"The Specialist" by Chic Sale became a best seller by accident.
Chic Sale's humorous monologue was about a carpenter who built outhouses.
Chic Sale was an actor. Starting in vaudeville, he appeared on the legitimate stage, and then in films in the early days of Hollywood. As a member of Rotary, he would attend meetings in the cities where he was performing. He was often asked to provide some "little" entertainment after the luncheons. Since many of his routines required elaborate props, he chose to do a short monologue, written for the occasion. It was a comedy piece about Lem Putt, country carpenter and specialist in building outhouses.
In the beginning Chic Sale considered "The Specialist" for men only, and it took a long time to make him decide he could tell it to a mixed audience. Proud to have always performed true family entertainment, he thought to tell the "privy" story in front of women was a little out of line. The ladies felt otherwise. They knew their knowledge of rural living was just as great as their men folk and wanted to hear Lem Putt's story first hand. Gradually Mr. Sale's reluctance to perform "The Specialist" monologue at mixed gatherings was lessened, and he had a wonderful time making people laugh about the carpenter who was a specialist.
The monologue was published in 1929 and became a best seller.
Chic became aware that his charming, and funny, monologue was being stolen by other performers. Years in the theater had taught him that it was nearly impossible to protect one's gags or stories. What to do! He didn't want to lose his story! The best advice was for him to publish it in book form, and then it would be protected by the copyright laws. The book sold immediately, each month doubling the previous month's sales. Within a few short years over a million copies had been sold throughout the country.
Two humorous excerpts from the pages of
by Chic Sale.
"Luke, you sure have got privy trouble."
Luke Harkins was my first customer. He heerd about me specializin' and decided to take a chance. I built fer him the average eight family, three holer. With that job my reputation was made, and since then I have devoted all my time and thought to that special line. Of course, when business is slack, I do do a little paperhangin' on the side. But my heart is just in privy buildin'. And when I finish a job, I ain't through. I give all my customers six months' privy service free gratis. I explained this to Luke, and one day he calls me us and sez: "Lem, I wish you'd come out here, I'm havin' privy trouble."
So I gits in the car and drives out to Luke's place, and hid behind them Baldwins, where I could get a good view of the situation.
It was right in the middle of hayin' time, and them hired hands was goin' in and stayin' anywheres from forty minutes to an hour. Think of that!
I sez: "Luke, you sure have got privy trouble." So I takes out my kit of tools and goes in to examine the structure.
First I looks at the catalogue hangin' there, thinkin' it might be that; but it wasn't even from a reckonized house. Then I looks at the seats proper, and I see what the trouble was. I had made them holes too durn comfortable. So I gets out a scroll saw and cuts 'em square with hard edges. Then I go back and takes up my position as before--me here, the Baldwins here, and the privy there. And I watched them hired hands goin' in and out for nearly two hours; and not one of them was stayin' more then four minutes.
"Luke," I sez, "I've solved her." That's what comes of bein' a specialist.
"Old man Clark makes a big mistake."
Old man Clark--If he's a day he's nighty-seven-- lives over there across the holler with his boys. He asked me to come over and estimate on their job. My price was too high; so they decided to do it themselves. And that's where the trouble begun.
"I was doin' a little paperhangin' at the time for that widder that lives down past the creamery. As I'd drive by I could see the boys a-workin'. Of course, I didn't want to butt in, so used to just hollar at 'em on the way by and say, naborly like: 'Hey, boys, see you're doin' a little buildin'.' You see, I didn't want to act like I was buttin' in on their work; but I knowed all the time they was goin' to have trouble with that privy. And they did. From all outside appearance it was a regulation job, but not being experienced along this line, they didn't anchor her.
"You see, I put a four by four that runs from the top straight on down five foot into the ground. That's why you never see any of my jobs upset Hollowe'en night. They might pull 'em out, but they'll never upset 'em.
"Here's what happened: They didn't anchor theirs, and they painted it solid red--two bad mistakes. Hallowe'en night come along, darker than pitch. Old man Clark was out in there. Some of them devilish nabor boys was out for no good, and they upset 'er with the old man in it.
"Of course, the old man got to callin' and his boys heard the noise. One of 'em sez: 'What's the racket? Somebody must be at the chickens.' So they took the lantern, started out to the chicken shed. They didn't find anything wrong there, and they started back to the house. Then they heerd the dog bark, and one of his boys sez: 'Sounds like that barkin' is over towards the privy.' It bein' painted red, they couldn't see she was upset so they started over there.
"In the meantime the old man had gotten so confused that he started to crawl out through the hole, yellin' for help all the time. The boys reckonized his voice and come runnin', but just as they got there he lost his holt and fell. After that they just called--didn't go near him. So you see what a tragedy that was; and they tell me he has been practically ostercized from society ever since."