time or another, and the phrase entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 2001. (“Expressing frustration at the realization that things have turned out badly or not as planned, or that one has just said or done something foolish. Also (usu. mildly derogatory): implying that another person has said or done something foolish (cf. DUH int.).”
“Yada yada yada” — Seinfeld (1989-1998)
In various forms, the phrase, used to cut a long story short, had been in use since Lenny Bruce’s day, and turned up earlier on Magnum P.I. and Cheers. “The Yada Yada,” a 1997 episode, popularized it, and it was soon heard on The Simpsons, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, King of the Hill, yada yada yada.
“How you doin’?” — Friends (1994-2004)
Girl-crazy actor and dimwit Joey (Matt LeBlanc) tried out this line on all his potential conquests. LeBlanc has reprised it on the behind-the-scenes parody Episodes (2011- ), where he plays himself…as a girl-crazy actor and dimwit.
“Oh, my God! They killed Kenny!” — South Park (1997- )
How many times has little Kenny McCormick died on the show, causing Stan to make his famed exclamation (and Kyle to follow up with “You bastards!”). Not many since South Park’s sixth season, when co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone decided that the gag had run its course. But the catchphrase, like Kenny himself, endures.
“Is that your final answer?” — Who Want to Be a Millionaire (1999-2002; continues in syndication)
The catchphrase, which dozed off in the 90s, woke up big time when prime time reality and game shows caught fire. Regis Philbin set the pace with his make-or-break pronouncement to tense contestants, followed by Survivor (“The tribe has spoken”), The Apprentice (“You’re fired”), and so on.
“Everybody lies.” — House (2004-2012)
The medical series was the world’s most watched TV show in 2008—which meant that everyone got a dose of the unconventional wisdom prescribed by the unorthodox Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie). The catchphrase guided all of his interaction with patients and colleagues alike.
“Legendary!” — How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014)
How womanizer Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) described his latest enthusiasm, usually sprinkled with “wait for it.” Example: “It’s going to be legen…wait for it…dary! Legendary!”
“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!” — Friday Night Lights (2006-2011)
The rallying cry of the Dillon Panthers, the high school football team in Texas whose wins and losses were profiled in the acclaimed book, film, and TV show.
“Bazinga!” — The Big Bang Theory (2007- )
What humor-impaired nerd Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) says after his latest attempt at a joke fails. Parsons’ way of saying it has won him a bazingous four Emmys to date.
“Live long and prosper” — Star Trek (1966-1969)
Leonard (“Spock”) Nimoy’s final tweet, posted five days before his death on Feb. 27, read: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP.”