"That's What the Man Said"

Back in this posting here, Garrie Burr inquired about the origin of a catch-phrase that turns up on old episodes of The Jack Benny Program (on radio) and in several Warner Brothers cartoons. It's "That's what the man said, that's what he said, that's what the man said." I was stumped so I asked if anyone out there could help Garrie (and me) out.

Quite a few folks (too many to list) thought it came from this exchange in the Humphrey Bogart movie, The Big Sleep

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Floyd Norman mentions The Big Sleep then adds: "However, I think it goes back a bit further. Way back when I was a kid, my parents often took me to "colored movies," and black comics were always using the line, "Dat's what the man said, dat's what he said, he said it!" I found this line so funny I often used it in stuff I was writing. I used the line recently in a cartoon I was scripting. I dunno. It always made me laugh."

Several folks including Philip Grecian wrote that it was a catch-phrase of Eddie "Rochester" Anderson on the Benny program…and he certainly said it there a number of times. The question is whether he was referencing some earlier source.

Dick Halsey writes, "This Google Books link has a reference on page 83 to the quote in the subject. It was given as a catch phrase for the black maid character Beulah on the Fibber McGee and Molly Show.

Richard Pontius says, "Fanny Brice/Baby Snooks leaps to mind with that quote but I can't find any reference and can't say I recall hearing her say that, so the synapses may be misfiring."

Carl Pietrantonio writes, "It sounds awfully like a recurrent phrase used in Aaron Copland's Abraham Lincoln, performed over the years and voiced by different celebrities including Henry Fonda and Gregory Peck, among others. I've no idea if that is actually where it comes from and do not have a recording at hand right now, but got to thinking and maybe that's part of it. It was briefly vaguely popular so who knows."

And there were a few other votes that struck me as even wilder guesses. You can all decide for yourselves but I suspect its origin is forever lost in the antiquity of the black equivalent of on-stage burlesque comics. It just sounds to me like the kind of thing that would have come from there. If anyone has some solid evidence, let me know.