How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall? Practice!

Jascha Heifetz? Arthur Rubinstein? Generic Maestro?

Dear Quote Investigator: How old is that classic joke about one of New York City’s landmark venues?

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

Quote Investigator: Tracing jokes can be difficult because they can be told in so many ways. Etymologist Barry Popik is one of the most skilled practitioners of word and phrase tracing in the world, and he shares his results at the Big Apple website.

Popik has a web page about this quip that includes its earliest known appearance.

The syndicated column “The Wit Parade” by E.E. Kenyon on March 13, 1955 [CAR] contains the clever remark and in this version the word practice is not repeated.

The absent-minded maestro was racing up New York’s Seventh Avenue to a rehearsal, when a stranger stopped him. “Pardon me,” he said, “can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?”

“Yes,” answered the maestro breathlessly. “Practice!”

QI has found a fun variant of the joke that was told a few years later in the 1950s and is based on another New York landmark [BAS].

Al Schacht was standing outside his New York eatery the other day when a stranger walked over and asked: “Say, how do ya get to Yankee Stadium?” To which Schacht replied with a straight face: “Practice, practice, practice!” — Arthur Richman in the New York Mirror.

[CAR] 1955 March 13, Washington (DC) Post, “The Wit Parade” by E. E. Kenyon, pg. AW22. Also 1955 March 13, Plain Dealer (The American Weekly), The Wit Parade by E.E. Kenyon, Page 22, Cleveland, Ohio. (GeneaologyBank)

[BAS] December-January 1959, Baseball Digest, page 31, vol. 7, no. 10, Lakeside Publishing Co.. (Google Books full view) link

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