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What does "Jumping the Couch Mean"?

By Garry Crystal
Updated May 23, 2024
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The phrase jumping the shark has been in use ever since the Happy Days character Fonzie water-skied over a shark in an episode of the show. This term is used when a television goes past its sell-by date and loses its appeal for the audience. The latest jumping phrase to appear, thanks to megastar actor Tom Cruise, is jumping the couch.

Jumping the couch is taken from Cruise's appearance on Oprah Winfrey's chat show. When questioned by Winfrey over his relationship with actress Katie Holmes, Cruise jumped on Winfrey's couch, and to many, appeared to lose the plot completely. Proclaiming undying love for Holmes, Cruise bounced up and down repeatedly on Winfrey's couch in front of the watching world.

Cruise danced on the couch, crouched on one knee, and pounded the floor with his fist. Many watchers found the performance endearing, but many more watched with a kind of incredulous fascination. You could hear jaws dropping around the world. Some have said it was pure car crash television. Newspapers, magazines, and many talk shows discussed Cruise's jumping the couch moment.

The phrase started to become widespread after the Oprah show. Jumping the couch now has a place in the Internet Urban dictionary, which defines it as the moment when someone has gone completely off the deep end. Jumping the couch has been given a lease of life by media folk and was recently used in a column by New York Times writer Maureen Dowd.

Just as jumping the shark means the end is near for a television show, a similar consequence was to await Cruise after his jumping the couch moment. Sumner Redstone, the owner and chief executive officer of Viacom and Paramount Pictures, parted company with Cruise, claiming that the way in which Cruise conducts his personal life is career suicide. Redstone mentioned the jumping the couch moment in particular as a reason to part company with Cruise.

However, Cruise's jumping the couch moment should not cause him much concern. He is still ranked as one of world's highest paid actors. Last year, he managed to bring home 31 million US dollars (USD) - more than enough to buy Oprah a new couch.

Although many people found Cruise's jumping the couch moment sweet, many more find such public displays of affection, or insanity, irritating. The streets of Hollywood are littered with stars who have made huge public displays of everlasting love. Four months later, usually the length of a Hollywood marriage, many have moved onto someone else. Cruise is no doubt rich and talented enough to weather his jumping the couch moment, but any future arguments he has with Holmes over leaving the toilet seat up can easily be ended as she utters the words, "what happened to jumping the couch, Tom?"

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Discussion Comments
By Inaventu — On Dec 29, 2014

I remember when Tom Cruise started jumping on the couch during his interview. I think he was trying to be funny at first, acting like any other guy who happened to be married to a very beautiful young woman. But he forgot he wasn't just a regular guy. He was too old and too famous to be acting so over-the-top about his relationship. I mean, Katie Holmes is a very beautiful actress, but I can't imagine her jumping on a couch or banging the ground with her fist on a talk show.

Personally, I haven't heard the expression "jumping the couch" very often in conversation, unlike "jumping the shark". I'm wondering if Britney Spear's very public nervous breakdown would count as "jumping the couch", since she did shave her head and smash a car with an umbrella. Her career has survived that scandal, though.

By RocketLanch8 — On Dec 28, 2014

I think pop singer Mariah Carey had her "jumping the couch" moment when she appeared on the MTV show "TRL". I remember she was pushing an ice cream cart for no apparent reason, and she was barely dressed. The host seemed completely caught off guard, and he tried to make the best of a messed up situation. He asked Carey why she was there, and she went into a rambling monologue. I think she even took some of her clothes off. I don't think her career has ever recovered from that moment.

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