All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

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"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" is a proverb. It means that without time off from work, a person becomes both bored and boring. The exact origins of the phrase remain unclear, though it was recorded as early as 1659.


Though the spirit of the proverb had been expressed previously, the modern saying appeared first in James Howell's Proverbs in English, Italian, French and Spanish (1659),[1] and was included in later collections of proverbs. It also appears in Howell's Paroimiographia (1659), p. 12.

Some writers have added a second part to the proverb, as in Harry and Lucy Concluded (1825) by the Irish novelist Maria Edgeworth:

Uses in popular media[edit]

While the proverb is used in several examples of popular media, from James Joyce's short story "Araby" to Jack Kerouac's Big Sur to the 1957 movie The Bridge on the River Kwai, the most famous use appears in the 1980 horror movie The Shining,[2] directed by Stanley Kubrick, in which the main character, Jack (played by Jack Nicholson), is found to have abandoned the play he was writing in favor of typing this sentence over and over onto reams of paper. Kubrick's addition of a psychotic edge to the proverb has had some effect on popular culture, inspiring several other works to include a direct homage to the scene.[3]

The "Sunday" computer virus, a member of the Jerusalem virus family discovered in 1989, contained a reference to the proverb. Infected files will contain the string "Today is Sunday! Why do you work so hard? All work and no play make you a dull boy! Come on! Let's go out and have some fun!" The virus's payload prints the proverb on the screen and then deletes all files running while the virus is a resident in the memory, as the original Jerusalem did every Friday the 13th.[citation needed]

In film and television[edit]

  • It is used in the film "I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang" (1932).
  • The phrase is spoken by the comic actor Oliver Hardy in Sons of the Desert (1933).
  • It is stated by Colonel Saito in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).
  • It is stated by Thornhill in Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959).[4]
  • In Season 5 Episode 30 "Opie Flunks Arithmetic" of The Andy Griffith Show - Aunt Bee uses the phrase to describe Opie's studying vs playing football. (April 1965)
  • In Thunderbirds Are Go Tin-Tin says: "All work and no play makes Scott a dull boy" (1966).
  • In Columbo, season 3, episode 6 "Mind Over Meyhem" (1974). Dr. Cahill says this to the child prodigy when he is setting up the visit to the movie theater when orchestrating the murder.
  • It is said by Donald Pleasence in the film "All Quiet on the Western Front (1979 film)".
  • It is used in the film "The Shining" (1980).
  • It has been incorporated into the Hindi film "Mazdoor" (1983).
  • In the film Above the Law, it is used by Henry Silva when he is about to inject Steven Seagal (1988).
  • It is featured during the Simpsons intro when Bart writes at the chalkboard. Episode 90: The Last Temptation of Homer. (1995) and in Episode : The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror (2013)
  • It is mentioned in Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (2004).
  • It is said by Poorna Jagannathan in Delhi Belly (2011).
  • It is used by Peta Sergeant in the science-fiction comedy Iron Sky (2012).
  • It is used by (Dwight Schrute) in Season 5 Episode 27 of the comedy, "The Office".
  • It is used by (John Murphy) in Season 4 Episode 6 of the American drama series, The 100.
  • It is used by CollegeHumor in their Halloween mini-series, "the sCHining" in Episode 4, "Workshopping Your Insane Writing". The series as a whole is a play on the film "The Shining".

In literature[edit]

In music[edit]

  • "Let Your Hair Down" is a 1973 single by American vocal group The Temptations which contains the lyrics "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy".
  • In the chorus of the song "Boy's Chorus (La Sui Monti Dell' Est)" from the 1984 Malcolm McLaren album Fans, but "Jack" is replaced with "Mac" - plus the line used is "all work and no joy", which rhymes with boy.
  • In the 1986 song "All Work and No Play" by Hüsker Dü from the Don't Want to Know If You Are Lonely EP the line "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" is repeated 72 times.
  • In the 1990 song "He's a Man" by Madonna the name "Jack" is again replaced, this time by "Dick" referring to Dick Tracy, a fictional character portrayed in the film by Warren Beatty, which the song had been written for.
  • The song "Angry Chair" (1992) by Alice in Chains contains the verse "I'm a dull boy, work all day".
  • "American Dream" by Casting Crowns begins with the phrase.
  • In 2008 the heavy metal band Mudvayne released a song called "Dull Boy" with the quote included in their lyrics.
  • In 2012 the post-hardcore band Averia quote this in their song "The Overlook".
  • A song called "Still Sane" by the singer Lorde featured in her 2013 album titled Pure Heroine.
  • In 2014 South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord released their single "Pitbull Terrier", which features a variation of the expression.
  • The song "Ali r u ok?" (2016) by M.I.A. from her album AIM contains the phrase "All work and no play".
  • The lyrics video to "Follow me down" by The Pretty Reckless contains a variation of the phrase as an easter egg. [5]
  • The Austrian Electro Band HVOB features this quote in the song "Jack" from their album HVOB (2013)

