Alexander Woollcott

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All the things I really like to do are either illegal, immoral, or fattening.

Alexander Woollcott (January 19, 1887January 23, 1943) was an American critic and journalist known for his involvement in the Algonquin Round Table and his writings in The New Yorker magazine.

Woollcott was distinguished by his tireless wit and flamboyant personality, providing the inspiration for the character of Sheridan Whiteside in the play The Man Who Came to Dinner by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. Aleck Woollcott garnered recognition for his contributions to The New Yorker, particularly his work as drama critic, and his column "Shouts and Murmurs". Woollcott additionally hosted a weekly radio show, "The Town Crier", 1929–42.


  • The two oldest professions in the world — ruined by amateurs.
    • On actors and prostitutes, from his column, as republished in Shouts and Murmurs: Echoes of a Thousand and One First Nights (1922), p. 57.
  • Once in pre-war days, when curiously-bonneted women drivers were familiar sights at the taxi-wheels, I cried out to one in my dismay: "Is there no speed limit in this mad city?"
    "Oh, yes, monsieur," she answered sweetly over her shoulder, "but no one has ever succeeded in reaching it."
    • "The Paris Taxi-Driver Considered as an Artist," in Enchanted Aisles (1924).
  • At 83 Shaw's mind was perhaps not quite as good as it used to be, but it was still better than anyone else's.
  • I've never had the impertinence to be sorry for Helen Keller. I'd as soon be sorry for Niagara Falls. But now as I bring the story up to date, I'm shriveled with shame when I recall that at times in my life — my easy life — I've actually been sorry for myself. You too? We've got our nerve, haven't we?
  • I have no need of your God-damned sympathy. I only wish to be entertained by some of your grosser reminiscences.
    • Letter to Rex O'Malley (1942).
  • [You look like] a dishonest Abe Lincoln.
    • Describing Harold Ross, fellow Round Table member and founder of The New Yorker, as quoted in The American Treasury, 1455-1955 (1955) by Clifton Fadiman, Charles Lincoln Van Doren, p. 461; variants of this quote begin "He looks like..." "He looked like..." etc.


  • I must get out of these wet clothes and into a dry martini.
    • Reported as a misattribution in Paul F. Boller, Jr., and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, & Misleading Attributions (1989), p. 132.

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