The Great McGonigle tries to keep his theatrical troupe ahead of the sheriffs, but his daughter falls in love with a rich young singer.
On a train the McGonigle Troupe learns the sheriff is looking for the Great McGonigle (W. C. Fields), who burns the warrant. McGonigle finds a ticket and takes a man's compartment. His daughter Betty McGonigle (Judith Allen) tells Wally Livingston (Joe Morrison) not to follow her, but he wants to act. McGonigle thinks the band plays for him, but they welcome the man he stepped on. McGonigle leads his troupe to a hotel, where Mrs. Wendelschaffer (Nora Cecil) demands he pay before leaving. Betty tells Wally to go back to college. An actor complains that McGonigle lied about ticket sales. McGonigle flatters rich Cleopatra Pepperday (Jan Duggan) and seats her boy Albert (Baby LeRoy) at the table. Albert throws McGonigle's watch into the molasses and food in his face. Cleopatra sings for McGonigle "The Song of the Sea-shells." McGonigle pulls off some of her hair.
Wally's father Livingston (Oscar Apfel) looks for his son. Sheriff Jones aims to attach McGonigle's show and is jealous he is with Cleopatra. Betty says Wally can fill in, and he sings "We're Just Poor Folks." Livingston and the Sheriff come in. Cleopatra pushes McGonigle off the stage but stops the Sheriff from attaching the show. Livingston tells his son to go back to college, but Wally says he is in the show now. Cleopatra draws a crowd to The Drunkard, but she never appears in the show. Sheriff Prettywillie (Clarence Wilson) arrives and attaches the receipts.
In the play McGonigle plays the villain and keeps getting caught on the curtain. The two sheriffs tell Cleopatra that McGonigle just wants her money. Wally's character saves his wife by throwing out the villain. Wally sings "A Little Bit of Heaven Known as Mother," and offstage he kisses Betty. She tells his father that Wally won't go back to college, but they plot together. McGonigle demonstrates his fine juggling skills with four balls and cigar boxes. McGonigle learns that his tour is canceled. Livingston tells his son he can marry Betty if he gets rid of McGonigle. Betty tells Wally she can't leave her father, but McGonigle says he is going to New York and learns Wally has money. McGonigle tries to sneak his trunks out of the hotel and fools Mrs. Wendelschaffer by saying he is bringing them in. In the final scene McGonigle sells a wonder tonic.
The comedic talent of W. C. Fields carries this show alone; so his fans will find it a delight. The story suggests how tenuous life could be for a traveling theatrical troupe at the turn of the century.