Mignon McLaughlin? Leata McQuiston? Barbara Bush? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: “Be yourself” is an ubiquitous platitude. Here is a funny variant: Don’t be yourself—be someone a little nicer. Would you please explore the provenance of this quip?
Quote Investigator: The earliest instance located by QI appeared in a newspaper column called “Chatter” by Leata McQuiston published in the “Hobbs Daily News-Sun” of New Mexico in May 1964. The statement was enclosed in quotation marks signaling that the columnist was disclaiming credit for the humorous remark: 1964 May 31, Hobbs Daily News-Sun, Chatter by Leata McQuiston, Quote Page 8, Column 4, Hobbs, New Mexico. (Newspapers_com)
“Don’t be yourself—be someone a little nicer.”
The second earliest instance located by QI appeared in “The Spokesman-Review” of Washington as a filler item within an advertisement section called “Shop With Sue” in October 1964. No attribution was specified. 1964 October 29, The Spokesman-Review, Shop With Sue (Filler item within advertisement), Quote Page 5, Column 8, Spokane, Washington. (Newspapers_com)
Thus, the quip was circulating as an anonymous joke by 1964.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.