A vaudevillian at work
Sitting at his cluttered mahogany desk, [Billy K. Wells] draped a string from one side to the other, and, in a clothesline effect, pinned the various jokes and “bits of business” on the line, rearranging them as he built the scene. He kept a detailed account of the number of jokes he wrote; he tabulated the laughs per minute of every sketch. Even the malapropisms that salted his comic dialogue were uncovered in the same methodical manner. Wells would take a word and write it on one side of a file card and on the other list similar sounding words, testing each for its comic possibility…His fey imagination was able to ferret out fresh humor from old forms.