'I'll Have What She's Having!' See When Harry Met Sally...'s Deli Scene Through Pop Culture History
From the Muppets to Family Guy, everyone loves Meg Ryan's performance in the 1989 classic film
It’s curious how the single best line in Nora Ephron’s script for When Harry Met Sally…, released July 14, 1989, is spoken by neither Harry nor Sally. Instead, it’s an unnamed character who reacts to Sally’s fake orgasm in Katz’s Deli with, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
(Skip to the 1:33 mark in case Meg Ryan’s impassioned theatrics aren’t workplace-friendly.)
The actress is Estelle Reiner, mother of Rob Reiner, who directed the film. Her few seconds onscreen allowed her to start a catchphrase that’s outlasted the likes of even “Where’s the beef?” and “I’ll be back.” Seriously, 25 years after the release of When Harry Met Sally…, variations on “I’ll have what she’s having” are still making the rounds in pop culture. And here is every instance we could find. (You’re welcome.)
Yep, the ’90s reboot of The Muppet Show did a riff on the deli scene, only with faking a sneeze subbing in for faking an orgasm. The result? Miss Piggy, dolled up like Sally, essentially faking an orgasm for Billy Crystal. It’s actually a little disturbing, but you’ve got to love the Estelle Reiner Muppet who says, “I’ll have what she’s having – only less pepper.”
In this scene from the show’s sixth season, Steve Carell’s character speaks the line to defuse the awkwardness of Ellie Kemper’s meltdown in a restaurant. She’s just received some news that she does not take well (“In the foster home, my hair was my room”), and Carell offers up “I’ll have what she’s having” in attempt to play off the bad reaction as a faked orgasm. It doesn’t work, of course, but the implication is that even Michael Scott knew that everyone in the room would get the reference.
Seth McFarlane’s shows feature one pop-culture shout-out after another, so it should be no surprise that Family Guy has made not one but three “I’ll have what she’s having” jokes. In this clip, Peter attempts to use it as a suave action-hero line when Brian points out that his first pick, Lethal Weapon 2‘s “It’s just been revoked,” doesn’t make sense in context. And in two earlier episodes, both Brian and Stewie get a chance to use it.
Kellogg’s Just Right
The actress in this Australian cereal commercial scales back her excitement a little – after all, it is just cereal – but it’s still enough to inspire the older woman at the next table to say “I’ll have what she’s having,” and it aired on TV not long after When Harry Met Sally… put the phrase into the public consciousness.
Clairol’s Herbal Essences
Although not quite as direct as the Kellogg’s ad, the commercials for Herbal Essences used the deli scene as a model for years, trading in on Meg Ryan’s performance to sell shampoo. They all follow the same basic format: A young woman uses the shampoo, lets loose with the squeals that everyone listening mistakes for something else, and in the last few moments an older woman does a variation on “I’ll have what she’s having.” Here, it’s the far less funny “Could you bring me some of that shampoo?” And in this ad, the Estelle Reiner role is played by Dr. Ruth, just in case the sexy implications weren’t clear enough.
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson
Perhaps even weirder than Miss Piggy as Sally is Craig Ferguson as Sean Connery as Sally, opposite Craig Ferguson as Michael Caine as Harry. And yes, Craig Ferguson also gets to say “I’ll have what he’s having,” in character as a British thing.
The Comedians of Comedy
Comedy Central’s 2005 TV series sent comedians Zach Galifianakis and Maria Bamford to Katz’s Deli to re-create the famous scene with the genders flipped. The “I’ll have what he’s having line” gets spoken by Parks and Recreation actor John Glaser, who also very explicitly explains his motivations for the order.
The same crew responsible for the No Pants Subway Ride also staged a real-life When Harry Met Sally… moment at Katz’s Deli. If you think it would be strange to see one woman faking it in the middle of a crowded restaurant, try dozens of them spontaneously moaning and slamming the table in apparent ecstasy. The variation on the classic line? “I’ll have what they’re having,” of course.
The pop culture blender that is Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken crossed When Harry Met Sally… and Harry and the Hendersons. Because why not? In the end, the Estelle Reiner stand-in elects not to have what she’s having, agitated Sasquatch at the next table and all.
When Harry Met Sally 2
(Warning: There’s some NSFW language in this one, but you’re probably not watching these in your office with the speakers on full-blast, are you?) After having let everyone else have a shot at the deli scene, Billy Crystal himself revisited it in a Funny or Die video he made with Helen Mirren. Spoiler: It involves elderly vampires (“grampires”), and the “I’ll have what she’s having” lady doesn’t survive long enough to speak the entire line.
Immensity of Justice ("Bezmiar Sprawiedliwosci")
It’s not just comedies that use the line. It’s not even just English-language media, either, as this 2006 Polish film re-created the deli scene. In case you’re not fluent in Polish, the male character wonders if the older woman in the background will say “I’ll have what she’s having.” Instead, she scolds them: “That was scandalous!” Polish cinema, everyone!
SNL’s Weekend Update
As Bill Hader’s Stefon explains, your best bet for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner in New York City is Booooooooof (yes, with nine O’s). If you’ve ever wanted to see the When Harry Met Sally… line rolled up into an impression of Gizmo from Gremlins, this is the clip for you.
Upright Citizens Brigade
And finally we have this UCB short starring 30 Rock actor Sue Galloway as Estelle Reiner herself – and repeatedly botching the classic line, from “She’ll have from I’m having” to “I’ll ham what she’s hamming” to “Oh, I’ll have anything. I’m not picky.” It’s maybe the funniest of the bunch.