Physical comedy viewed on television became an important medium for my mother. I remember sitting with her while watching black and white shows starring Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, and Red Skelton on our tiny television. The reruns of the I Love Lucy show topped the list of her favorites. The Three Stooges became a Saturday morning standard at our house. As a deaf woman, my mother enjoyed these physical comedy artists performing their craft. She didn’t have to worry about lip reading to catch the meaning of their art form. Thus, Red Skelton became an important part of my childhood. When I discovered the Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy existed on the campus of Vincennes University, I knew we had to make the trip to the small Indiana town.
Important facts about Red Skelton
Joe Skelton was a former clown for the Hagenbeck & Wallace Circus. He died two months before his son, Richard Red Skelton, came into the world. Before Red Skelton turned sixteen, he clowned for the same circus. He went on to perform in minstrel shows and on riverboats. His mother cleaned houses and was an elevator operator to support the family.
Red sold newspapers on the street to make money when he was ten years old. Ed Wynn bought all his papers and invited him to the show where he performed at a local theatre in Vincennes. This introduction to the theatre sparked Red’s interest in show business. He left home at 15 to travel with a medicine show.
In 1937, Red made his debut on radio and broadway. He was drafted in March of 1944 and spent time in the army in an entertainment unit. He acted in 40 movies and had a weekly television show called Red Skelton’s Television Show. During his career, he developed interesting characters such as Freddy the Freeloader and Clem Kaddiddlehopper.
Our experience at the Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy
Rooster and I wanted to visit the Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy before Covid-19 shut down the world. Now that places are starting to open up again, we figured a trip to Vincennes to visit the Museum should top our adventure list. I had no idea the Vincennes University campus included this museum. We pulled into a parking space that had a sign stating Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy parking. Since I was in the university parking business before I retired, I worried we’d get a ticket because we didn’t have a permit.
We entered through the gift shop. A very nice man took our entrance fee before sitting us down in a theatre to watch a movie about the Life of Red Skelton. This physical comedian played a critical role in my childhood, but I didn’t realize how versatile this man was in various art forms. He wrote short stories, music and painted pictures, making Red Skelton a talented Renaissance man.
Red Skelton the artist
Red’s Pledge of Allegiance
Red’s characters wore many hats.
List of Characters Red Skelton created and played
Freddie the Freeloader
San Fernando Red
Red earned many awards during his career.
Conclusion of our visit to the Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy
Rooster and I were glad we paid a visit to this unique museum. I learned many things about Red Skelton I didn’t know before we went. From my childhood, I remember him as a funny man who could make my mother laugh. But, I came to realize his talents varied from the clown up on the screen. The pictures he painted reflect the sadness the funny man carried with him in life, a natural-born clown from a humble beginning. He lost his father before he was born, and he grew up poor and fast. He never finished high school but wrote in his spare time. His son died at ten years old from leukemia. His journey is the perfect example of if life gives you lemons, make a pitcher of lemonade. I walked away from the museum, impressed by this talented man.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures, click here.
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