This catchphrase inspired Daffy Duck's "hoo hoo, hoo hoo" phrase during the early years of the character. So many imitators (including Curly Howard of The Three Stooges) copied the catchphrase as "woo woo" that Herbert actually adopted "woo woo" himself in the 1940s.
Herbert's earliest movies, like Wheeler & Woolsey's 1930 feature Hook, Line and Sinker, cast him in generic comedy roles that could have been taken by any comedian. Herbert soon developed his own unique screen personality, complete with a silly giggle, and this new character caught on quickly. He was frequently featured in Warner Brothers films of the 1930s, including Footlight Parade,Dames, Bureau of Missing Persons, Fog Over Frisco, Fashions of 1934, Gold Diggers of 1935, as well the 1935 film adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. He also played leads in B comedies, notably Sh! The Octopus, a 1937 comedy-mystery featuring an exceptional unmasking of the culprit. Herbert was often caricatured in Warners' Looney Tunes shorts of the '30s and '40s, such as The Hardship of Miles Standish and Speaking of the Weather.
In 1939 Herbert signed with Universal Pictures, where, as at Warners, he played supporting roles in major films, and leading roles in minor ones. One of his best-received performances from this period is in the Olsen and Johnson comedy Hellzapoppin', in which Hugh plays a nutty detective.
Herbert joined Columbia Pictures in 1943 and became a familiar face in short subjects, with the same actors and directors who made the Stooges shorts. He continued to star in these comedies for the remainder of his life. Shortly before his death from a heart attack in 1952, he appeared on network television, making a surprise appearance (in drag) on a live Spike Jones show.
He co-wrote the screenplay for the 1928 film Lights of New York and contributed to 1929's The Great Gabbo.
Herbert has a "star" on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Hugh's brother, Tom Herbert, was also a screen comedian who played mildly flustered roles. Fans of Laurel and Hardy and The Three Stooges may recall Tom Herbert as the nervous bartender confronted by Lupe Vélez in Hollywood Party. He is featured in Warners' 1940 short subject Double or Nothing – as Hugh Herbert's movie double.