H. L. Mencken? Woody Allen? Walter Winchell? Alfred Lunt? Sarah Bernhardt? E. V. Durling? Jim Bishop? Colonel Stoopnagle? Frederick Chase Taylor? Leo Rosten? Humphrey Bogart? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: The following declaration of high praise has been applied to love making:
The most fun you can have without laughing.
Influential commentator H. L. Mencken and popular comedian Woody Allen have both received credit for this remark. Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: H. L. Mencken did place a version of this saying into his massive 1942 compendium of quotations, but he did not take credit; instead, he asserted that the author was unidentified. More than three decades later Woody Allen employed an instance in his 1977 Oscar-winning movie “Annie Hall”.
The earliest match located by QI occurred in the widely-syndicated column of Walter Winchell in January 1938. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
The latest definition of necking: How you can have the most fun without laughing.
QI hypothesizes that a comparable statement referring to sex was circulating at the time. Winchell or his informant bowdlerized the remark to yield the version about “necking”. Taboos of the period restricted depictions of carnality in newspapers.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1938 January 25, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, On Broadway Walter Winchell, Quote Page 24, Column 6, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com) ↩