The Surprising Origins Of ‘That’s What She Said’


‘That’s what she said’ was the best bad joke of the 2000s.

Most often poached from The Office, it forced almost any sentence into unintentional sexual meanings, even when you were just ‘trying to get in’ the next lane or declared your shirt wouldn’t fit because it’s ‘just too big’.

But while the phrase seems to have come out of nowhere, it has very definite origins and they’re actually fairly recent. And the folks over at the Today I Found Out YouTube channel have attempted to trace them back through the history of your dad’s favorite joke.

If you managed to escape the ‘that’s what she said’ phase growing up, here’s a montage of what you missed:

In America, the earliest documented case of the phrase appears in a 1975 episode of Saturday Night Live with Chevy Chase during the ‘Weekend Update’ on the show’s first season. After that, it was kept in popular use on SNL through repeated uses in Wayne’s World sketches and, later, the movie.

But the joke dates farther than the 1970s and is actually a twist on a much older British phrase that goes back more than a century to the Edwardian period (or, 1901-1910).

Back then, the line was ‘said the actress to the bishop,’ in reference to actresses — whose company could be purchased after performances — confessing their sexual sins to clergymen.


Although it sounds more PG than the 2000s version, it was used the same way as ‘that’s what she said’ and highlighted an unintended double entendre.

So next time you spot an innuendo in the wild, remember its long history. Or, just shout out ‘that’s what she said’ loud enough for everyone and their mother to hear.