Red Skelton Show
Synopsis of TV Show
From the vaudeville stage to a hit radio special to a TV show that ran for twenty years, Red Skelton knew a thing or two about the subtleties (and not-so-subtleties) of comedic performance. He was one of the few radio personalities lucky enough to make a smooth transition from radio to the visual medium of TV—and in fact, because his comedy was so physical, he fared even better when he could be watched. From his pork pie hat to his tousled hair to his clown-painting hobby—hey, don’t dismiss it; those portraits are worth a bundle today—Skelton clearly belongs in the variety show Valhalla, which must be a hilariously loud and raucous place to call home.
Most of Skelton’s characters were developed on his radio show, then perfected onscreen. Among the must-mentions were the Mean Whiddle Kid (and his oft-repeated proclamation “I dood it!”), Clem Kadiddlehopper, Sheriff Deadeye, Cauliflower McPuggi, Willie Lump Lump and San Fernando Red. One character who wasn’t born on the radio was Freddie the Freeloader, a hobo with a penchant for pantomime.
Shows opened with Skelton’s monologue, followed by performances from his guest stars and sketches galore. The funnyman loved to improv, and he loved to make his co-stars bust up in the middle of their scenes. The tone was generally warm and optimistic, though Skelton took plenty of shots at those crazy late 60’s hippie types.
Once, when Skelton knocked himself unconscious during rehearsals for a 1954 show, staff writer Johnny Carson was called in at the last minute to fill those oversized hobo shoes. He did so well that CBS gave him a show of his own the following year. Musical groups made frequent appearances as well, and in 1964, a band called The Rolling Stones made their American TV debut—Skelton must have held his tongue so as not to spout off with the ubiquitous ‘oh, the youth of today’ type jokes.
Skelton’s ratings started to slide in the late 60’s, and CBS announced that the 1969-70 season would be the show’s last. Skelton signed on with NBC out of spite—and later admitted he shouldn’t have, as he only lasted one more year. But when you’ve been on the air for twenty, you’re more than entitled.
With his “Good night, and God bless” adieu, Skelton was a Tuesday night staple. And come Wednesday at the office, everyone gathered around the water cooler for a recap and amateur impressions of their own. You don’t last that long—especially through decades with values that changed as rapidly as the Skelton gang’s costumes—without a certain hilarious something.
Release History of Prime Time Show9/30/51-6/21/53 NBC
TV Sub Categoriescomedy
Television NetworkNBC, CBS
Television StudioNBC, CBS
TV CastHost Red Skelton
Orchestra Leader David Rose
Announcer Art Gilmore
Dancer Edward J. Heim
Performer (1970-71) Carol Worthington
Performer (1970-71) Chanin Hale
Performer (1970-71) Jan Arvan
Performer (1970-71) Elsie Baker
Performer (1970-71) Jason Bostwick
Performer (1970-71) Dorothy Love
Performer (1970-71) Yvonne Ewald
Performer (1970-71) Bob Duggan
Performer (1970-71) Peggy Rea
Performer (1970-71) Brad Logan
Performer (1970-71) The Burgundy Street Singers