New York City-born comedian Joe E. Lewis (1902-1971) was quoted in 1965 for the line, “I distrust camels or anybody else who don’t take a drink once in a while.” The camel drinking joke, in different forms, is much older. In 1888, Judge (a New York humor magazine) contained the joke, “The camel is an animal that can work a week without drinking. (...) I am an animal that can drink a week without working.” In 1912, it was written that a camel can go “week without a drink, you know.” Bruno Lessing wrote in a 1924 newspaper, “They say that a camel can go for a week without a drink. Is that anything to brag about?”
In 1970, Dean Martin (known for stealing the comedy material of others) said, “I distrust camels—or anybody else who doesn’t take a drink once in a while.”
Wikipedia: Joe E. Lewis
Joe E. Lewis (January 12, 1902 – June 4, 1971), born Joseph Klewan in New York City, was an American comedian and singer.
16 August 1888, Eyria (OH) Democrat, pg. 3, col. 6:
Just the Difference.
Gubbins, in one of the rare moments he devotes to the cultivation of his intellect, was reading aloud from a week on natural history.
“The camel is an animal that can work a week without drinking.”
“And I,” remarked Gubbins, commenting on the test, “I am an animal that can drink a week without working.”—Judge.
15 August 1912, Janesville (WI) Daily Gazette, “On the Spur of the Moment” by Roy K. Moulton, pg. 4, col. 3:
Circus is Coming.
Here’s the camels, they can go
Week without a drink, you know.
14 September 1924, San Antonio (TX) Light, “This Dumb World: Consider the Dumb Camel” by Bruno Lessing, pt. 4, pg. 6, col. 3:
They say that a camel can go for a week without a drink. Is that anything to brag about? Why, even here in the United States we have nearly fifty thousand people who have gone without a drink since they closed the Canadian border.
Google News Archive
8 July 1928, Pittsburgh (PA) Press, “Fireside Fun,” Editorial, pg. 2, col. 7:
“MOTHER, is it true that camels can work a whole week without a drink?”
“Yes, son, but it’s exactly the opposite with your father; he can drink a whole week without working.”
17 June 1946, Walla Walla (WA) Union-Bulletin, “F.D. on Boys,” pg. 4, col. 3:
Manana—South of the border, down Mexico way, I’m told they don’t live so fast. Lotsa time. No rush. No strain. Maybe we could each learn something from the other. Reminds me of the camel. They say he can go a week without a drink but who the heck wants to be a camel.
29 October 1965, Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA), “It Happened One Night” by Earl Wilson, pg. B13, col. 8:
Joe E. Lewis said it: “I distrust camels or anybody else who don’t take a drink once in a while.”
15 December 1965, The Times Herald Record (Middletown, NY), “The Lighter Side” by Gene Brown, pg. 56, col. 3:
From a Sahara Alcoholic:
I distrust camels who don’t take a drink once in a while.
18 September 1970, Delaware County Daily Times (Chester, PA), Earl Wilson column, pg. 23, col. 5:
WISH I’D SAID THAT: Dean Martin said it: “I distrust camels—or anybody else who doesn’t take a drink once in a while.”
Google News Archive
21 September 1971, Sarasota (FL) Herald-Tribune, “It Happened Last Night” by Earl Wilson, pg. 10A, col. 5:
WISH I’D SAID THAT: The late Joe E. Lewis said it: “I distrust camels, or anybody else who don’t take a drink once in a while.”
The 2,548 Wittiest Things Anybody Ever Said
By Robert Byrne
New York, NY: Touchstone
I distrust camels and anybody else who can go a week without a drink. —Joe E. Lewis (1902–1971)