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Red Skelton, America's Clown

Updated on March 19, 2012

Red Skelton - The "Clown Prince" of Comedy

If you were around at a time when you could watch The Red Skelton Show on TV, consider yourself lucky. If not, perhaps you could take the time to sit with someone who was and let them tell you what a comedy show should be. This was a man who could take the stage and perform both stand-up routines or hilarious skits. Some of the famous guest stars in these skits found it very difficult to keep from fits of laughter because of Red's clowning or if Red started one of his giggling fits.

There was also a very serious side of Red Skelton when speaking of things dear to his heart.

Born in Vincennes, Indiana, Richard (Red) Skelton was the son of a circus clown named Joseph who died in 1913 shortly before the birth of his son. Red himself got one of his earliest tastes of show business with the same circus as a teenager. By age 15, Red Skelton had hit the road full-time as an entertainer, working everywhere from medicine shows and vaudeville to burlesque, showboats, minstrel shows and circuses.

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Red and Some of His Famous Characters

Beginning with Having A Wonderful Time (1938), Red Skelton appeared in more than 30 MGM films during the 1940s and 1950s. On October 7, 1941, Red Skelton premiered his own radio show, The Raleigh Cigarette Program, developing routines involving a number of recurring characters, including punch-drunk boxer Cauliflower McPugg, inebriated Willie Lump-Lump and Junior the "mean widdle kid" , whose favorite phrase ("I dood it!") became part of the America's vocabulary. There was con man San Fernando Red with his pair of crosseyed seagulls, Gertrude and Heathcliffe, and singing cabdriver Clem Kadiddlehopper, a country bumpkin with a big heart and a slow wit. In 1951 CBS beckoned Red Skelton to bring his radio show to television. His characters worked even better on screen than on radio; television also provoked him to create his second best-remembered character, Freddie the Freeloader.

Skelton's weekly signoff -- "Good night and may God bless" -- became as familiar to television viewers as Edward R. Murrow's "Good night and good luck".

He was the first CBS television host to begin taping his weekly programs in color, in the early 1960s, after he bought an old movie studio and converted it for television productions.

Classic Red Skelton - A short clip with my favorites, "Gertrude and Heathcliffe"

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A Clown For Life..

Red never knew his clown father. But being a clown is all he ever wanted and knew how to be so he spent his entire life as one.

He loved to make people laugh and slapstick was a big part of his routine. Taking pratfalls became a part of his early skits and he continued to use them well into his middle years, with the result that although his basic health was robust, the cartilage in both knees was shot. For 45 years he used a cane and leg braces.

Reflecting on his life: "I'd have avoided some of the pain if I could. Anyone would. But I wouldn't have missed knowing any of the people-even the ones whose leaving hurt most. In fact, the only thing I'm sorry about is that I didn't meet one particular guy, a clown named Joe Skelton. You know, he sure picked the right profession. I mean, a clown's got it all. He never has to hold back: He can do as he pleases. The mouth and the eyes are painted on. So if you wanta cry, you can go right ahead. The make up won't smear. You'll still be smiling. . . ."

"I don't want to be called 'the greatest' or 'one of the greatest' -- let other guys claim to be the best,'' Mr. Skelton once said. ''I just want to be known as a clown, because to me that's the height of my profession. It means you can do everything -- sing, dance and above all, make people laugh.''

Red Skelton in a more Serious Moment - A touching rendition of the "Pledge of Allegiance". Be sure to watch until the end. If you're not moved, you're not getti

The Red Skelton Show - The show opened with a skit and then some stand-up

Wanna Laugh ???

One of the things that I loved when I watched Red Skelton was when he starting laughing in the middle of a skit and could barely control himself. It sometimes took a while for him to regain his composure and continue. You'd find that you have to laugh right along with him. This skit is an example.

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Red Quotes

Just a sampling where Red's heart was.....

''I'd rather have people say, 'Boy, he's hokey, isn't he?' '' he said, ''rather than, 'Who was the guy who told all those dirty jokes?' '' He did not approve of swearing: ''I don't think anybody should have to pay money at the box office to hear what they can read on restroom walls.''

"No matter what your heartache may be, laughing helps you forget it for a few seconds."

"If by chance some day you're not feeling well and you should remember some silly thing I've said or done and it brings back a smile to your face or a chuckle to your heart, then my purpose as your clown has been fulfilled."

And his lighter side:

''People in hell,'' he once wondered aloud before an audience. ''Where do they tell people to go?''

On wives: ''Webster wouldn't have written his dictionary if it wasn't for his wife. She was always saying, 'What's that supposed to mean?' ''

Which Red is Best?

