"Wake me up when Kirby dies" (1886)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sun Dec 5 01:04:08 UTC 2004

While I haven't noted this phrase before, it sounds as though it may well have begun as a punch line.  And there are plenty of 19th C. joke books....


Bapopik at AOL.COM wrote:
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Subject: "Wake me up when Kirby dies" (1886)

I don't know if this American theatre phrase is Fred Shapiro-worthy, but this is earlier.

Dramatic Feuilleton.
STEPHEN FISKE. The Art Amateur; A Monthly Journal Devoted to Art in the Household (1879-1903). New York: Aug 1886. Vol. 15, Iss. 3; p. 47 (2 pages)
Second page:
In the same programme is "Wilbert, the Deformed," with J. H. Kirby as the hero. This is the actor about whom the phrase, "Wake me up when Kirby dies," was originated, because his stage deaths were so terrific.

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