Wayne’s World is why we say “That’s what she said”

Wayne's World, the popular comedy movie starring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, helped popularise the phrase "That's what she said"

Mike Myers and Dana Carvey in Wayne's World

Party time, excellent! The classic comedy movie Wayne’s World turns 30 this year, and you’ll struggle to find amore joyous send up of ’80s and ’90s culture. Amid the many gifts the film offers, one you mightn’t be aware of is that it’s considered responsible for popularising the classic “That’s what she said” refrain.

If you’ve watched recently, you may have noticed a scene where Garth (Dana Carvey) says, “Are we through yet, because I’m getting tired of holding this.” Wayne (Mike Myers) then responds “Yeah, that’s what she said.” Many laughs, japes, and giggles are had. This is more or less the nexus point for the phrase becoming common parlance in popular culture. It existed before, on Wayne’s World’s forebear TV series Saturday Night Live, where it can be track as far back as the ’70s.

But the mainstream saturation of Wayne’s World, a commercial hit that’s a staple of many people’s favourite movies, provided that extra oomph for the punchline to enter the public consciousness. It’s a modern variation on an older, British saying, “As the actress said to the Bishop”, associated with Lillie Langtry and the Bishop of Worcester in the early 1900s. The etymology is a little sketchy, but Charles Dickens’s Sam Weller, a satirical character in The Pickwick Papers, is believed to have been an influence.

The Office, both US and UK, made its best effort to drill the joke into the ground. All told, it’s quite juvenile, but the commonality begs the question of its origin, and Wayne’s World being part of the answer just goes to show the power of good comedy.

Wayne’s World remains the high-grossing movie based on an SNL sketch, and spawned one sequel, in 1993. You can find it on Amazon Prime, if this has inspired you to check it out, or give it a righteous rewatch.

In any case, party on.