Richard “Red” Skelton was born in Vincennes, Indiana in 1913. He worked as a circus clown and a medicine show pitchman before hitting the burlesque circuit in the 1920’s, performing impersonations and pantomime.
Skelton performed several times on Rudy Vallee’s Royal Gelatin Hour before joining NBC’s 1939 variety series Avalon Time. Broadcast from Chicago, Avalon Time featured country singer Red Foley and Skelton’s wife and gag writer, Edna Stillwell.
Raleigh Cigarettes offered Skelton his own show on NBC in 1941, giving him the chance to present a full range of comedic characters. Every week, Red could be heard as dim-witted cab driver Clem Kadiddlehopper, the inebriated Willy Lump-Lump, and Junior, “the Mean Widdle Kid,” who announced his mischievous intentions by proclaiming “I dood it.” Radio veteran Verna Felton was on hand as Junior’s disciplinarian grandmother.
Skelton was drafted in March 1944, but returned to NBC in December of 1945, with the same sponsor and timeslot. The Red Skelton Show ran on radio until May 1953. Skelton starred in his own television program from 1951 to 1971.
Red Skelton died on September 17, 1997.
He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1994.