We Both Were Crazy About Girls

Groucho Marx? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Groucho Marx apparently once said that he pursued the affections of a woman for two years until he finally discovered that the woman was doing exactly the same thing: pursuing the affections of a woman. Would you please investigate this claim?

Quote Investigator: The 1967 collection of correspondence titled “The Groucho Letters” included a 1955 missive that the comedian sent to playwright and screenwriter Harry Kurnitz. Groucho included the following parenthetical quip: 1

Many years ago I chased a woman for almost two years, only to discover that her tastes were exactly like mine: we both were crazy about girls.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading We Both Were Crazy About Girls


  1. 1967, The Groucho Letters: Letters From and To Groucho Marx, Chapter: Friends Abroad, Letter Date: March 28, 1955, Letter From: Groucho Marx, Letter To: Harry Kurnitz (Playwright and Screenwriter), Quote Page 249, Publisher: Michael Joseph, London. (Verified with scans)

A Black Cat Crossing Your Path Signifies That the Animal Is Going Somewhere

Groucho Marx? Jack Oakie? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Encountering a black cat may bring you good luck or bad luck according to a complicated rule dictated by superstitious beliefs. The nature of the omen depends on whether the cat was traveling from left to right or the reverse. It also depends on whether the cat was moving toward you or away. I prefer the simple analysis credited to the famous comedian Groucho Marx:

A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere.

Did Groucho really say this? I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: This question is difficult to resolve. The earliest citation found by QI occurred in January 1931 when the quip was ascribed to the popular actor Jack Oakie. Yet, in July 1931 the joke was credited to Groucho Marx. Currently, Oakie is the leading candidate for authorship although future research may switch the attribution.

“The Marion Star” of Marion, Ohio published a piece about Oakie in January 1931 that included six jokes about superstitious beliefs. Here were three of them. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Oakie, you know, doesn’t believe in signs and superstitions and has drawn up a list of good and bad signs which can’t fail. Here are a few of them:

“A black cat crossing in front of a person signifies that the animal is going somewhere.

“Throwing salt over one’s shoulder is likely to give the impression that the wearer has dandruff.

“Thirteen is unlucky at a dinner when the host has only twelve chops.

The original phrasing of the black cat joke differed a bit from the common modern version.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Black Cat Crossing Your Path Signifies That the Animal Is Going Somewhere


  1. 1931 January 15, The Marion Star, Theater News and Reviews: Jack Oakie Spends Pleasant Pastime Kidding Gangsters by Hallie Houck, Quote Page 16, Column 4 and 5, Marion, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)

To My Embarrassment I Was Born in Bed with a Lady

Mark Twain? Groucho Marx? Wilson Mizner? Sydney J. Harris? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A funny man once said that he was embarrassed to discover that his behavior had always been scandalous; he had been born in bed with a lady. This line has been connected to Mark Twain, Groucho Marx, and Wilson Mizner. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI occurred in the 1930 book “Beds” by Groucho Marx. One section contained letters sent by Groucho in response to questions. The ellipsis in the following appeared in the original text: 1

It is Wilson Mizner, and not I, who recalls his embarrassment when he first came into the world, and found a woman in bed with him. . . . I wasn’t embarrassed.

Thus, Groucho credited the playwright, rogue, and wit Wilson Mizner. This citation is listed in the valuable reference “The Yale Book of Quotations” edited by Fred R. Shapiro. 2

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading To My Embarrassment I Was Born in Bed with a Lady


  1. 1976 (Copyright 1930 on original edition), Beds by Groucho Marx, Quote Page 70 and 71, Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Verified on paper)
  2. 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section: Wilson Mizner, Quote Page 526, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)

Who Ya Gonna Believe Me or Your Own Eyes?

Groucho Marx? Chico Marx? Popular Song? Peggy Hopkins Joyce? Dorothy Dix? Ace Reid? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: According to legend when the wife of a famous comedian caught him in bed with another person the entertainer was unperturbed and denied that anything improper was occurring:

Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?

