The 'You Get a Car' Moment That Wasn't Planned, According To Oprah

You’ve seen her in dramatic roles in movies like The Color Purple and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. You’ve seen her bringing the laughs on 30 Rock and on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. But there’s a good chance that hearing the name Oprah Winfrey mainly brings to mind her quasi-catchphrase “You get a car!” After all these years, Winfrey has finally explained how that moment happened, and how those eternally jubilant declarations weren’t a planned portion of the episode.

Though it took place over a decade ago, Winfrey somehow never went public with the details behind this iconic slice of daytime television. If you’ll recall, the audience for that September 13, 2004 episode all had boxes, and they were told that only one person had a new car key inside, when in fact everyone had a key. Here’s how she explained the madness behind “You get a car!”

I was saying that because people were screaming so loudly they didn't know what was going on. Prior to that moment, I had said, 'Open up your boxes. One person has a key.' So when I looked at the faces of the audience, they go, 'But I have a key ... but she has a key. I thought I had the key.' So that's why I said, 'You get a car! You get a car!' to try to clarify, because they all looked so confused. Everybody gets a car!

Oprah has been known for giveaways over the years, and the car one was by far the most memorable. So it’s strange to learn that her cheers were the product of an entire audience not understanding what was happening at the time. Who can blame them, though? It’s not every day you win something so life-changing simply by being in an audience.

Of course, you might recall that the joy-inspiring giveaway wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. The “free” cars still had taxes to be paid, which set some people back around $6,000, and not everyone actually kept their new vehicles. Some had to sell them, though others were okay with paying a mere $6,000 for a car that was worth over four times that amount.

You can catch the whole Entertainment Tonight interview below, which shows off Oprah Winfrey’s changes in hair and weight throughout the years.

There’s no more Oprah Winfrey Show for audiences to watch, but you can still catch Winfrey herself on her network OWN on the show Oprah Presents: Master Class, with the next episode with Patty LaBelle airing Sunday, November 22.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.