by DW Grant
Seeing this show is like blowing the dust off an old favorite photo album, bringing? back the thrill of rediscovery.? Brian Hoffman brings Red Skelton back to Vegas in a valuable rediscovery of the late great movie, radio, and TV comedian.? Even if you never knew Red Skelton you?ll find you have a new friend by the end of the evening.
Recreate a celebrity, imitate their mannerisms and mimic their voice, Brian Hoffman does all of that very well. He?s nailed Red?s smile, the way he swung his arms and hips, and that disarming warning giggle just before he?s about to drop a funny bomb on you.? He turns the hat upside down when he switches characters in the midst of the same joke, and flips his red hair forward when introducing you to Gertrud and Heathcliff, but there?s more.? Brian Hoffman seems to have captured Red?s heart, and is more than willing to hand it to his audience.
The stage at the Westin Hotel is small and the room intimate. So when a single spot light hits the actor it looks like he?s standing in one of those glossy black and white celebrity performance photos you see in some vintage Vegas casino. When Red speaks you?re drawn into the glossy photo with him, becoming one of those frozen laughing faces, but coming alive with Red for just this show.
Dressed in a plain 3-piece suit and black bow tie Brian tells Red?s jokes sometimes flat and sometimes sharp. He looks expectantly out at his audience after each offering, as Red did, and waits for a response. He?s worked hard introducing the joke, aimed it your funny bone, and finally tossed it into your lap. If you don?t laugh he?s disappointed, of course, and he?ll stare at the audience for just long enough and then deliver a comeback joke to get you going again.? It?s the comedian?s game of? ?fetch? with his audience and Brian Hoffman does it well.
After the opening stand up set he introduces a couple of? Red?s pantomime classics like ?The Old Man and The Little Boy, ? ?Bacon Sizzling in the Pan,? and the iconic drunken ?Guzzler?s Gin Program? sketch.?? Then Red?s characters come out. First is Gertrude and Heathcliff, then Junior The Mean Widdle Kid (I dood it) , and Clem Kaddiddilehopper. After the classic character sketches Brian gets serious and hands you Red?s patriotism in Red?s famous ?Pledge of Allegiance? soliloquy.? Each is true to character and a welcome friend, but someone?s missing. Has Brian forgotten our favorite homeless tramp?
Brian brings up a dressing table from back stage, turns his back to the audience, sits,? and begins to put on the character; the makeup, the hat, coat and scarf. He tells the tale of? Freddie the Freeloader, a kind soul who is never homeless because he is always giving to others. In a few moments Brian stands, turns, and we get Freddie, as we have wanted him; kind, funny, philosophical, and embracing. Red?s heart is handed to us again through Freddie.
Here?s where Brian brings his own story to us as well. His MySpace page tells us he was raised on a farm in North Dakota. On stage he tells us he was a truck driver until a back injury forced him into comedy, or was he just setting up another joke?? While hosting shows in Ohio so many people commented about his likeness to Red Skelton he decided to develop his own tribute.
Red Skelton was on TV, Tuesday nights mostly, from 1951 to 1971.? A top radio and movie star in the 1940s, and? a TV icon, along with Ed Sullivan, Jackie Gleason,? and the TV shows Gunsmoke and Bonanza in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s,?? he even introduced The Rolling Stones to America. How can he be forgotten?
Though Red foresaw the day people would stock their own libraries with commercial movies and TV shows, his bitterness toward the networks and his total resistance to off color performing or being broadcast near them caused him to insist that all of his TV shows be destroyed after his death. Luckily his last wife and others objected and this last wish was not fulfilled. There were other consequences, however.
?Because Red Skelton never let his TV shows go into syndication? a generation has grown up not knowing him,? Brian says. ?My performances are dedicated to making sure than Red Skelton? and his characters will never be forgotten.?
And we won?t forget our night with you, Brian,? as we remember leaving the theater with a warm spot in our hearts and tear in our eye. ?And may God bless? to you too for bringing?? back our Red, Mr. Hoffman.