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Joe Penner Laments Thirty-Year Contract Which Forces Him to Peddle Ducks by Air and Movies

Comedian Says He First Brought Duck into Act when Besieged by Hunger and Sheriff


"I first brought a duck into my net," said Joe Penner, while reclining in his dressing-room at Keith's, "back in the early days of my career, when I was touring the country in vaudeville acts, usually two jumps ahead of the hotel rent collector, which was not so bad, and the rest of the time about two laps behind him, which was not so good.

"It was while my company manager and I were stranded in a railroad station near Peoria, with one hamburger between us, that the idea first occurred. Did you ever think of having a duck or a chicken or a turkey 'in your act?' the manager asked. I never had, but I could see that the idea had definite posibilities.

"The first night of my new act, we packed the house and got thirty-one encores. After the encores were over, we went up to the hotel room, and we figured that we had about enough to pay off the hotel's deputy sheriff, who had been following us for six weeks. We had just ordered a big dinner when the manager came running up to tell us that our credit was no longer good, as the ticket taker had eloped with the tattoed lady between the twenty-first and the twenty-ninth encores, taking our night's receipts with him."

Joe paused to wipe away a tear. "So I named my second duck Goo-Goo, II, after the first duck, who had been named Goo-Goo I. And I signed a contract with the Association of Poultry Fanciera, agreeing that they were to provide me with plenty of ducks for my act, on condition that for thirty years I sell all the ducks I can and turn in my orders to their company. I usu- ally sell about two hundred ducks a night since I've been on the air.

"I'm tied hand and foot to that duck now. I can't get away from it. I've tried to break my contract, and I've even threatened to take it to the Supreme Court, but it doesn't do any good. I have to keep on advertising for that duck company, or they'll sue we. Every time one duck falls off the train, they send me another one. And the ducks don't have any sense of propriety. They don't send me any males, only females, and the last one I had laid a batch of eggs in the middle of my act. But there's nothing I can do about it. That duck haunts me.

"Oh, well, I'm resigned to my fate. By the way," he added, "did I tell you that I used to receive a flock of telegrams after my broadcasts, asking me how I could say such crazy things? I used to, but since I went into the movies, that's all changed.

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