A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

Recent entries:
“My family’s in the iron and steel business” (joke) (7/24)
“Why are there no knock-knock jokes about the U.S.?"/"Because freedom rings.” (7/24)
“Why is monastery food so greasy?"/"It’s cooked by friars.” (7/24)
“Why did the cookie go to the doctor?"/"Because he was feeling crummy!” (7/23)
“Why did the mushroom go to the party?"/"Because he was a fun-gi.” (7/23)
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Entry from July 09, 2014
“The first thing I do each morning is to read the obituaries” (joke)

"The first thing I do each morning is to read the obituaries in the newspaper,” an old person often jokes. “If I don’t see my name, I go make breakfast.”

“When I get up in the morning I read the obituaries. if I don’t see my name there, I go to the office” was said by Bill Comte, a building contractor, in 1962. In 1967, the line was credited to the late British actor A. E. Matthews (1869-1960), who supposedly said it on his 89th birthday in 1958. American actor and comedian George Burns (1896-1996) told the line frequently in the 1980s.


Google News Archive
4 April 1962, The Blade (Toledo, OH), “I’ve Heard” by Mitch Woodbury, Peach Section, pg. 2, col. 2:
Bill Comte, the building contractor, was telling a group of friends at Inverness Club: “When I get up in the morning I read the obituaries. if Idon’t see my name there, I go to the office.”

7 October 1967, Rockford (IL) Register-Republic, “Hollywood Today” by Sheliah Graham, pg. A7, cols. 3-4:
It reminds me of the late British actor A. E. Matthews, who was still performing when he was 93. A friend asked him, “How does it feel to go tto the theater night after night at your age?” “I’ll tell you,” replied A. E. “Every morning when I get up I read the obituaries in the Times and if I’m not in, I go to the theater that night.”
(A. E. Matthews died at age 90. Other accounts have him saying this at age 89.—ed.)

Google News Archive
24 January 1971, The Star-News (Wilmington, NC), “‘Trader Lane’ takes over for Brewers” (UPI), pg. 12, col. 5:
“When I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is read the obituaries. If my name is not listed, I know it’s safe to get shaved and start another beautiful day.”
(Frank Lane, age 74, director of operations for the Milwaukee Brewers.—ed.)

Google News Archive
2 February 1979, Beaver County (PA) Times, “Reality of retirement: Rest, humility” by Frank Worbs, pg. A-7, col. 3:
Mark Twain phrased it well when a young reporter asked him how it felt to observe his 70th birthday. “The first thing I do is read the obituariesin the morning paper,” Twain replied. “If my name isn’t there, I shave!”

Google News Archive
17 September 1979, The Ledger (Lakeland, FL), “Jerry Ballantine loves working with soil,” pg. 2C, col. 3:
SECRET TO LONG LIFE: “I get up early every morning, read the obituaries in the newspaper and if I’m not listed, I get going,” he said.

2 September 1982, State-Times (Baton Rouge, LA), “Growing old vigorously now problem for Young” by Cheryl Moffet, pg. 2-C, col. 5:
He gave the women something to laugh at by telling several “vintage” jokes, including one of Red SKelton’s. “When I wake up in the morning, I read the obituaries in the paper—if my name isn’t there, I get up. After I get up, I have to look at the Playboy centerfold to get my heart going.”
(Dr. Paul C. Young, LSU psychology professor.—ed.)

7 September 1989, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), pg. 6-G, col. 6:
George Burns likes to say the first thing he does every morning is read the obituaries. If his name isn’t among them, he eats breakfast.

Google Books
Shields of Faith
By Timothy Hunt and Patrick Hunt
Peacock Enterprises
1997
Pg. 90:
I laughed to myself and made some sort of joking comment to him about his reading material. Greg responded by saying, “Tim, each day that I pick up the paper and read the obituaries, and find that my name is not in there, is a good day.”

Google News Archive
29 October 1998, The Daily Courier (Yavapai County, AZ), “People deserve some ink their final time in paper” by John Schwartz, pg. 4A, col. 1:
The late, great comedian, George Burns, was fond of saying: “The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is read the obituaries. If I don’t find my name there, I’m having a good day.”

Google Books
Arizona Highways
Arizona Department of Transportation
Volume 76, Issues 1-6
2000
Pg. 3:
Burns (George Burns—ed.) would tell his listeners, “When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is read the obituaries. If my name’s not in there, I shave.”

The Guardian (UK)
Show and tell
Malcolm Metcalfe may have been born and bred in the city he now leads visitors around, but he never tires of learning more about it

Leo Benedictus
The Guardian, Friday 5 June 2009 18.55 EDT
(...)
“This is from his book, My Word Is My Bond,” he explains, “and I thought it was quite interesting.” I read the passage, which relates an anecdote told by AE Matthews, the veteran actor who said it was his practice each day to read the obituaries in his morning paper, “and if I am not mentioned, I have my breakfast, get dressed and go to work.”

Twitter
Baabaalu
‏@Baabaalu
@patsajak First thing every morning I read the obituaries. If my name’s not there I take a shower and put the coffee on.
1:33 PM - 9 Jul 2014

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMedia/Newspapers/Magazines/Internet • Wednesday, July 09, 2014 • Permalink