This remark has been attributed to Groucho Marx. Some say the line was employed in a movie. Would you please examine its provenance?

Quote Investigator: The 1933 movie “Duck Soup” included a scene containing a similar quip without the word “lying”. The remark was spoken by Chico Marx who was playing the character Chicolini. He was imitating the appearance of the character played by Groucho Marx causing other members of the cast to confuse their identities.

The following exchange occurred between the actress Margaret Dumont playing Mrs. Gloria Teasdale and Chico Marx. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Teasdale: Your Excellency, I thought you left.
Chicolini: Oh no. I no leave.
Teasdale: But I saw you with my own eyes.
Chicolini: Well, who ya gonna believe me or your own eyes?

QI believes that Chico’s humorous interrogative evolved over time, and the genesis can be traced back to the early 1900s. Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Who Ya Gonna Believe Me or Your Own Eyes?


  1. YouTube video, Title: “Chico Not Groucho: Who Ya Gonna Believe, Me or Your Own Eyes – Duck Soup – Firefly Chicolini”, Uploaded on Jan 23, 2017, Uploaded by: James Schneider, Comment: Scene from 1933 movie “Duck Soup”, (Dialog starts at 9 seconds of 20 seconds) (Accessed on youtube.com on July 31, 2018) link

What Has Posterity Ever Done for Us?

Groucho Marx? John Stuart Mill? Joseph Addison? Thomas Stafford? Boyle Roche? Adam Neale? Samuel Goldwyn? Bill Nye?

Dear Quote Investigator: Making sacrifices now for the people and environment of the future is difficult. This challenge has been encapsulated with a humorous remark. Here are two versions:

  • Why should I care about posterity? What’s posterity ever done for me?
  • Why should I care about future generations? What have they ever done for me?

Groucho Marx often receives credit for this quip, but I have been unable to find a proper citation. Would you please explore the provenance of this statement?

Quote Investigator: Groucho Marx died in 1977, and an instance of this jest was ascribed to him near the end of his life in 1975, but the quip can be traced back to the 1700s.

A close variant appeared in “The Spectator” magazine in 1714. Joseph Addison and Richard Steele founded and operated the magazine, and both were significant literary and political figures. The passage below was reprinted in the works of Addison. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

I know when a man talks of posterity in matters of this nature he is looked upon with an eye of ridicule by the cunning and selfish part of mankind. Most people are of the humour of an old fellow of a colledge, who when he was pressed by the society to come into something that might redound to the good of their successors, grew very peevish, We are always doing, says he, something for posterity, but I would fain see posterity do something for us.

Addison disclaimed credit for the joke which he attributed to an “old fellow of a colledge”. The most likely candidate is Oxford scholar Thomas Stafford.

The Oxford Historical Society has published material from the papers of Thomas Hearne, an English diarist and antiquarian. An entry dated February 27, 1722/3 stated that on that day a great bell was sounded at Magdalen College, Oxford to honor Thomas Stafford, Fellow of the College, who had died that morning. Hearne then presented an anecdote from Stafford’s past: 2

He was a Man that lov’d to get Money, but was, however, very kind to his poor Relations. There is this Story going of him, that some of the College talking once of doing something by way of Benevolence or Generosity, upon some publick Account, & he asking for what reason, it was answered, to do good to Posterity. Posterity, says the Dr., What good will Posterity do for us?

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading What Has Posterity Ever Done for Us?


  1. 1721, The Works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison, Esq; Volume 4 of 4, The Spectator, Number 583, Issue Year: 1714, Issue Date: “Friday, August 20”, Start Page 105, Quote Page 107, Printed for Jacob Tonson at Shakespear’s-Head, London. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1907, Oxford Historical Society, Volume 50, Hearne’s Remarks and Collections: September 23, 1722 to August 9. 1725, Volume 8, Entry Date: February 27, 1722/3, Quote Page 50, Oxford Historical Society, Printed for the Society at Clarendon Press, Oxford, England. (HathiTrust Full View) link

I Spent a Good Part of Last Evening Laughing at a Very Bad Play

Walter Kerr? Groucho Marx? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Comedies rarely win prestigious awards. Critics are unaccountably hostile to works that make them guffaw. Groucho Marx once described a critic who laughed heartily and repeatedly during the performance of a play, yet crafted and published an excoriating newspaper review the next day using the barbed phrases “tasteless and tatterdemalion” and “very bad play”. Do you know the critic’s name?

