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 July 11, 2016
“Is your refrigerator running?” (joke)

When refrigerators were new, they’d often not work. A popular joke was:

Dick: Is your refrigerator running?
Joe: Yes.
Dick: Well, you’d better catch it before it runs out the door.


The joke has been cited in print since at least 1943, when it was used in prank telephone calls. The joke is sometimes used in running competitions.

“Running for office” is sometimes part of the joke. This version was cited in a 2012 book:

“You prank called your state senator. (Is your refrigerator running? You better watch out, I might vote for that instead!)”


15 August 1943, Greensboro (NC) Daily News, “Police Probing Prank Telephone Calls At Wilson,” sec. 2, pg. 5, col. 4:
He said that one type of call is made to people who are asked by a voice on the telephone, “Is your refrigerator running?” When the listener answers in the affirmative he or she is asked “Well, why don’t you chase it then?”

Old Fulton NY Postcards
3 December 1949, Nassau Daily Review-Star (Freeport, NY), pg. 16, col. 2:
Dick: Is your refrigerator running?
Joe: Yes.
Dick: Well, you’d better catch it before it runs out the door.
-- Diane Albanese, Malverne

31 January 1950, The Gazette and Daily (York, PA), pg. 27, col. 4:
BETTER HURRY
Donnie—Is your refrigerator running?
Ronnie—Yes, it is.
Donnie—You had better catch it before it gets away!

Google News Archive
4 January 1960, The Deseret News and Telegram (Salt Lake CIty, UT), “Fun Time—The Chuckle Box,” pg. B7, col. 4:
Billy (on phone): Is your refrigerator running?
Mary: I’ll go and see. (After returning.) Yes, it is.
Billy: Better run and catch it!

Google Books
Taking Care of Terrific
By Lois Lowry
New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company
1983
Pg. 167:
“Is your refrigerator running?” he asked.

I bit my lip to keep from crying. “Nope,” I said very seriously, “I just ran down the street and caught it.”

“Hey!” he sputtered. “You’re spozed to say, ‘Yes,’ and then I say —”

“I know that, silly,” I said.

Google Books
Seeing Eye:
Stories

By Michael Martone
Cambridge, MA: Zoland Books
1995
Pg. 98:
I dialed numbers randomly. “Is your refrigerator running? It is? Well, you better go chase it.”

Google Books
Super Cool Jokes and Games for Kids
By Bob Phillips
Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers
1997
Pg. 104:
When you are over at your friend’s house ask him, “Is your refrigerator running?’’

“Yes.”

“Well, you better go catch it.”

Google Books
Ray in Reverse
By Daniel Wallace
Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
2000
Pg. 23:
“Is your refrigerator running?” he asked her.

“It sure is,” she said.

“That’s funny,” he said. “I’ve never seen a refrigerator running.”

“Actually, mine jogs three miles a day.”

Google Books
Reverse Your Bad Karma:
The Good Thing to Do for the Bad Thing You Did

By Elle Doright
Avon, MA: Adams Media
2012
Pg. 284:
You prank called your state senator. (Is your refrigerator running? You better watch out, I might vote for that instead!)

reddit
Is your refrigerator running?
submitted July 11, 2016 by thurdaboot
Because I’d vote for it.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityExercise/Running/Health Clubs • Monday, July 11, 2016 • Permalink