Oscar Levant? Edmund Fuller? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: I see on the website that you looked into a quotation credited to the pianist, actor, and wit Oscar Levant and showed that someone else probably said it first. But I am confident that the following quote was originally said by Levant, and it fits the theme of the blog:
An epigram is only a wisecrack that’s played at Carnegie Hall.
Could you tell me whether these are the words of Oscar Levant?
Quote Investigator: QI will be happy to research this saying for you. To understand the humor in the remark it is helpful to know that Carnegie Hall has historically been one of the top venues for musical performances in New York and the world. This epigram about epigrams does appear to be the creation of Levant, but the wording given above differs from the earliest instances found by QI.
In 1941 a collection titled “Thesaurus of Quotations” edited by Edmund Fuller listed the following version of the saying attributed to Oscar Levant [TQF]:
An epigram is a gag that’s played Carnegie Hall.
There are a few other versions of the saying. Here are selected citations in chronological order.