Quote Investigator: Walter Kerr was an influential theater critic for the “New York Herald Tribune” in the 1950s and 1960s. After that newspaper closed he continued his efforts at “The New York Times”. In 1958 Kerr evaluated a comedy from Norman Barasch and Carroll Moore: 1

This is not so much a review as a confession. I spent a good part of an evening laughing at a very bad play—”Make A Million.”

. . . tawdry, tasteless, and tatterdemalion as the evening is, “Make A Million” is—as often as not—stubbornly funny.

. . . “Make A Million” isn’t respectable by any standards I can think of; but it does have an unexpected, and just about inexplicable funnybone.

Below are two additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Spent a Good Part of Last Evening Laughing at a Very Bad Play


  1. 1958 October 30, The Cincinnati Enquirer, This Is No Review; It’s a Confession by Walter Kerr, Quote Page 9B, Column 1 to 4, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)

I Have Just One Day, Today, and I’m Going To Be Happy In It

Groucho Marx? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Reportedly, Groucho Marx once described his philosophy of life. He stated that each day he had the power to choose to be happy or unhappy, and he would select happiness. Are you familiar with his statement on this topic? Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Groucho Marx was 86 when he died in 1977. In 1972 Rufus W. Gosnell who was a columnist in an Aiken, South Carolina newspaper ascribed the following to Groucho. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Each morning when I open my eyes, I say to myself; “I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.” That’s a system that has worked for Groucho Marx for a long time; try it.

This statement apparently was assembled from fragments employed by others as suggested by the citations listed in chronological order below. Continue reading I Have Just One Day, Today, and I’m Going To Be Happy In It


  1. 1972 August 30, Aiken Standard, Here’s Rufus by Rufus W. Gosnell, Quote Page 1-B, Column 5, Aiken, South Carolina. (Newspapers_com)

He Got His Good Looks from His Mother. She’s a Plastic Surgeon

Groucho Marx? Frank Parker? Marty Allen? Steve Rossi? Dorothy Shay? Ed Reed? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The comedian Groucho Marx apparently crafted a witty twist on beauty and inheritance. Here are two versions:

  • He got his good looks from his mother. She’s a plastic surgeon.
  • She got her good looks from her father. He’s a plastic surgeon.

Would you please explore the provenance of this quip?

Quote Investigator: Groucho Marx who died in 1977 received credit for this joke by 1968, but it has a very long evolutionary history. A precursor in 1898 implied aesthetic enhancement via makeup instead of plastic surgery: 1

Ella—Where does Belle get her good looks from—her father or her mother?
Stella—From her father; he keeps a drug store.—New York Journal.

The above item from “The Times-Visitor” of Raleigh, North Carolina appeared in multiple newspapers with occasional small modifications. For example, “The McPherson Daily Republican” of McPherson, Kansas referred to “Bella” instead of “Belle” and acknowledged “Stray Stories” instead of “New York Journal”. 2

In 1904 a newspaper in Winston-Salem, North Carolina printed a variant that referred to an uncle: 3

Gossip No. 1.—Did Miss Hanson get her good looks from her father or her mother?
Gossip No. 2.—From her uncle; he keeps a drug store.—Princeton Tiger.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading He Got His Good Looks from His Mother. She’s a Plastic Surgeon


  1. 1898 August 5, The Times-Visitor (The Raleigh Times), (Filler item), Quote Page 3, Column 2, Raleigh, North Carolina. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1898 August 19, The McPherson Daily Republican, Artificial Beauty (Filler item), Quote Page 4, Column 2, McPherson, Kansas. (Newspapers_com)
  3. 1904 November 3, The Western Sentinel, (Filler item), Quote Page 3, Column 5, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Newspapers_com)

Obscene and Not Heard

Groucho Marx? Ethel Barrymore? Maurice Barrymore? Paul M. Potter? Gertrude Battles Lane? John Lennon? Joe E. Lewis? Robert Heinlein? Marilyn Manson? Augustus John? Oscar Wilde?

barrymore12Dear Quote Investigator: There is well-known and often repeated admonition directed at young people who are making too much noise:

Children should be seen and not heard.

