Where's the beef?

"Where's the beef?" is a catch phrase best known in the United States and Canada. Since it was first used, it has become an all-purpose phrase questioning the substance of an idea, event or product.

It came to public attention in a 1980s U.S. television commercial created by Joe Sedelmaier as part of Dancer Fitzgerald Sample's fast food advertising campaign for the Wendy's chain of hamburger restaurants. In the ad, titled "Fluffy Bun", elderly actress Clara Peller receives a competitor's burger with a massive bun (the competitor's slogan was "Home of the Big Bun"). The small patty prompts the gruff Peller to angrily exclaim, "Where's the beef?" The humorous ad and Peller's memorable character soon gave the catch phrase a life of its own, and it was repeated in television shows, films, magazines, and other media outlets.

First airing on January 10, 1984, "Fluffy Bun" featured three elderly ladies examining an exaggeratedly large hamburger bun topped with a minuscule hamburger patty: the other two ladies poked at it, exchanging bemused comments ("It certainly is a big bun." "It's a big fluffy bun.") before being interrupted by Peller's outraged, irascible demand. Sequels featured Peller yelling at a Fluffy Bun executive on his yacht over the phone, and approaching drive-up windows at fast food restaurants that were slammed down before she could complete the line.

The advertising campaign ended in 1985 after Peller performed in a commercial for Prego pasta sauce, saying that she "really found" the beef.

Gary Hart and Walter Mondale

The phrase was associated with the 1984 U.S. presidential election. During primaries in the spring of 1984, when the commercial was at its height of popularity, Democratic candidate and former Vice President Walter Mondale ridiculed the candidacy of his rival, Senator Gary Hart, by using the phrase during a March 11, 1984 televised debate prior to the New York and Pennsylvania primaries.

Hart had moved his candidacy from dark horse to the lead over Mondale based on his repeated use of the phrase "new ideas". When Hart once again used the slogan in the debate, Mondale leaned forward and said, "When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad, 'Where's the beef?'" The line got a great response from the audience. Subsequently, the two campaigns continually clashed using the two dueling slogans (Hart presented his book, published later, to the press between two slices of bun).

In popular culture

  • The TV series The Simpsons has referenced the line several times. In the episode "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie", after Homer receives an honor roll bumper sticker for Lisa, he says that he never thought he would find anything that would replace his "Where's the beef?" bumper sticker. In "Lisa's First Word", Homer, while looking at a newspaper from Lisa's birth, the headline reads "Mondale to Hart: 'Where's the Beef?'" In "Please Homer, Don't Hammer 'Em", Bart sees a very old arcade game that depicts Rocky Balboa and Clara Peller shouting their respective catchphrases (Balboa's being "You ain't so bad!")
  • In an episode of the television series Scrubs, a patient that has been in a coma since the 1980s awakes. Wearing a red jacket similar to one worn by Michael Jackson in a music video, he moonwalks into the scene with a Rubik's Cube and asks, "Where's the Beef?"
  • Leonard Cohen, in his song "Closing Time", wrote, "Ah we're lonely, we're romantic and the cider's laced with acid and the Holy Spirit's crying, 'Where's the beef?' and the moon is swimming naked and the summer night is fragrant with a mighty expectation of relief."
  • In an episode of The Office, Michael Scott cited "Where's the beef?" as something that an older generation gave to society.


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