If you're familiar with Red Skelton, What do you like best about him?

I love his intros and jokes.

I love his intros and jokes.

Submit a Comment

  • jaredsgirl 5 years ago

    I'd definitely have to say I love his intros and jokes! He was such a funny man. Makes me miss the days of old humor...so enjoyable those days were.

  • sorana lm 6 years ago

    Definitely his jokes. Great comedian.

  • anonymous 6 years ago

    I think I liked both equally because he was so dear no matter what he was doing. He held you in the moment he was in and you didn't want to be anywhere else.

I love any of his great characters and skits.

Submit a Comment

  • Allan R. Wallace 6 years ago from Wherever Human Rights Reign

    What I remember most are the recurring characters in his skits - always wonderful.

  • CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

    I just love Red Skelton, period.

  • Sara Valor 6 years ago from Breezy Hills

    Choosing between these two is difficult. We grew up watching Red Skelton, he was a favorite of both mom and dad. Great comedian, cool individual...

  • Fox Music 6 years ago

    a True Innovator of Comedy

  • Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

    Red was my absolute favorite comedian, followed by George Burns. Red's Freddie the Freeloader Christmas skit was my favorite, and brought me to tears almost every time I saw it. This is a great lens and i really enjoyed hearing him again. Thanks for sharing.

Red Skelton the Mime

Besides being the clown and the jokester on stage, Red Skelton was also a fabulous mime. He was good friends with Marcel Marceau and they performed together on his show many times. If you want to see what mime is all about and how it should be done, find yourself some video clips of Red Skelton performing his mime routines and enjoy!!

The Red Skelton Show, Red...

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The Post Office Recognizes Red Skelton

along with 19 other TV Icons

In August of 2009, the United States Postal Service issued a series of stamps commemorating 20 TV icons. Red Skelton's Freddie the Freeloader was included in the set.

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A Fitting Tribute to Red Skelton

Red Skelton has two stars on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. One is for his radio career and one for his outstanding television work.

A Clown in every part of his life

Besides being the consummate clown throughout his life on radio and television, Red Skelton was also an artist who painted clowns. His work is sometimes likened to the style of Norman Rockwell. He spent much of his spare time painting and some of his works have sold for more than $80,000. He estimated once that he made $2.5 million a year from his lithographs.

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Red's Final Act

If God needs to smile once in a while, He brought home the perfect man for the job.

We lost Red Skelton on September 19, 1997. He died of pneumonia and is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. He was 84 years old. Truly one of the great clowns is gone. Thankfully there are archives of his shows that we can view and be taken back to a time when comedy was king.

All I can say right now to Red is "Good Night and God Bless"

Comments Welcome... - Feedback on the lens, the content, the style is always appreciated.

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    • LikinTrikin LM profile image
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      LikinTrikin LM 5 years ago

      @jaredsgirl: You are very welcome. Glad you liked it and glad you have those happy memories :) Happy New Year to you.

    • jaredsgirl profile image

      jaredsgirl 5 years ago

      I remember being a young girl watching Red Skelton with my grandfather who loved him! I don't think we missed an episode. This lens takes me back to those days of bonding with my grandfather over Red Skelton. Thank you for that because I miss him dearly (my grandfather of course).

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Wonderful lens. Red Skelton was a genius and he inspired me.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      Red skelton is hands down my all time favorite comedian. There is no one today who has even a prayer of a chance of coming close to him. They just don't have what it takes, sadly, because people REALLY need to lauch these days. And not at malicious so-called jokes, either.

    • sorana lm profile image

      sorana lm 6 years ago

      You have done a great job with this lens. Great homage lens to Red Skelton.

    • KarenHC profile image

      Karen 6 years ago from U.S.

      I remember watching Red Skelton when I was young. Of course at that age, for a long time I thought his name was "Skeleton".... Looking back now, I'm impressed with how clean his jokes were -- families could watch. I love how he laughs at his own antics too.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      We would watch Red Skelton without fail as a family every week. Red was a gentleman clown and never crossed the line, it just wasn't in his nature to be anything but delightful and kind and he gave us pure fun that was even better when he would crack up himself. Good night....and...God bless!

    • LikinTrikin LM profile image
      Author

      LikinTrikin LM 6 years ago

      Thanx to nancycarol and to FoxMusic for the nice comments.

    • Fox Music profile image

      Fox Music 6 years ago

      Thank you for this Great Lens on Red Skelton, Americas Clown

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      The style, content are wonderful and the lens is now on my favorites list I enjoyed this lens more than any other I've read here on Squidoo.