Fuck Red Skelton, Part Two

Bloggified by Jake on Monday, July 26, 2010

Red Skelton's More Funny Faces began as a terribly unfunny observation of what comedy used to be in a time when people were so starved for amusement that "Chico and the Man" was considered groundbreaking entertainment.

After some bland jokes covering hot topics like bad women drivers and drunks, Red manages to throw in an appearance by one of his famous characters, Clem Kadiddlehopper, which the people of 1979 react to as though Santa Claus and Jesus jointly announced that everyone was getting a new Rolls Royce made out of orgasms with all-winning-lottery-ticket interiors.

Before I share the comedic brilliance of Clem Kadiddlehopper, let me share a story. In fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, and tenth grade, I remember doing poetry lessons that included "Beans" poems. The idea of the poetry lessons was to teach us about different styles of poems and to have us write our own sonnets, haikus, limericks, etc.

The "Beans" poem was a standard part of this curriculum, I assume because it was the easiest to mimic. The poem was just a list of types of beans (pinto beans, green beans, baked beans, kidney beans, etc.) with the ending "Most of all/Best of all/I like jelly beans." The assignment was to pick a different thing and make a list of types of that thing, then end with some kind of twist thing that shared the name but didn't quite fit, like big dogs, little dogs, fluffy dogs, mean dogs, but last of all, best of all, I like hot dogs! Or:

Tough jobs,
Cushy jobs,
Part-time retail jobs,
Fat cat desk jobs-
Those are just a few.

Mall jobs,
Office jobs,
Low-paying menial jobs,
Afterschool jobs,
Dirty jobs too.

Temp jobs,
Service jobs,
Don't forget freelance jobs.

Last of all,
Best of all,
I like blowjobs!

Why did I take the time to go off on this tangent? Because that poem that I spent three minutes writing represents about the same level of effort that Red put into his bit featuring his second most popular character ever.

As I noted last time, proponents of Red Skelton like to point to the fact that his material is safe enough to share with your children. That's largely because it written at the same intellectual level as children. "I'll read a poem about frogs that doesn't entirely make sense--"Mom says no but then there's Dad." Huh?--then I'll have a bunch of frog puppets pop up from behind the couch and I'll shoot them with a toy gun," could easily be the plot of my daughter's next "play" that she'll perform in the family room.

At least Clem Kadiddlehopper is a notable Red Skelton character. Where More Funny Faces really goes off the rails is when Red takes a break and hands over roughly twenty minutes of his hour long special to mimes.
I'll just go ahead and assume you didn't watch that entire video. It says something about the absolute lack of entertainment in the 1970's that anyone knows Marcel Marceau's name. How many other famous mimes can you name? Do you think there's a reason for that?

Every couple of years, America will take an interest in some foreign country and try to co-opt bits of its culture. In the mid-80's everyone was saying, "G'day, mate," every restaurant tried to incorporate some variation of "shrimp on the barbie," Fosters beer sales went from absolutely nothing to slightly more than nothing, and Paul Hogan and Yahoo Serious enjoyed careers as film stars. A few years later, sushi restaurants and karate dojos began popping up in every strip mall. In the 60's, the British Invasion hit America and somewhere in the 1970's someone decided what America really needed was wine bars, fondue sets, and mimes.

Fuck but the 1970's sucked! Oh, and what's the deal with those fucking stupid mime outfits with long sleeves but the low-cut scoop front that exposes the 1970's forest of chest hair? It serves no practical purpose other than to announce, "I am a mime. You can tell because I am wearing a lycra mime outfit! You know... in case the fucking white makeup didn't tip you off."

Marcel Marceau does another routine where he acts as a lion tamer and a mime couple does some kind of routine where she's a balloon and he's got her by a string. When Red Skelton comes out between their acts, he engages in pantomime himself. As we all know, the key to good mime is not speaking. One must show and not tell. Only through the actions can the audience relate to the performer. If you have to explain it, you suck at miming.

With that in mind, please listen to Red's intro to his Eiffel Tower pantomime routine.
I propose that all entertainment be given the same treatment. At the beginning of a movie, there should be a short clip of the director saying something like, "Hello, ladies and gentlemen, I am so happy you came to see Usual Suspects. This is the story of five career criminals who wind up in a very sticky situation, working for a mysterious man named Keyser Soze. Some people debate whether Keyser Soze even exists, and he does. In fact, what you'll find is that Kevin Spacey's character, Verbal Kint, is actually Keyser. I think you'll really enjoy that twist. Okay, again, thanks for coming and I hope you enjoy The Usual Suspects."

And, just in case making people who paid money to come watch you perform sit through half an hour of mime while you chill in your dressing room isn't insult enough, Red Skelton saved the biggest fuck you for the last five minutes.

Next time: Red Skelton, Cock Tease

4 sarcastic replies:

Greg said...

OK, you're being a little harsh. First off, the mime about walking up the Eiffel Tower was funny. He needed to explain the basic premise so the audience knew what the hell was going on. Because it was a MIME.

two1two said...

I distinctly remember being a little kid during 1970's and becoming almost irrationally angry every time I was forced to suffer another Red Skelton performance. And the worst part was, back then, if you didn't laugh your ass off to his comedy you were treated as though you were the "Emperor has no clothes" kid.

My very first memory of him was formed when I was no more than seven-years-old. He was doing that stupid, f-ing "Freddie the Freeloader" character and I remember thinking, "he's just acting out things, pretending to do stuff while they play the sound of what he's pretending to do. ie: he pretends he's holding a bottle with one hand and then pretends to pour something into an imaginary cup he's holding in his other hand, and while he's doing this they play a sound effect like, "glug, glug, glug" WTF? (or whatever the then-seven-year-old-version of WTF would have been)

Nothing he does is funny, nothing. Let me rephrase that; I guarantee that the process of him creating his "comedy" material required no mental effort whatsoever, and took no more than a minute or two to write.

I swear, I think the genesis of his whole thirty-plus year stint at the very top of the comedy pyramid was due to nothing more than the fact that he just happened to have a two-bit-vaudeville act going just as radio, television, and movies were coming into their glory years. The executives of these new mediums needed bodies to fill all the dead air and dead space on the movie screens and they just plugged him into the open slots. And - as you pointed out so well - the public was so starved for something...anything, that a guy who did nothing more than make stupid faces, and say nonsensical things in a silly voice passed as a comedic genius.

One final point. This tirade was prompted when I happened to be watching an old "I Love Lucy" episode where Skelton appeared as a guest. This prompted a quick "Red Skelton sucks" Google search on my part (my thought being, "I can't be the only one who can't stand this no-talent") and happily I found your site.

Jake said...

We are not alone anymore!

When I first saw the email subject "A comment has been posted to Fuck Red Skel" in my inbox, I braced myself for another tirade about how I don't know funny and I suck and Red Skelton is a genius. I get those regularly on You Tube.

Thank you for confirming not everyone loves this hack.

Rex Rowland said...

I came here because I just watched an interview with Jerry Seinfeld in which he claims at age 5 he knew Red Skelton wasn't funny.

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