Johnny Carson? Kenneth Tynan? David Letterman? Ed McMahon?
Dear Quote Investigator: A prominent show business personality was once asked how he or she became a star. The reply was a very funny absurdist remark about astrophysical star formation. Do you know who made this response?
Quote Investigator: In 1968 English theatre critic Kenneth Tynan wrote about U.S. television host Johnny Carson in the pages of “The Observer” of London. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:
This complicated man has total aplomb. He was once asked, not without aggression: “What made you a star?” Blandly, he replied, “I started out in a gaseous state, and then I cooled.”
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
Johnny Carson? Kenneth Tynan? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: The late-night talk-show host Johnny Carson was one of the most successful entertainers in U.S. history. He spent thirty years as the star of “The Tonight Show” on the NBC television network. Before he embraced the celebrated nocturnal hosting duties he held nine different jobs. That fact might help to explain the following guidance attributed to him:
Never continue in a job you don’t enjoy.
His widely-distributed career advice quotation includes the above remark together with comments about inner peace and physical health. Would you kindly help me to find a citation?
Quote Investigator: Johnny Carson attended high school in Norfolk, Nebraska, and a few decades later he was pleased to receive an invitation to deliver the 1976 commencement address. His speech was described by drama critic Kenneth Tynan who wrote a lengthy profile of Carson in “The New Yorker” in 1978. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:
Having picked a profession, feel no compulsion to stick to it: “If you don’t like it, stop doing it. Never continue in a job you don’t enjoy.”
After Carson’s prepared remarks he engaged in a question-and-answer session. He also highlighted the pride engendered by the opportunity to talk at his former school:
The applause at the end was so clamorous that Carson felt compelled to improvise a postscript. “If you’re happy in what you’re doing, you’ll like yourself,” he said. “And if you like yourself, you’ll have inner peace. And if you have that, along with physical health, you will have had more success than you could possibly have imagined. I thank you all very much.”
Over the years the passages above have been combined and streamlined to generate a popular quotation.
Bette Davis? Leonora Corbett? Kenneth Tynan? Anonymous? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: I love the following catty quotation that was said by one Hollywood actor or actress about another performer who had allegedly slept her way to success:
She’s the original good time that’s been had by all.
Can you tell me who said this and who was the target of the gibe?
Quote Investigator: This wordplay joke is based on a comical modification of a traditional expression of enthusiasm: A good time was had by all. The jest is often attributed to the famous film star Bette Davis and sometimes to the influential English theatre critic Kenneth Tynan.
But neither is credited in the earliest instance of this quip located by QI which was published in a 1946 book by the prominent gossip columnist Earl Wilson. The actress who delivered the barb appeared in multiple films in the 1930s and 1940s but is not well known today. The target of her ire was unidentified [EWLC]:
The tallish, beautiful actress, Leonora Corbett, can also claw with her painted lips. Seeing a reputedly loose woman waggling past, Miss Corbett remarked, “There goes the original good time that’s been had by all.” Of an actress whose ability was said by everybody to be less than negative, Miss Corbett said, “She has more talent to the square head than anybody I know.”
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.