In television[edit]

  • Used in episode of "My Three Sons" by Uncle Charlie: "All work and no play makes Steve a dull boy."
  • Aunt Bea said it in reference to Opie studying too much in the 1965 episode of "The Andy Griffith Show" called "Opie Flunks Arithmetic".
  • In the 1974 Columbo Episode "Mind Over Mayhem", Dr. Marshall Cahill (José Ferrer) tells Steve, a whiz kid who is playing chess with his toy robot, that "all work and no play make Jack a dull boy" to hint the boy not to work too much.
  • In an episode of Porridge, Fletcher tells Godber "all work and no play makes Jack a dull beanstalk"
  • In The Jeffersons, season 1 episode 4, Lionel Jefferson tells his girlfriend Jenny Willis to enjoy life saying, "All work and no play makes Jenny a dull girl." To this, Jenny responds, "Well, you know what I say? All play and no work makes Lionel a dummy!" It is also used in another episode during an argument between Lionel's parents, George and Louise, in which Louise, concerned by George's constant efforts to make money, tells him "You know, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy", to which George responds, "As usual, you're half right, Weezie. All work and no play makes jack!"
  • In the third episode of Twin Peaks, "Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer" Jerry Horne says to his brother Benjamin Horne: "All work and no play makes Ben and Jerry dull boys"
  • In Animaniacs, season 1, episode 27, segment "I Got Yer Can", Candie repeatedly types, "All work and no cans make Candie a dull Chipmunk".
  • In the Aaahh!!! Real Monsters episode "Who'll Stop the Brain?", Ickis tells Oblina, "All work and no play makes Oblina a dull monster".
  • Referenced by The Joker in an episode of The Animated Series ("Joker's Wild"). "All work and no play..."[6]
  • The phrase was parodied in an episode of The Critic as "All work no play makes Jay a dull boy."
  • One 1994 episode of The Simpsons, "Treehouse of Horror V" contained a Shining parody, where Marge finds a piece of paper with just two words – "Feelin' fine" – typed up, before noticing "No TV and no beer make Homer go crazy" written all over the walls. This is also parodied in the 1997 episode "The Springfield Files" as a cascading text, in the manner of The X-Files. The proverb is also referenced in the chalkboard gags of season five episode "The Last Temptation of Homer" and of season twenty-five's "Treehouse of Horror XXIV."
  • In "Leverage" "all work and no play makes Monica dull girl" is put on dozens of pages in an evidence folder to embarrass a TV reporter.
  • In "Men in Black: The Series" Season 2 episode 15, when Jay is working too many hours at MiB he discovers that L is using a quick clone to do her work after he threatens to let it out of the box she agrees to make 4 clones when J is discovered by K talking to L on the phone he says "All work and no play makes J look like K".
  • In a 1999 episode of Family Guy, "Peter, Peter, Caviar Eater", when Stewie was riding his tri-bike at Lois's big inherited house and met the twins from The Shining at a corridor and they said "Come play with us Stewie for ever, and ever and ever", Stewie replied back to them "All work and no play makes Stewie a dull boy".
  • In the 1999 episode of Melrose Place "When cheerleaders attack" Lexi Sterling played by Jamie Luner says the line "all work and no play makes Megan a dull girl" to Megan Lewis played by Kelly Rutherford
  • The episode of the cartoon Ed, Edd n Eddy titled "Stop, Look and Ed" features Eddy telling Rolf that "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy".
  • In the episode 2 of the first season of Gilmore Girls, Lorelai has an argument with her mother about her attempt to pay for the installation of a DSL line on Lorelai's house. Lorelai alleges that her current, slower connection gives her time to dance and have a snack. With a faster connection "It would be all work and no play, haven't you seen The Shining, mum?"
  • In the fifteenth episode of the second season (215) of Queer as Folk, Justin and Michael are working on their comic book late into the night, resulting in Brian having to go to Babylon alone. Before leaving for the club, he tells them : "Well just remember, all work and no dick make Mikey and Sunshine dull boys."
  • Season 3 episode of CSI includes a scene where Greg Sanders is caught flirting with someone in the hallway by his boss, and says "All work and no play makes Greg a dull boy". Gil Grissom responds by saying that all play and no work makes Greg an unemployed boy.
  • A 2002 episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Gone", includes a scene where Buffy Summers fills a social worker's report with pages consisting entirely of repetitions of "All work and no play make Doris a dull girl".
  • In Gilmore Girls, season 4 episode 21, Tana Schrick's boyfriend, Chester Fleet, lost a bet against Tana and therefore he had to go all day only talking in cliches, which Paris thinks is annoying. Paris points out that Rory doesn't go out enough, so Chester says "All work and no play makes Jack.." but then gets interrupted by Paris' mean look.
  • In the Power Rangers SPD episode "Recognition", the team leader Jack uses the phrase to describe the uptight Sky, who prefers to work as his method of relaxing. "All work and no play make Sky a dull boy."
  • In Supernatural, Dean Winchester reads an insane doctor's writings about the "treatments" he used on his patients and comments "all work and no play make Doctor Ellicot a very dull boy." The same phrase is used again in Season 2 when Dean investigates a crime scene and finds sheets of paper with the same name printed over and over, in reference to the film "The Shining".
  • During "Cafe Disco", an episode on the NBC series The Office, Dwight makes a remark after Michael states that the office has gotten boring, saying "All work and no play makes Michael a dull boy!"
  • In a 2009 episode of Wizards of Waverly Place, Max Russo played by Jake T. Austin, says the line to Alex Russo (Selena Gomez) when he is doing an impression of Jack Nicholson.[episode needed]
  • It was used in Season 1, Episode 5 of the TV series Downton Abbey, when Mary tells Matthew that "You know what all work and no play did for Jack" and Matthew answers that "You think I'm a dull boy anyway, don't you." The saying was used once again when Lord Gillingham's valet flirts with Anna in Season 4, Episode 3 when he says, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and Jill a dull girl."
  • In The Blacklist, season 2 episode 2, Raymond Reddington says "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" to a Mossad double agent when she says she looks forward to working with him.
  • In Mind Your Language, season 2, episode 4, professor Mr. Brown says "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" to Ranjeet, one of his students.
  • In Halt and Catch Fire season 1, episode 7, Cameron says it to Joe, who's working late, replacing 'Jack' with 'Joe'.
  • In Criminal Minds season 1, episode 22, Garcia's computer gets hacked and her screen gets full with "All Work No Play".
  • In The Real Housewives of New York City's seventh season, Carole Radziwill's tagline in the opening credits is a play on the phrase; "All play and no work makes me a happy girl".