Wordplay has produced multiple quips which transform the phrase “seen and not heard” into other similar sounding statements:

Back in our day sex was obscene and not heard.
The writing was obscene but not absurd.
Graffiti should be obscene and not heard.
Women should be obscene but not heard.

Instances of these statements have been attributed to Groucho Marx, John Lennon, Ethel Barrymore, Robert Heinlein, and Oscar Wilde. Attitudes have changed over the years and some statements in this family grate on many modern ears. Would you please examine this family of adages?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence known to QI appeared in an anecdote published in a New York newspaper in 1892. The quip was spoken by Maurice Barrymore who was the patriarch of the famous theater family that included his children John, Lionel, and Ethel. A large show had recently closed, and Barrymore discussed the production with a fellow actor. He defended the risqué performances of the lead actress while mentioning the poor acoustics of the capacious venue. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Here is the latest scintillation of Barrymore’s wit. Barrymore and Wilton Lackaye were discussing Mrs. Bernard-Beere’s unfortunate engagement at the Manhattan Opera-House. Lackaye having said something about the English actress’s failure, Barrymore replied: “My dear boy, you must remember that the size of the theatre was entirely against her; it is so large that it entirely destroyed the delicacy of her art. The stage of that theatre is intended only for broad effects.”

“Well,” said Lackaye, “judging from what I have heard, the broad effects in some of her plays were marked, especially certain scenes in ‘Ariane.'”

“Oh, that’s nothing,” declared Barrymore. “On that big stage anybody can be obscene and not heard.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Obscene and Not Heard


  1. 1892 December 12, The Evening World, Stage News and Notes, Quote Page 5, Column 3, New York, New York. (Newspapers_com)

Cloquet Hated Reality But Realized It Was Still the Only Place to Get a Good Steak

Woody Allen? Groucho Marx? Cloquet? Apocryphal?

meal08Dear Quote Investigator: The comedian and movie director Woody Allen sometimes constructs ontological jokes. For example, the following is attributed to Allen:

I hate reality, but it is still the only place where I can get a decent steak.

Oddly, the following very similar quip has been credited to Groucho Marx:

I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal.

Did Allen engage in plagiarism? Would you please explore this question?

Quote Investigator: The first line above was similar to a line spoken by Woody Allen during an interview published in 1993. QI has found no substantive evidence that the second line was employed by Groucho. The initial citation located by QI for the second jest appeared in 2003, and yet Groucho died a quarter century before that date.

The earliest variant in this family known to QI was contained in a short story written by Allen called “The Condemned” that was published in “The New Yorker” magazine in 1977. The tale hinged on the parodic existential dilemmas of a would-be assassin named Cloquet. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

He’s dreaming, Cloquet thought, as he stood over him, revolver in hand. He’s dreaming, and I exist in reality. Cloquet hated reality but realized it was still the only place to get a good steak. He had never taken a human life before. True, he had once shot a mad dog, but only after it had been certified as mad by a team of psychiatrists.

Thus, Allen was willing to recycle the joke in 1993, but QI does not believe that he lifted it from Groucho.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Cloquet Hated Reality But Realized It Was Still the Only Place to Get a Good Steak


  1. 1977 November 21, The New Yorker, The Condemned by Woody Allen, Start Page 57, Quote Page 57, Published by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc., New York. (Accessed Online Archive of Page Scans at archives.newyorker.com on October 15, 2015) link