‘The Big Bang Theory’: Bazinga Comes From a Practical Joke Involving a Grapefruit

The Big Bang Theory is one of the most popular TV shows ever to run on the CBS network. The series rose to popularity early on, with thousands of fans gravitating to the eccentric characters and “nerdy” situations.

Although The Big Bang Theory went off the air in 2019, reruns air daily, with new and existing fans turning to the series to provide some much-needed humor and wit. The Big Bang Theory spawned a huge fandom and several popular catchphrases — including one notable catchphrase that has become closely identified with the character of Sheldon Cooper. 

How long did ‘The Big Bang Theory’ run on television?

Howard Wolowitz with Leonard Hofstadter and Colonel Williams
Howard Wolowitz with Leonard Hofstadter and Colonel Williams | Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images

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The Big Bang Theory premiered on television in 2007. The show tells the story of five main characters — Sheldon Cooper, a socially awkward genius who works as a physicist at Caltech, along with his roommate and friend Leonard Hofstadter, aerospace engineer Howard Wolowitz and astrophysicist Raj Koothrappali. Rounding out the main cast of characters is Penny, a popular and pretty aspiring actress who lives across the hall from the science geeks. 

Filmed in front of a live audience, The Big Bang Theory quickly became one of the most popular shows on television. Full of situation comedy and cameos from popular stars like Carrie Fisher and Bill Nye, the show rose in rankings, week after week.

Critics noticed the series, as well, and over time, The Big Bang Theory received multiple awards and nominations, including scoring seven Emmy Awards in total. Fans were able to grow and learn with the characters, and when The Big Bang Theory went off the air after twelve successful seasons in early 2019, it was the end of an era. 

What does the catchphrase ‘Bazinga!’ mean?

Sheldon Cooper is by far the most eccentric character featured in The Big Bang Theory. Sheldon lives by his own bizarre set of rules for life and doesn’t often get close to people — a byproduct of his genius way with numbers and theories. Sheldon also has his own, very distinct, vocabulary, and was frequently shown to utilize words and phrases that he either made up or picked from old textbooks.

His most popular catchphrase was undoubtedly “Bazinga!” The phrase was used by Sheldon after he played a prank or practical joke, or even hit one of his friends with a pun that he considered to be particularly devastating. Over time, “Bazinga!” became popular with fans as well, and was used to decorate merchandise, including T-shirts, coffee mugs, calendars, and other items. 

How did the writers for ‘The Big Bang Theory’ come up with the ‘Bazinga!’ phrase?

Even though the phrase is one that is usually uttered by Sheldon Cooper, played by the talented actor Jim Parsons, it was actually one of the writers for The Big Bang Theory that came up with “Bazinga!” According to executive producer Bill Prady, writer Stephen Engel would often play a practical joke where he opened up a grapefruit and hollowed it out, before taping it back together.

When Prady, a grapefruit lover, would go to cut open the grapefruit, he was shocked by the hollowed-out fruit. “I’d open it up and (he) would say ‘bazinga,” Prady recalled. “It was Stephen’s word for gotcha.”

The word was incorporated into The Big Bang Theory, ultimately becoming one of Sheldon’s all-time signature phrases. Even though the show itself is no longer on the air, the influence that it has had on pop culture will live on — including, no doubt, the enduring popularity of the phrase “Bazinga!” Stay tuned to Showbiz Cheat Sheet for all the latest entertainment news!