In Reply to: Re: The lunatics are running the asylum posted by Graham Cambray on February 15, 2009 at 22:33:
: : Does anyone know the origin of the saying "the lunatics are running the asylum"?
: I make no promises that there was no earlier usage, but here's something. I though it might have been Charlie Chaplin. I was wrong, but at http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Charlie_Chaplin it has:
: The inmates have taken over the asylum!
: * Reported by many sites to have been said by Chaplin upon signing the papers to create the United Artists studio , this is believed to actually be derived from a remark about the same event attributed to Richard Rowland, the head of Metro Pictures: "The lunatics have taken charge of the asylum"; variant derivations or reports of this statement also include "The lunatics have taken over the asylum", and the attribution to Rowland is reported to have occurred at least as early as 1926, in the work A Million and One Nights by Terry Ramsaye, and as recently as in Variety (2005-10-16).
: * In Charlie Chaplin: Comic Genius, David Robinson also confirms that a disgruntled film distributor said "The lunatics are taking over the asylum." (p. 57-58)
Not necessarily the phrase, but the concept is surely much older. Here's a link to Poe's short story, "The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether" - http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/POE/system.html - with the date of 1850 given, although it appeared in Graham's Magazine five years earlier.