Betty White's Herring Joke Has Fans Laughing Through Their Tears

The late comedic actress, Betty White, who lived to be nearly 100 years old despite shunning green foods and died at age 99 on December 31, 2021, was best known by some for her role as Sue Ann Nivens on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," which aired throughout the 1970s. By the mid-'80s, however, White had become synonymous with another hit television show, "The Golden Girls." This time, White played the naif Minnesota-to-Florida transplant, Rose Nylund, whose trademark stories about St. Olaf, Minnesota, were equal parts rambling and hilarious.

If we had to pick just one such scene to illustrate White's considerable talents, it would have to be the "herring war" story from the final season of "The Golden Girls." In an episode titled "The Way We Met," which aired in May of 1986, the three women reminisce about how they came together despite their obvious and hilarious differences (via IMDb). At one point, Rose throws up her hands and says, "The three of us cannot agree on anything," referring to herself and the characters played by Bea Arthur and Rue McClanahan, before sitting down at the kitchen table and launching into one of comedy's greatest moments. "This is exactly what happened during the great herring war," White (as Rose) begins her tale, which some users on Reddit and Twitter believe was improvised. Today, White's fans are remembering the herring joke and laughing through their tears, which is, we surmise, exactly how White would have wanted it.

Admit it, you also can't stop laughing at the herring joke

When White died at the end of 2021, fans were understandably caught off guard, especially because the always energetic star was only 16 days shy of her 100th birthday. Who else but someone with White's ageless verve could have infused something as seemingly mundane as the "great herring war" with so much sophisticated humor? In remembrance of White, "Golden Girls" fans on Reddit and Twitter shared a clip of the iconic scene on social media, and users are responding in awe of her talent.

If you haven't seen the scene, you'll just have to watch it to understand its grip on fans of all ages. Its impressiveness isn't only about the comically absurd idea of a smaller-than-Seaworld-but-larger-than-flea-circus herring war (don't ask). It's also about the fact that White keeps her composure throughout the entire scene, even as co-stars Arthur and McClanahan gradually lose theirs in amusement. Watching the clip, it would appear that the more her co-stars are giggling into their hands, the more White is pouring on the funny. It's a brilliant, heartwarming, and now-precious television moment that White's fans can cherish forever.