From an interview with Buster Keaton in Sight and Sound, Winter 1965/66:
My original situation in [Steamboat Bill, Jr.] was a flood. But my so-called producer on that film was Joe Schenck...Schenck was supposed to be my producer but he never knew when or what I was shooting. He just turned me loose.
Well, the publicity man on Steamboat Bill goes to Schenck and he says: 'He can't do a flood sequence because we have floods every year and too many people are lost. It's too painful to get laughs with.' So Schenck told me, 'You can't do a flood.' I said, 'That's funny, since it seems to me that Chaplin during World War One made a picture called Shoulder Arms, which was the biggest money-maker he'd made at that time. You can't get a bigger disaster than that, and yet he made his biggest laughing picture out of it.' He said, 'Oh, that's different.' I don't know why it was different. I asked if it was all right to make it a cyclone, and he agreed that was better. Now he didn't know it, but there are four times more people killed in the United States by hurricanes and cyclones than by floods. But it was all right as long as he didn't find that out, and so I went ahead with my technical man and did the cyclone.'