Coffee has the well known effect of making people nervous, but an old joke reverses the process. “Ralph Font: ‘I know a night club owner (Dario) who’s so fidgety he makes coffee nervous’” was used in Earl Wilson’s syndicated newspaper column in April 1948; Ralph Font was a band leader. “Burdette would even make coffee nervous” was said about baseball pitcher Lew Burdette in 1957. Band leader Louis Armstrong (1901-1971) is said to have made the comment about jazz drummer Barrett Deems (1914-1998) some time in the 1950s.
The film You’ve Got Mail (1998) re-popularized the joke when character Joe Fox (actor Tom Hanks) said about Patricia Eden (actor Parker Posey), “I like Patricia. I love Patricia. Patricia makes coffee nervous.”
16 April 1948, The Times Recorder (Zanesville, OH), “A Good Cup Of Coffee Is Hard To Find” by Earl Wilson (syndicated entertainment columnist), pg. 4, col. 5:
Wish I’d said that: Ralph Font: “I know a night club owner (Dario) who’s so fidgety he makes coffee nervous.”
Joey Adams’ Joke Book
By Joey Adams
New York, NY: F. Fell
He’s the kind of guy that makes coffee nervous.
1 September 1952, Hutchinson (KS) News-Herald, “This Week at Watson’s,” Sports sec., pg. 2, col. 8:
Earle Martin, our tailor who is somewhat rushed this year, says he got to the point where HE makes COFFEE nervous.
30 June 1957, The Oregonian (Portland, OR), “What the spitball has done for me” by Lew Burdette (as told to Lou Chapman), The American Weekly, pg. 7, col. 1:
Preacher Roe, the old Brooklyn pitcher who has publicly admitted he threw the spitball, once said, “Burdette would even make coffee nervous.”
The Internet Movie Database
You’ve Got Mail (1998)
Joe Fox: I like Patricia. I *love* Patricia. Patricia makes *coffee* nervous.
Men and Women Who Shaped Our City
(By various Chicago Tribune writers—ed.)
Chicago, IL: Triumph Books
Touring with Armstrong in the 1950s and backing him in the film High Society (1956) extended Deems’ fame. “Barrett Deems,” Armstrong famously said, “makes coffee nervous.”
Catch a Rising Star:
By Tracey Bateman
New York, NY: Warner Books
In the immortal words of Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail: Freddie makes coffee nervous.
A Year in the Life of an F-117 Pilot
By William B. O’Connor
Minneapolis, MN: Zenith Press
The guy is so energized he makes coffee nervous.