Hard Work Never Killed Anyone But Some of Us Don’t Like To Take Chances

Edgar Bergen? Charlie McCarthy? Florian ZaBach? Walter Winchell? Earl Wilson? George Gobel? Sam Levenson? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: During my younger years when I was slow to perform a boring task my parents sometimes scolded me by proclaiming a cliché about hard work. Eventually, I came across a funny riposte:

It might be true that hard work never killed anyone, but why take a chance?

This joke has been credited to Edgar Bergen and his ventriloquist dummy character Charlie McCarthy. Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared as an anonymous filler item in a Plainfield, New Jersey newspaper in September 1936. The lengthy phrasing blunted the humor. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

They say hard work never killed anyone but some of us are just naturally apprehensive and timid and don’t like to take chances.

A 1979 book by television host Joe Franklin contained a brief transcript from a performance by Edgar Bergen during which his character Charlie McCarthy employed this type of punchline, but no date was specified. The duo performed for decades starting in the 1920s.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Hard Work Never Killed Anyone But Some of Us Don’t Like To Take Chances

Notes:

  1. 1936 September 12, Plainfield Courier-News, (Filler item), Quote Page 6, Column 1, Plainfield, New Jersey. (Newspapers_com)

Whoever Said Money Can’t Buy Happiness Didn’t Know Where To Shop

Gertrude Stein? Joanna Lee? Fred Neher? Kate Osann? George Gobel? Bo Derek? John E. Gibson? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Twisting timeworn adages produces new comical sayings. Altering a hoary remark about wealth and happiness yields a maxim for shopaholics:

Anyone who says money doesn’t buy happiness doesn’t know where to shop.

The prominent literary figure Gertrude Stein has received credit for this saying. Is this attribution accurate?

Quote Investigator: QI has been unable to find substantive evidence to support the ascription to Gertrude Stein who died in 1946. The linkage may have been established by a misreading of the text in the 1987 citation presented further below.

The earliest match known to QI occurred in an episode titled “All About Eva” from the third season of the television series “Gilligan’s Island”. The episode was written by Joanna Lee and first broadcast on December 12, 1966 according to the Gilligan’s Island Wiki on the Fandom website. 1 QI watched the episode and verified the following dialog. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

Professor (Russell Johnson): “Well, I’m sorry folks, but money can’t buy happiness!”

Mrs. Howell (Natalie Schafer): “Anyone who says money can’t buy happiness doesn’t know where to shop.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Whoever Said Money Can’t Buy Happiness Didn’t Know Where To Shop

Notes:

  1. Website: Fandom – Gilligan’s Island Wiki, Season 3, Episode 14: All About Eva, Air Date on Website: December 12, 1966, Episode Writer: Joanna Lee, Website description: Information about Gilligan’s Island. (Accessed gilligan.fandom.com on January 25, 2019) link
  2. Dailymotion video, Title: Gilligan’s Island All About Eva S03E14, Uploaded May 2018, (Quotation starts at 10 minutes 13 seconds of 25 minutes 16 seconds). Description: This video is an episode of “Gilligan’s Island” called “All About Eva”. (Accessed on dailymotion.com on January 25, 2019)