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.

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Entry from December 22, 2015
“If work is so terrific, how come they have to pay you to do it?”

"If work is so terrific, how come they have to pay you to do it?” is a jocular one-liner that has been printed on GIFs. Leonard Lyons (1906-1976) wrote in his syndicated “The Lyons Den” column in June 1970:

“Dan Lavezzo, owner of P. J. Clarke’s, gave employment to an idler who quit after two days. The man told Lavezzo, ‘If work is so great, how is it they have to pay you?’”

P. J. Clarke’s is a Manhattan saloon on the corner of Third Avenue and East 55th Street.

Chicago columnist Mike Royko (1932-1997), using the fictional voice of Slats Grobnik, wrote in 1981, “If work is so great, how come they gotta pay you to do it?” Royko frequently used the line in his columns.


Wikipedia: Mike Royko
Michael “Mike” Royko (September 19, 1932 – April 29, 1997) was a Chicago newspaper columnist, winner of the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Over his 30-year career, he wrote over 7,500 daily columns for three newspapers, the Chicago Daily News, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Chicago Tribune.
(...)
Like many columnists, Royko created fictitious mouthpieces with whom he could “converse”; the most famous being Slats Grobnik, a comically stereotyped working class Polish-Chicagoan.

25 June 1970, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), “The Lyons Den” by Leonard Lyons, sec. 1, pg. 24, cols. 5-6:
Dan Lavezzo, owner of P. J. Clarke’s, gave employment to an idler who quit after two days. The man told Lavezzo, “If work is so great, how is it they have to pay you?”

4 March 1981, Omaha (NE) World-Herald, “Fans Mourn Loss of Cubs’ Dave Dingdong: He Is Just Man of His Times” Mike Royko (Chicago Sun-Times), pg. 49, col. 2:
As Slats Grobnik said: “If work is so great, how come they gotta pay you to do it?

19 March 1981, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Sports Woman” by Anita Seelig, pg. 7B, col. 2:
After all, if work is so great why do they have to pay you to do it?

12 November 1985, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), “Charlie’s OK” by Mike Royko (Chicago Tribune), pg. 15-A, col. 6:
“Like I told you years ago, if work is so good, how come they have to pya us to do it?”

Google Books
Are you richer than you think?
By Kathleen Russell and Larry Wall
Seattle, WA: Walrus Productions
1993
Pg. 76:
If work is so terrific, how come they have to pay you to do it?

Google Books
Money:
Now You Have It, Now You Don’t

By Kathleen Russell and Larry Wall
Seattle, WA: Walrus Productions
1994
Pg. 76:
If work is so terrific, how come they have to pay you to do it?

Mike Royko Collection
21 March 1995, Chicago (IL) Tribune, “On work, Newt isn’t going by the book” by Mike Royko:
And I agree, although I still find merit in the words of Slats Grobnik, who once said: “If work is so good for ya, how come they got to pay you to do it?”

SodaHead
If work is so terrific, why do they have to pay you to do it?
by Cthebookworm Posted July 20, 2011

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • Tuesday, December 22, 2015 • Permalink