Joe Penner (1904-1941) inadvertently illustrated a vaudeville pitfall by being a one-horse comic, beating the horse to death, and then beating the dead horse. To be more accurate, he was a one duck comic. He struggled along in vaudeville for years without distinguishing himself as a dialect comedian. Gradually he developed a character with the power to amuse by offering to sell preposterous articles, “Wanna buy a [something or other].” Through experimentation, he learned that he got the biggest laugh by saying “Wanna buy a duck?” He was able to milk this shtick for a couple of years in vaudeville, then introduced it on radio on Rudy Vallee’s show, where it made a national sensation. After a couple of years of this, though, no one wanted to buy the duck anymore. Unfortunately, this bit was the only weapon in his arsenal. In 1941, God apparently asked him “Wanna buy a farm?” He did.
To find out more about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.