A Celebrity Works Hard For Years To Become Famous Then Wears Dark Glasses To Avoid Being Recognized

Joseph Curtin? Earl Wilson? Adolphe Menjou? Paul H. Gilbert? Danny Kaye? Fred Allen? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Achieving great fame is a common goal, but the drawbacks of mass popularity emerge clearly whenever someone succeeds. There is a joke based on this insight that chides celebrities who wear dark glasses. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in the gossip column of Earl Wilson in July 1947. The radio actor Joseph Curtin received credit for the jibe. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

WISH I’D SAID THAT: A celebrity, said Joseph Curtin, is a guy who works all his life to become famous enough to be recognized—then goes around in dark glasses so no one’ll know who he is.

This quip can be expressed in many ways; hence, it is difficult to trace. Earlier citations may be discovered by future researchers.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Celebrity Works Hard For Years To Become Famous Then Wears Dark Glasses To Avoid Being Recognized

Notes:

  1. 1947 July 12, The Times Recorder, Big Town Heat by Earl Wilson, Quote Page 4, Column 5, Zanesville, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)

Television: It’s Called a Medium Because It’s Never Well Done

Groucho Marx? Fred Waring? Ed Gardner? Goodman Ace? Jane Ace? Fred Allen? Ernie Kovacs? Deane Binder? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The number of scripted television shows has grown dramatically in recent years and so have the plaudits. Yet, from its earliest days the medium has always attracted scorn. Here are three examples of lacerating word play:

  • Television is a medium where if anything is well done, it’s rare.
  • Television: We call it a medium because nothing’s well done.
  • Television is called a medium because it is neither rare nor well done.

Would you please explore the provenance of this humor?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI occurred in the “Chicago Sunday Tribune” of Illinois in May 1949. A concise definition of television appeared in a small box. The singer and show business personality Fred Waring received credit for the wordplay. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Definition
“Television: A new medium—rare, if well done!”
-Fred Waring.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Television: It’s Called a Medium Because It’s Never Well Done

Notes:

  1. 1949 May 15, Chicago Sunday Tribune (Chicago Tribune), Definition (Filler item), Part 6, Section 2, Quote Page 2, Column 5, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest)

I Would Rather Have Two Girls at 21 Each Than One At 42

W. C. Fields? Great Lester? Fred Allen? Anonymous Vaudevillian?

wcfields10Dear Quote Investigator: I have been trying to trace the following gag:

I’d rather have two girls at 21 each than one girl at 42.

This line is usually attributed to the famous comedian W. C. Fields who played cantankerous and henpecked characters in movies. Would you please explore its provenance? I recognize that today some would label the joke sexist and ageist.

Quote Investigator: W. C. Fields did sing this line while taking a shower in the 1939 film “You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man”. 1 However, the joke was already well-known to humorists before this film was shot.

The earliest strong match located by QI was printed in “The Seattle Daily Times” of Seattle, Washington in 1915. An advertisement for “The Pantages” theater mentioned a vaudeville performer named Great Lester and described his act as follows: 2

World’s Foremost Ventriloquist in His Cleverest and Funniest Exhibition! (He’s a Riot, Folks.)

The same newspaper page featured a section titled “Lines From Current Vaudeville” which recounted jokes that were being used in local venues. Here were two examples. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 3

“An optimist is a person who doesn’t give a whoop what happens so long as it doesn’t happen to him.”
—Howard & McCane, Orpheum.

“I would rather have two girls at 17 than one at 34.”
—Lester, Pantages.

The number of years specified in the quip was variable, e.g., 16, 17, 18, and 21. QI believes that the line was used by multiple comedians. QI does not know whether Great Lester crafted the statement or lifted it from a fellow performer.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Would Rather Have Two Girls at 21 Each Than One At 42

Notes:

  1. Subzin; Movie Subtitle Search, Movie: You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man, Year of Movie: 1939, Time stamp for quotation: 00:17:15, Quotation Line 01: I’d rather have two girls at 21 each, Quotation Line 02: Than one girl at 42. (Accessed on Subzin on April, 28 2015)
  2. 1915 February 23, The Seattle Daily Times, (Advertisement for the Pantages theater), Quote Page 9, Column 1, Seattle, Washington. (GenealogyBank)
  3. 1915 February 23, The Seattle Daily Times, Lines From Current Vaudeville, Quote Page 9, Column 4, Seattle, Washington. (GenealogyBank)