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. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from February 11, 2013
“Broke as a joke”

To be “broke as a joke” is to be very broke—and that’s no joke. The rhyming expression “broke as a joke” has been cited in print since at least 1997. It’s not known where the expression originated.

Google Groups: alt.collecting.autographs
Newsgroups: alt.collecting.autographs
From: (Sandra Doyle)
Date: 1997/01/29
Subject: Re: $$ ITS OUT THERE $$

: I just got out of college
Translation:  I was just kicked out of college for being stupid.
: and was broke as a joke
Translation:  My life is a joke, I spent my tutition on beer & pot.

Google News Archive
10 February 1997, The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR), pg. 2B, col. 2:
Former two-time world champion Donald Curry says he’s returning to boxing because he loves the sport, but mostly he could use the money.

“I’m broke as a joke. I need money. I owe everybody,” said Curry, who is ending a 5 1/2-year retirement after moving to Las Vegas to try to resurrect his pro career and repair his character.

Google Books
Friends and Lovers
By Eric Jerome Dickey
New York, NY: Signet
1998, ©1997
Pg. 191:
Leonard said, “If you didn’t spend so much on that weave, you wouldn’t be broke as a joke and walking ‘round begging.”

OCLC WorldCat record
Portrait of a family
Author: Fam (Musical group)
Publisher: St. Louis, Mo. : 4Front Records, 1999.
Edition/Format: Music CD : CD audio : Popular music : English
Broke as a joke

OCLC WorldCat record
Broke as a joke : the acoustic album.
Publisher: [S.l.] : Dynagon Records, [2004]
Edition/Format: Music CD : CD audio : Popular music : English

Urban Dictionary
broke as a joke
1.crazy po’ like a mofo 2. no loot. 3. tough finicial times 4. need a brotha/sista to help out with cash. 5. so po’ fo sho, you know.
by Jimmygtp13 Oct 29, 2007

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • Monday, February 11, 2013 • Permalink