"The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win you’re still a rat” has been credited to American actress Lily Tomlin, who said this in 1977. The line has been included in many books about work.
Variation of the saying have been cited in print since at least the 1950s and 1960s. “Television is a rat race, and remember this, even if you win you are still a rat” was cited in print in 1956. “And even if you win a rat race, you’re still a rat” was said by a student and recorded by William Sloan Coffin Jr. in Life magazine in 1985.
The Yale Book of Quotations
Edited by Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
U.S. comedian, 1939-
“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win you’re still a rat.”
Quoted in People, 26 Dec. 1977. Although nowassociated withTomlin, this saying appears anonymously in Robert Reisner, Graffiti (1971), in the form “Remember, even if you win the rat race—you’re still a rat.” Rosalie Maggio, in New Beacon Book of Quotations by Women, states that William Sloane Coffin said “Even if you win the rat-race, you’re still a rat” as a chaplain at Williams College or Yale University in the 1950s or 1960s.
The Golden Ham;
A Candid Biography of Jackie Gleason
By Jim Bishop
New York, NY: Simon and Schuster
Television is a rat race, and remember this, even if you win you are still a rat.
11 August 1956, Boston (MA) Herald, “Bill Taking Off For Conventions” by Bill Cunningham, pg. 5, col. 1:
it’s still a job lot pitching staff—like the fellow said, “You can win the rat race, but you’re still a rat”— but, oooooh, that Yankee hitting, especially in the clutch!
30 April 1965, Life magazine, ‘Don’t tell them to play it safe” by William Sloane Coffin Jr., pg. 31, col. 1:
“My old man’s in a rat race. And even if you win a rat race, you’re still a rat.”
Google News Archive
5 May 1965, Nashua (NH) Telegraph (Omaha, NE), “The Unsung Underdog” by Russell Baker (New York Times), pg. 4, col. 6:
ONE OF THE SONS, interviewed by Fortune magazine, said that he wanted a better world than his father offered because Jasper’s world was just a rat race, and even if you win a rat race, you’re still a rat.
The Collected Sermons of William Sloane Coffin:
The Riverside Years, Volume 1
By William Sloane Coffin
Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press
Pg. 227 (July 29, 1979):
Just look at it this way;Have you ever asked what’s at the finish line of a rat race? Even if you win a rat race you’re still a rat!
Lessons from a Recovering Workaholic
By Dr. Frank O’Neill
Bloomington, IN: iUniverse
No One Wins the Rat Race: Working in a Burned-Out World
“The problem with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” -Comedian Lily Tomlin
Win at Work:
Navigate the Nasties, Get Things Done and Get Ahead
By Shaun Belding
Philadelphia, PA: Kogan Page
Beware the rat race
Lily Tomlin, the iconic US comedienne, once said, ‘Even if you win the rat-race, you’re still a rat.’ It is a sad but accurate commentary. Success in your personal life or in your work life cannot come at a price too dear. If it does, then how could you even begin to think o it as a success?