50 Insightful Oscar Levant Quotes to Think About

Oscar Levant was a famous American concert pianist born on December 27, 1906. He gained fame as a musician, but his wit and comedic personality provided opportunities for him to host television talk shows, appear on radio game show panels, and act in various productions.

Oscar immigrated with his family from Russia in 1922 and began piano lessons with Zygmunt Stojowski. By the time he turned 18, Oscar was ready to appear in Ben Bernie and All the Lads, a short film by Ben Bernie. In 1928, he met George Gershwin, and his life changed for the better.

Oscar composed music for more than twenty movies over the next two decades. His most popular compositions include “Blame It on My Youth.” Some of his film credits are The Barkleys of Broadway, An American in Paris, and The Band Wagon.

Inspirational Oscar Levant Quotes

1. “Schizophrenia beats dining alone.” – Oscar Levant

2. “Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m schizophrenic, and so am I.” – Oscar Levant

3. “I’m a study of a man in chaos in search of frenzy.” – Oscar Levant

4. “Every time I look at you, I get a fierce desire to be lonesome.” – Oscar Levant

5. “When I can’t sleep, I read a book by Steve Allen.” – Oscar Levant

6. “I’ve given up reading books. I find it takes my mind off myself.” – Oscar Levant

7. “There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.” – Oscar Levant

8. “A politician is a man who will double cross that bridge when he comes to it.” – Oscar Levant

9. “I’m a concert pianist, that’s a pretentious way of saying I’m unemployed at the moment.” – Oscar Levant
10. “My psychiatrist once said to me, ‘Maybe life isn’t for everyone.'” – Oscar Levant

11. “I envy people who drink. At least they have something to blame everything on.” – Oscar Levant

12. “There are two sides to every question: my side and the wrong side.” – Oscar Levant

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13. “You can’t possibly hear the last movement of Beethoven’s Seventh and go slow. (Oscar trying to talk his way out of a speeding ticket).” – Oscar Levant

Oscar Levant quote about life regrets
14. “It’s not what you are, it’s what you don’t become that hurts.” – Oscar Levant

15. “It’s not a pretty face, I grant you. But underneath its flabby exterior is an enormous lack of character.” – Oscar Levant

16. “I’m a self-made man. Who else would help?” – Oscar Levant
17. “So little time and so little to do.” – Oscar Levant

18. “[Madame Nhu was] the Sandra Dee of South Vietnam. If I were cast on a desert island with her, I would quickly make friends with the natives.” – Oscar Levant

19. “I was once thrown out of a mental hospital for depressing the other patients.” – Oscar Levant

20. “Debbie Reynolds is as wistful as an iron foundry.” – Oscar Levant

21. “Once I make up my mind, I’m full of indecision.” – Oscar Levant

22. “George, if you had to do it all over, would you fall in love with yourself again?” – Oscar Levant

23. “I played an unsympathetic part — myself.” – Oscar Levant

24. “Ballet is the fairies baseball.” – Oscar Levant

25. “I’m going to memorize your name and throw my head away.” – Oscar Levant

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26. “Happiness isn’t something you experience; it’s something you remember.” – Oscar Levant

27. “A pun is the lowest form of humor, when you don’t think of it first.” – Oscar Levant

28. “I had always resented sleep as an intrusion on my nocturnal self-pity.” – Oscar Levant

29. “The only difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is that the Democrats allow the poor to be corrupt, too.” – Oscar Levant

30. “Harpo, she’s a lovely person. She deserves a good husband. Marry her before she finds one.” – Oscar Levant

Oscar Levant on Humility and Geniuses
31. “What the world needs is more geniuses with humility; there are so few of us left.” – Oscar Levant

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32. “It’d be nice to please everyone, but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view.” – Oscar Levant

33. “An epigram is only a wisecrack that’s played at Carnegie Hall.” – Oscar Levant

34. “I don’t like to play the piano. It makes me too attractive.” – Oscar Levant

35. “I could never have a mistress because I couldn’t bear to tell the story of my life all over again.” – Oscar Levant

36. “Happiness isn’t something you experience; it’s something you remember.” – Oscar Levant

37. “I never read bad reviews about myself because my friends invariably tell me about them.” – Oscar Levant

38. “In some situations, I was difficult, in odd moments impossible, in rare moments loathsome, but at my best unapproachably great.” – Oscar Levant

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39. “When I appeared before the draft board examiner during World War II, he asked me if I thought I could kill. “I don’t know about strangers,” I replied, “but friends, certainly.” – Oscar Levant

40. “On Ira Gershwin:
I remember when he was given the manuscript of a novel written by a woman friend who had hopes of having it published. To his astonishment, it turned out to be the dirtiest, most pornographic book he had ever read. When the lady mentioned that she intended to use a nom de plume, Ira suggested she call herself Henrietta Miller.” – Oscar Levant

41. “I’m controversial. My friends either dislike me or hate me.” – Oscar Levant

42. “I don’t drink. I don’t like it. It makes me feel good.” – Oscar Levant

self-pity quote by Oscar Levant
43. “Self-pity – it’s the only pity that counts.” – Oscar Levant

44. “A psychiatrist once diagnosed my troubles as “an abdication of will.”” – Oscar Levant

45. “I’ve stepped on too many toes on the way down.” – Oscar Levant

46. “I have given up reading books; I find it takes my mind off myself.” – Oscar Levant

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47. “I am no more humble than my talents require.” – Oscar Levant

48. “I’ve changed, I’m nice to people and I’m not so self-centered. What I’m trying to do now is think of the other person. The only trouble is, I’ve found that the other person thinks only of himself.” – Oscar Levant

49. “First I brush my teeth, and then I sharpen my tongue.” – Oscar Levant

What’s My Line? – Oscar Levant and Milton Berle

Here’s the first of four uncut episodes with original commercials. What a treat to have the original commercials in any watchable video quality—it takes away a bit of the sting of Dorothy Kilgallen’s imminent departure.


These Oscar Levant quotes are meant to inspire thought-provoking conversations among people who value music and understand life struggles.

Oscar suffered from mental health issues including hypochondria and neuroses, which he often talked about in his radio and television appearances. He wasn’t ashamed to share his afflictions with the world, and they most certainly never affected his genius and intellect.

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Image Credits

Tchaikovsky – Concerto No.1 Piano & Orch. op.23 & Grieg – Concerto A-Minor Piano & Orch. op.16 – Oscar Levant Piano, Philadelphia Orch., Ormandy, NY Phil., Efrem Kurtz, Columbia P14192” by Piano Piano! is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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