The Butter and Egg Man (1925)

By George S. Kaufman

The Plot:

butter egg manA "butter-and-egg-man" refers to big roller who comes to the big city with big plans to spend his money on wine, women, and song. Peter Jones, a hotel clerk from Chillicothe , Ohio who comes to New York with $20,000 only wants to produce a Broadway play, in the hopes of using the (enormous) profits to open up a hotel in his hometown. He invests in Her Lesson, an unlikely hit with an aging, overweight ingénue, produced by the slightly shady team of Joe Lehman and Jack McClure. When the play bombs out of town in Syracuse, Jones offers to take the flop off of his producers' hands—and they gratefully accept. However, Jones is able to make the flop into a hit, and soon he has all of Broadway—including Lehman and McClure—eating out of his hands.

About the Play:

Kaufman had used the considerable knowledge of Broadway production methods he gained working at the New York Times to construct a witty backstage morality play. His only major solo effort among all of his creations, The Butter and Egg Man gives a time-capsule portrait of theater in the 1920s. It also seems to be a precursor to Mel Brooks' The Producers, where two dishonest producers stage a flop that turns overnight into a hit. Still, The Butter and Egg Man is an excellent example of the Kaufman "technique" and a welcome opportunity for smaller theater groups who want to stage a more compact version of a play in the farcical manner of Kaufman's larger work.

Stage history:

The Butter and Egg Man opened on September 23, 1925 at the Longacre Theatre. It ran for 243 performances. There have been several film versions and revivals at regional theaters. It was revived in 2000 at the Atlantic Theatre Company, directed by David Pittu and featuring Michael McGrath and John Ellison Conlee.

Production details:

7 men, 5 women. Two interiors.

For performing rights, contact


"You see people here in Syracuse are funny, sort of. If they like a show, they'll go to see it, but if they don't like it—they won't."

Strip Box:

A compact farce about show biz in the manner of The Producers; Kaufman's only solo effort.