Red Skelton tribute artist

Photo contributed

Brian Hoffman, a Red Skelton tribute artist, will perform at the Watseka Theatre Oct. 19.

Gertrude and Heathcliff the Seagulls, Clem Kadiddlehopper and Freddie the Freeloader are going to be on stage Saturday at the Watseka Theatre.

Brian Hoffman will bring Red Skelton’s characters to life that night.

Hoffman, who has been portraying Red Skelton for about 15 years.

He said via telephone Monday afternoon that he had been doing stand up in Las Vegas for a few years and people said he reminded them of Red Skelton. He first said no, but soon was impersonating the beloved comedian onstage. He performed a few years in Las Vegas and then moved to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

This is his fifth year in Tennessee and he’s loving it. He owns and operates the Red Skelton Tribute Theater there. He’s very proud of the fact that Red’s widow was able to visit the theater on the night it was named for her late husband.

“That was a very wonderful experience,” he said.

Hoffman said that through the years Red Skelton has endured for a number of reasons.

“He is the guy next door,” Hoffman said. “He can relate to everyone. He was a humble man from humble beginnings. He came from a poor family.

“He was very sincere on TV and in real life,” Hoffman said. “So many people I know who have met him said that he was very approachable. He took time and talked to his fans.”

Hoffman said he has been told that he looks a bit like Red Skelton, also. He enjoys getting onstage and bringing the famous characters to life.

Hoffman said he is very much looking forward to coming to Watseka. “I’m told by the manager there that Red Skelton graced that stage,” he said, noting that he will be pleased to be able to be on a stage the the iconic comedian was on.

He said the audience will get a complete Red Skelton show.

“They can expect the silly humor,” he said. “They can expect the pantomimes, the clever one liners, the plays on words.”

They can expect his famous rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” will also be part of the act that night.

Hoffman performs almost 300 shows a year. He performs six days a week in Pigeon Forge, and then also performs throughout the country at shows like the one Saturday in Watseka.

He learned to impersonate Red Skelton by watching and practicing his skits.

“I’ve always had a gift to be able to watch and imitate somebody,” he said.

Hoffman said people tell him that his shows bring back a lot of memories for them. People remember seeing Red Skelton on television when they were young. “It’s always fun and makes people laugh,” he said. “There’s reminiscing and childhood memories. It gives everyone a warm, fuzzy feeling.”

Hoffman said he takes time to pose for photos and talk to audience members after the show, something he plans to do Saturday.

The event is Oct. 19, with doors opening at 6 p.m. and the show at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at watsekatheatre,com.