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), and was included in later collection 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:
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy.
Uses in popular media
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, probably the most famous example appears in the 1980 horror movie The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick, in which the main character, Jack (played by Jack Nicholson), is found to have abandoned his latest novel in favour 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.
In 2013 the Electronic Music producer HVOB released a song called "Jack" with the quote included.
One 1997 episode of The Simpsons, "The Springfield Files", Season 8 Episode 10, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" was written all over the screen with a terminal-like computer font to imitate The X-Files television series.
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".
One 2001 episode of CSI includes a scene where Greg Sanders is caught dancing in the lab 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.
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 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?"
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 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 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 popular 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 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 to much.
Aunt Bea said it in reference to Opie studying too much in the 1965 episode of "The Andy Griffith Show" called "Opie Flunks Arithmetic".
Used in an episode of The Critic: "All work no play makes Jay a dull boy."
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. In an episode of Porridge Fletcher tells Godber "all work and no play makes Jack a dull beanstalk"