Lily Tomlin? Jane Wagner? Barbara Rowes? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: People who read numerous books are perceived positively by society. The term “well-read” implies knowledgeable and discerning. However, people who view television for endless hours are perceived negatively. The term “well-viewed” is uncommon. I have only heard it used within the punchline of a joke from comedian Lily Tomlin. Would you please help me to find a citation?
Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the 1979 compilation “The Book of Quotes” edited by Barbara Rowes. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1
If you read a lot of books, you’re considered well-read. But if you watch a lot of TV, you’re not considered well-viewed.
Interestingly, Lily Tomlin’s personal website includes a webpage listing a collection of jokes. The statement under investigation is ascribed to Jane Wagner who is Tomlin’s longtime collaborator and wife: 2
If you read a lot of books, you’re considered well-read. But if you watch a lot of TV, you’re not considered well-viewed. – written by Jane Wagner for Lily’s act
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1979, The Book of Quotes, Compiled by Barbara Rowes, Chapter 23: Tube, Quote Page 211, A Sunrise Book: E. P. Dutton, New York. (Verified with hardcopy) ↩
- Website: Tomlin Wagner, Webpage title: Lily speaks, Date: Quotation present on November 24, 2012 within snapshot in Internet Wayback Machine, Description: Classic section of comedian Lily Tomlin’s personal website. (Accessed classic.lilytomlin.com on June 16, 2020) link ↩