Life of Riley
i have been wondering where this phrase originated... my husband always calls me riley, we cannot figure where or how... any ideas?
Popularized in the 1880s by the vaudevillian, Pat Rooney, in the audience participation song, "Are You the O'Reilly," the phrase was later echoed in vernacular reference. Some sources suggest that there was some precedent to Rooney's lyrics. The narrative content describes one who strikes-it-rich.
Lewis Joplin II
It was also the title of a radio show and a TV show.
William and Mary Morris, in Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, conclude that this phrase arose when the vaudevillian Pat Rooney sang a song called "Are You the O'Reilly" during the late 19th century. The audience would sing along with this song, which dealt with what it would be like to be wealthy. The lyrics included such lines as `A hundred a day will be small pay' and `on the railroads you'll pay no fare.' However, H. L. Mencken attributes the origin of the phrase to "The Best in the House is None Too Good for Reilly," popular at the turn of the century.
Lewis Joplin II

The "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997) also mentions the Pat Rooney routine in the 1880s and the song "The Best in the House is None Too Good for Reilly," written "by Lawlor and Blake toward the turn of the century," as possible sources of the phrase. Mr. Hendrickson also lists a third theory: "Yet the Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916) may just lend his name in some way to the saying. Riley's simple, sentimental poems depicting the lives of barefoot boys loafing and living a life of ease in the summer were immensely popular at the time the phrase came into use."

And back to my comment about the phrase being the title of a radio show and a TV show:
The Life of Riley, an early U.S. television sitcom filmed in Hollywood, was broadcast on NBC from 1949-50 and from 1953-58. Although the program had a loyal audience from its years on network radio (1943-1951), its first season on television, in which Jackie Gleason was cast in the title role, failed to generate high ratings. William Bendix portrayed Riley in the second version and the series was much more successful, among the top twenty-five most watched programs from 1953-55. Syndicated in 1977, the series was telecast on many cable systems.
THE LIFE OF RILEY -- DuMont Television, produced by Tom McKnight and Irving Brecher for NBC. U.S. comedy series 1953-58 217 episodes x 30 min bw. starring William Bendix as Chester A. Riley (1953-1958). Riley worked in an aircraft plant in California, but viewers usually saw him at home, cheerfully disrupting life with his malapropisms and ill timed intervention into minor problems. His stock answer to every turn of fate became a catch phrase: "What a revoltin' development this is!"

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