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Red Skeltonâs most famous character, Freddie the Freeloader, is a happy hobo clown. Unlike Emmett Kellyâs Weary Willy tramp clown, Freddie the Freeloader had a perpetually upbeat personality, sure that good fortune awaited him just around the corner. He typically (depending on the need of the skit) lived in a ramshackle shack in the garbage dump, where he slept in a bathtubâalthough it was a running joke that he didnât bathe regularly. For instance, in several episodes of the Red Skelton Show, someone asked Freddie the Freeloader if he was aloneâFreddie the Freeloader would scratch himself, pantomiming that he had fleas, and reply that he wasnât totally alone.
Freddie the Freeloader was a generous soul, always willing to share his meager possessions. For example, a guest star might need a place to stay, and Freddie the Freeloader would pull out another bathtub for them to sleep in. Other examples include his willingness to share his little food with others, help orphans with annual hobo fund raising efforts, or simply offer to help strangersâoften to his own discomfort.
There was a reason that Freddie was a Freeloader, of courseâhe had a ongoing allergy to work in any form. Once example of this was when Freddie the Freeloader, asleep in his bathtub, was awoken by his alarm clock. He awoke, looked at the clock and exclaimed, âGreat Scott! Itâs Thursday! Iâve overslept and missed my unemployment check! [pause] Oh, well, easy come, easy go.â
In addition to his laziness, Freddie the Freeloader is remembered for his ingenuity, such as using the radiator of an old car to boil water for tea, or pulling a bathtub down from the wall as his âMurphy bed.â He had a genuine warmth and concern for people, especially for children or people in need. He was not, however, above deflating a pompous individual, or someone else that he felt had it coming, such as a criminal.
âI get asked all the time; Where did you get the idea for Freddie the Freeloader, and who is Freddie really?
Well, I guess you might say that Freddie the Freeloader is a little bit of you, and a little bit of me, a little bit of all of us, you know.
Heâs found out what love means. He knows the value of time. He knows that time is a glutton. We say we donât have time to do this or do that. Thereâs plenty of time. The trick is to apply it. The greatest disease in the world today is procrastination.
And Freddie knows about all these things. And so do you.
He doesnât ask anybody to provide for him, because it would be taken away from you. He doesnât ask for equal rights if itâs going to give up some of yours.
And he knows one thing … that patriotism is more powerful than guns.
Heâs nice to everybody because he was taught that man is made in Godâs image. Heâs never met God in person and the next fella just might be him.
I would say that Freddie is a little bit of all of us.â
Some outstanding episodes with Freddie the Freeloader include:
- Red Skeltonâs Christmas Dinner
- One of Red Skeltonâs best Christmas specials, with Vincent Price and Imogene Coca guest-starring. Highly recommended!
- The Cop and the Anthem
- One of my favorite Red Skelton episodes of all timesâbased on O. Henryâs short storyâFreddy the Freeloader is desperate to get arrested for 30 days (“30 days hath September, April, June and Freddy the Freeloader!”) to get refuge from the winter coldâbut despite his best efforts, he canât get arrested. Very funny, and very uplifting as well.
- Freddie and the Yuletide Doll
- Another classic Christmas episode, entirely in pantomime, where A lonely Freddy the Freeloader dreams that a rag doll comes to life, and the couple dances, skate and play … until the dream ends.
- Freddie and the Spies
- A truly classic episode, where Freddie is entrusted by a âscientistâ (Richard Deacon) to keep a âlittle black boxâ safe. Edward Everett Horton guest-stars as another hobo, and the pair of them are truly hilarious.
- The Plight Before Christmas
- Another Christmas episode that highlights Freddie the Freeloaderâs generosity.
Courtesy of Clown Ministry