by Doug Graham

"They" say that deaths of important people come in groups of three. We already lost a princess, a saint, and now comes the third, a clown. Richard "Red" Skelton, who died in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Sept. 17 at the age of 84, wouldn't mind be called a clown either.

The "googly-eyed" Skelton was Jim Carrey long before Carrey caught the public's fancy, with trademarked characters such as Clem Kadiddlehopper, Freddie the Freeloader, Sheriff Deadeye, Cauliflower McPugg and Bolivar Shagnasty. Even one of Skelton's film titles was The Yellow Cab Man, reminescent of Carrey's The Cable Guy. Probably his most famous bit was called "Guzzler's Gin", in which a pitchman can't handle the product he's selling and gets drunker and drunker. And through it all, Skelton was also the clown, singing, dancing and doing what ever it took to make people laugh.

Cover of Red Video available through Amazon. Click image for details.
In fact, after the fortunes of television passed by Skelton, whose show, The Red Skelton Show ran for 20 years on network television (from 1951 to 1971), he made millions off his lithographs of clowns. His clown paintings have fetched as high as $80,000.

Skelton was the last of a dying breed of comedian, not an observationalist like the majority of comedians today, but a strong comic character that always had traces of the core character no matter what role he happened to be playing at the time.

He was born July 18, 1913 into a circus family and at the age of 10 left home to join a traveling medicine show. According his biographical videotape Red Skelton: A Comedy Scrapbook at age 14 he got a job on a showboat, replacing an entertainer who had been shot to death in a dispute with a riverboat gambler. He joined vaudeville in 1930 at age 15.

He made his radio debut in 1937 and his film debut in 1938. His first film, Having a Wonderful Time, was a box office flop but won his critical claim enough to see him through 42 other movies.

Among them were The Fuller Brush Man (1948) and its companion Fuller Brush Girl (1950, also known as The Affairs of Sally), I Dood It (1943), Watch the Birdie (1950), and Whistling in Dixie (1942). His films all took maximum advantage of his pantomime skills.

Skelton was also an accomplished composer, penning over 5,000 musical selections. For more information, a good site with lots of information about Red Skelton, including his favorite recipe, is at, but be sure to come back to take a look at some of his films that are available for sale through comedycity.

Goodnight, Red. And may God bless.