Ben Zimmer has done an exemplary bit of research and reported on it at the Log:
Inspired by Mark Liberman’s post, “Putting the X in AXB,” I spent some time trying to find the origin for this venerable snowclone. A quick check of newspaper databases uncovered “putting the fun in fundamentals” from November 1912, and it turns out that the fall of 1912 was when the snowclone snowballed. It’s a nice example of how, even a century ago, lingua-memes could “go viral” (and go stale).
It seems that the originator of the meme (as far as we can tell a century later) was the cartoonist
Thomas Aloysius “TAD” Dorgan Rube Goldberg, who was said to have “coined the gag phrase ‘I’m the guy who…’ around 1910, using it as a stock saying by one of the characters in a comic strip he was drawing.” In the summer of 1912, for whatever reason, it suddenly exploded in popularity; Ben quotes dozens of examples from late June to mid-December, and as he says, “by October 6, according to the Washington Post, the formula had already descended into ‘pale inanities’ from ‘pseudo-humorists.'” It’s a fine example of the way modern searchable databases have made possible a far more detailed investigation of the way linguistic phenomena spread; it’s also striking that this particular one is so productive it’s still popular—Bob LeDrew, in a Log comment, quotes a fine example from The Simpsons in which Homer says: “Mmmmm, Barbra Streisand… puts the she in yeshiva.”