“Where is the weirdest place you’ve ever gotten the urge to make whoopee?”
That was the question posed by game show host Bob Eubanks in a 1977 episode of The Newlywed Game, which pitted pairs of newlyweds against each other to see how well they knew their partner. It was a pretty common question on the game show, meant to elicit answers like, “in the car” and “in the kitchen,” but on this particular episode, one woman sort of misunderstood the question, and answered, “In the ass.”
You can easily find the moment online — even if it’s bleeped — but it was cut from the broadcast in 1977, and for the next several decades, it became something of an urban legend. Even Eubanks himself thought that it never actually happened until the clip resurfaced decades later. Since then, it’s been hailed as one of the funniest bloopers in TV history, and rightfully so — even if it does give an outsized legacy to the phrase “making whoopee,” which is probably the stupidest euphamism for sex in the history of fucking.
Eubanks has often told the story of why “making whoopee” was the chosen turn of phrase on The Newlywed Game instead of some other less ridiculous-sounding term. He even took credit for it — in a 1987 interview, he explained, “I don’t use ‘making love,’ because I won’t use a term that you might have to explain to young children before you wanted to. That’s why they came up with ‘making whoopee.’ Making whoopee can be whatever you want. Making whoopee is having a party, or just hugging and kissing.”
But Eubanks and The Newlywed Game writers didn’t invent “making whoopee.” According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “whoop” has been a word meaning to “cry out” since the mid-14th century. It’s led to some similar phrases that are still around today, like “whooping cough,” “big whoop” and “whoop-de-do.” Meanwhile, “whoopee” — or “whoopie,” as it’s also spelled — first popped up around 1845, with a meaning of “unrestrained revelry.” This, supposedly, is where “whoopie pies” got their name. Per their origin story, when someone first put vanilla frosting between two tiny chocolate cakes — in 1918 or 1925 — they shouted, “Whoopie!” and the name was born.
According to etymologist Barry Popik, “making” was added to “whoopee” in the early 20th century, with the earliest known usage being in a 1920 edition of the Elk City News-Democrat. At that point, it meant something closer to general “fun.” It didn’t seem to take on sexual overtones until 1928, with the release of the popular song “Makin’ Whoopee,” written by songwriter Gus Khan and performed by actor and singer Eddie Cantor.
On the surface, “Makin’ Whoopie” was a comedic song about marriage, which starts out as praising it, then paints it as a trap for men. The use of the phrase “makin’ whoopee” means “fun” or “celebration” throughout the song, but it could just as easily mean “sex,” as Popik confirms that it was intended to have a double meaning. To offer just a sample, here’s how the song begins:
Another bride, another June
Another sunny honeymoon
Another season, another reason
For makin’ whoopee
The song was hugely popular and countless other artists would cover it, including Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong. After 1928, the sexual meaning “making whoopee” would stick around as well, but its use fell off until the 1950s, when it started to pick up steam again. This is most likely because a few popular artists like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald recorded their own versions around that time. This is also when TV first came about, and the phrase may have been a clever way to get a sexual references past the censors. The most popular example would be The Newlywed Game, which debuted in 1966 and featured different questions about “making whoopee” nearly every week.
Since then, references to “making whoopie” generally fall under two categories: people covering that song, and people referring to The Newlywed Game. The song “Makin’ Whoopee” is generally considered to be part of “The Great American Songbook,” and to this day, people still cover it. In 1989, Michelle Pfeiffer performed it in the film The Fabulous Baker Boys, Elton John and Rod Stewart performed a duet of it on a 2005 album and it even appeared on a 2011 episode of Family Guy. Meanwhile, The Newlywed Game, which originally ran from 1966 until 1974, has come back nine more times, with its most recent revival running from 2010 until 2013. And since “making whoopee” was one of the most memorable parts of the original show, the revivals all referred to sex the same way.
As for whether or not it’s actually the dumbest-ever euphemism for sex, etymologist Mark Peters, author of the book Bullshit: A Lexicon, tells me that there are some other sexual euphemisms that he thinks may rival it. These include, but are not limited to: “Do a bit of ladies’ tailoring,” “Have a bit of summer cabbage” and “Make feet for children’s shoes.” Still, he says, “making whoopee” is tough to beat,” and that it “might be the most likely term to ensure you never get laid.”
Sure enough, I could find no record on the internet of such a phrase actually making people want to have sex — be it in the ass or anywhere else.