Walt Disney? Carolyn Kay Shafer? Douglas Adams? John Lloyd? Adam Breede? Ralph Spence? Anonymous?
Question for Quote Investigator: I first encountered the following quip many years ago. Here are two versions:
(1) You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps.
(2) You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it does help.
Would you please explore the origin of this humorous remark?
Reply from Quote Investigator: This joke has been employed by famous individuals. For example, in 1933 the entertainment entrepreneur Walt Disney received credit for the jest from his secretary:1
“We have a staff of exceptionally young people. Good fellowship predominates, but we all work hard.
“Mr. Disney is never too busy to be genuinely interested in each individual. He often says jokingly: ‘You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps!’”
This remark fits the following template: “You don’t have to be crazy to X, but it helps” A family of expressions of this type is sometimes called a snowclone. Here is an overview with dates which depicts the evolution of the joke:
1920 Jun: A man don’t have to be crazy to believe in Free Trade, but it helps. (Anonymous)
1921 Jul: A man don’t have to be crazy to play golf, but it helps a great deal. (Attributed to unnamed business man in St. Paul, Nebraska)
1925 Nov: You don’t have to be crazy to dance the Charleston, but it helps. (Attributed to Ralph Spence)
1925 Jun: You don’t have to be crazy to play this on a saxophone, but it helps a lot. (Crossword clue in “Judge” magazine)
1926 Aug: One doesn’t have to be crazy to pick an all-star team but it helps. (Columnist Percy the Pest)
1930 Dec: “Do you have to be crazy to write poetry?” “No, but it helps” (Anonymous)
1932 Jul: Mr. Allison also admits that one doesn’t have to be crazy to write columns, but that it helps. (Attributed to Albert Allison)
1933 Nov: You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps! (Attributed to Walt Disney)
1934 Sep: You don’t have to be a nut to go hunting and fishing, but it helps. (Columnist Hank in Springfield, Illinois newspaper)
1941 Feb: It is not necessary to go crazy over the work, but it helps. (Engineering student at University of Michigan)
1948 Mar: You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it does help. (Anonymous sign)
Additional details and citations are available in the article on the Medium platform which is located here.
Image Notes: Picture of a boardroom from Benjamin Child at Unsplash. The image has been cropped.
Acknowledgements: Great thanks to Laurence Horn, Bill Mullins, and Dan Goncharoff whose discussion thread inspired QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Also, thanks to British quotation expert Nigel Rees who discussed this topic in “Cassell’s Humorous Quotations” and included a 1969 Peter Nichols citation.
 1933 November 12, The Evansville Press, Mickey Mouse Played Cupid Role in Romance of Former Evansville Girl, Quote Page B1, Column 4, (Credit was given to Walt Disney by his secretary Carolyn Kay Shafer (Mrs. Frank Churchill)), Evansville, Indiana. (Newspapers_com)