In video games[edit]

  • In the game Command & Conquer: Renegade during the last mission. "All work and no play, may make Jack a dull boy." can occasionally be heard from the loudspeakers in the Temple of Nod.
  • In the game Kingdom of Loathing in one of the quests, the player finds a tape with this sentence repeated and Jack replaced by the player's name.
  • In the Safehouse Nightmare mission in PAYDAY 2 (with Jack substituted for the character Wolf).
  • In the game Jazzpunk. In the first mission, when the player enters the world of pizza.
  • In chapter 2 of the game Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1, Neptune says "All work and no play makes Nep a dull girl".
  • In the game Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate there's a message that reads: "All play and no rest makes a hunter dull nya"
  • In the game Tropico 3 El Presidente can be heard saying: "All work and no play for El Presidente!".
  • In the game RuneScape, during the quest What Lies Below, the player says "All work and no play makes [player name] a dull adventurer."
  • In the game Bot Colony, when talking to the maintenance bot 'Charlie', He says "All work and no play makes Charlie a dull boy."
  • In the game Rust, the quote can be found on a typewriter inside of the Rocket Factory.
  • In the game Final Fantasy XV, the quote is referenced by Noctis in Chapter 9. “All work and no play makes Ignis a dull boy.”
  • In the game Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, Episode 5: 8-bit is Enough the quote appears 30 times on the endscreen of the minigame "Gel-Arshie" after a glitch as follows "All work and no fruit makes Gel-Arshie a dull boy"


  1. ^ "JamHowell Quotes and Quotations". Famous Quotes and Archived from the original on 15 December 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  2. ^ "Film Script, The Shining". p. 107. 
  3. ^ "Movie connections for The Shining (1980)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  4. ^ Hitchcock/Lehman. "Shooting Script, North by Northwest (1958)" (PDF). p. 107. 
  5. ^ The Pretty Reckless. "The Pretty Reckless - Follow Me Down (Official Lyric Video)". YouTube. Retrieved 26 December 2017. 
  6. ^ "": The Animated Series" Joker's Wild (TV Episode 1992)". IMDb.