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OCC Theatre Hosts 'Remembering Red' A Salute to Red Skelton July 21

Brian Hoffman enjoys making people laugh.

He will have plenty of opportunities this weekend as he brings his show “Remembering Red — A Salute to Red Skelton” to Olney Central College’s Dr. John D. Stull Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 21. Tickets are $10 at the door.

Hoffman will act out narrated pantomimes and the short one-man skits Skelton was famous for as he delights audiences with his portrayal of Skelton’s iconic characters such as Clem Kadiddlehopper and Freddie the Freeloader.

Like Hoffman, many Baby Boomers have fond memories of the entire family gathered around the television for “The Red Skelton Show,” which aired from 1951 to 1971.

“I enjoy seeing the happiness the show brings to folks and listening to them remember the good times with their parents and grandparents watching Red,” Hoffman said. “It is such a reward seeing the happiness on people’s faces.”

A former salesman and over-the-road truck driver — ‘semi retired,” as he puts it — Hoffman began entertaining in comedy clubs and open mic nights bringing his life experiences to the stage. His delivery and comedic style drew frequent comparisons to Skelton.

“It was never my idea,” Hoffman said of his portrayal of Skelton. “As I was doing my own shows, people who were old enough to remember Red would tell me how much I reminded them of him. I would politely deny it, but the more I did, the more they would insist.”

Hoffman eventually made his way to Las Vegas.

“I went there thinking I was good enough to do my own show. Well, that didn’t work,” he added. “No one knew the name Brian Hoffman, but Red Skelton’s name is famous.”

In a town famous for impersonators, Hoffman carved out his niche performing as the beloved comedian in a family-friendly show.

“A headliner taught me how the show rooms work and took me under his wing,” said Hoffman. “I started as an opening act.”

Hoffman later was headlining his own show in Vegas to great success, but venue changes and the desire to move closer to young grandchildren in Ohio led Hoffman and his wife to look for a new location. They found their new home in the small resort town of Pigeon Forge, Tenn. where Hoffman performs at the Rocky Top Theater, a venue he owns.

Hoffman likes entertaining in smaller theaters because it allows him to interact with the audience.

“The closer I can get to you, the better,” he said. “Comedy is really an intimate conversation. In a small theater, you get to know folks as the show goes on.”

Hoffman is looking forward to his first performance in Olney, which coincides with his attendance at the Red Skelton Festival in Vincennes, Ind.

“It is a chance to meet another whole group of people who can share their memories of Red, which is so much fun,” he added.

In the 15 years he has been performing his salute to Skelton, Hoffman has gotten to know members of Skelton’s family. He developed a longtime friendship with Skelton’s niece after the pair met following Hoffman’s appearance at a Nevada church. He also met Skelton’s window, Lothian, after the curator of the Red Skelton Museum in Vincennes sent her a video of Hoffman’s performance and she came to see him in person.

“She loves what I do. She thinks I’m doing Red proud,” Hoffman said. “I have her and the estate’s approval. I think that is such an honor. “

Skelton was known for his accessibility and personable manner, sticking around after the shows to talk with fans.

“I follow that philosophy,” Hoffman added. “I don’t run off and hide somewhere. I like to stay and talk with people. I’m usually the last one to leave.”

Hoffman feels privileged to keep alive the legacy of Skelton, who passed away in 1997.

“Red deserves to be remembered for his kindness, generosity and love of mankind,” Hoffman said. “He believed in loving your neighbor as yourself. We would all be a lot better off if we did that.”

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