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Red Skelton had a reputation among comedy writers as being extremely difficult to work with, since he didn't like writers in general and resented CBS for insisting that he use them on his show; he wanted to write all the sketches himself, his reasoning being that no one knew his characters as well as he did. Sherwood Schwartz, prior to taking the position as head writer on the show, had it written into his contract with CBS that Skelton was under no circumstances allowed to discuss anything about a show's script with him before he was given it prior to taping, which often resulted in Skelton not knowing what a sketch was about or even what character he would be playing until shortly before airtime. That's why Skelton would often break character in the middle of a skit and turn to the audience and say something like, "Don't blame me, folks, I don't write this stuff." See more »
The networks always took the trouble until the very end with Red to write scripts & provide an orchestra (Nelson Riddle) & create an outstanding forum for Red to perform on. In turn Red showed how he could clown in every direction.
Each show would open with some music & dancing. Then Red would do a monologue & he could do a monologue very well. Johnny Carson, as a writer for Red, went to school & learned from Red how to do monologues which served Johnny well for 30 years when he took over the Tonight Show & late night TV. He had learned from the best.
In fact, Red taught Johnny how to ad-lib and Red was the master of the ad-lib. No matter what part of the show something went wrong in, Red would ad-lib something & make it funnier for his viewers. After the monologue, there would always be a sketch with Red as one of his characters. This is usually when his guest stars for that show would appear.
Almost everybody appeared as a guest on his shows. It didn't matter if they were other comedians or serious dramatic actors, they would appear with Red and he would play off all of them with his unique comedy. After the sketch, some shows would then feature either a musical guest or a Nelson Riddle number.
Then would come the "silent spot". These were classic sketches in which you hoped the picture on your screen (pre TV cable) wasn't too snowy so you could see what was so funny. In a way, the Silent Spot & Jackie Gleason's "The Poor Sole" who also did silent comedy were the only silent comedy the Vietnam Generation were really exposed too.
Then Red would close the show by coming on stage & politely wishing all a "good night & God bless." He was right, God did bless us that his talent was with us so many years on this show. Skelton's comedy was never cerebral, just always funny.
His prowess with Physical Comedy was only rivaled by Jackie Gleason, but Red was just a little better at the physical. Even in later years when Johnny Carson did sketches on TONIGHT which he tried physical comedy, a lot of his inspiration came from working with Red. This was an era of kinder, gentler comedy. There were no dirt, or lewd routines. Red did do political humor. Johnny Carson picked up on that too.
I wish they would produce some of the entire seasons of The Red Skelton show on DVD. The singlets I have seen on VHS & DVD so far don't do overall justice to him. Red's movies were too few, though some of them were quite good. If the seasons came out, a couple of Red's shows that would be interesting would be the night Johnny Carson replaced an injured Red, & the often forgotten show where Red was ill & Ed Sullivan stepped in to replace Red!!. Red later returned the favor on the ED SULLIVAN SHOW when Ed was ill too.
Those were the days, & now all these folks are gone. If DVDs get far enough into the Skelton archives, they won't be forgotten.
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