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Cauliflower McPugg – Red Skelton’ punch-drunk boxer

Cauliflower McPugg, Red Skelton's punch drunk boxer who's always hearing the bells and the birds

Cauliflower McPugg is one of Red Skelton’s most lovable characters. Unlike several others, he’s not larcenous, nor dishonest. He is an inept boxer, however, who’s clearly been two long in the ring. Although he’s convinced he hasn’t been. He’s known as “the man who hears the bells and the birds” because he’s frequently hearing them — when they’re not there.

Vincent Price and Red Skelton (as Cauliflower McPugg) in a boxing sketch on The Red Skelton Show
Vincent Price and Red Skelton (as Cauliflower McPugg) in

Depending on the sketch, he can be married (often to a female wrestler) or single. He’s normally a fighter, although he can have any of a number side jobs. These range from baby sitting, to being in the Army, or whatever the sketch calls for.

He’s normally an honest, though inept, fighter. He normally won’t throw a fight — unless the joke calls for it, of course!

The bells and the birds

Cauliflower McPugg (Red Skelton) with his Army sergeant (Gil Perkins) in "G. I. McPugg"

Probably Cauliflower is best known for repeatedly hearing bells and/or birds that only he can hear. For example:

  • [looking up] A flock of flamingos! [or] A flock of ’em flew over that time!
  • [taking his hat off, putting it over his heart] They’re tollin’ the bell for some poor sucker.
  • [pushing the other person back] Look out! The shrimp boats are comin’ through!
  • Watch where you step! There’s a kitty cat with a bell around it’s neck somewhere!

The wrestlers Cauliflower McPugg rooms with

One recurring joke deals with the wrestlers (he pronounces them “rasslers”) that he rooms with. He uses them as an example of people who are really punch drunk — unlike himself! For example:

Cauliflower McPugg: You’re like that wrestler I know, Joe. Every night he sets up with his wife and kids and watches the television. Heh.
Athlete: What’s wrong with that?
Cauliflower McPugg: He ain’t got no wife and kids! Come to think of it, he don’t got a television set. I know — I fixed it for him three times.

Or, at Christmas time, talking about the wrasslers hanging up their Christmas stockings over the fireplace — “There ain’t no fireplace in that gym! I know, I have to clean out the ashes every morning!”

Cauliflower McPugg vs the California Killer (Billy Barty)
Can Cauliflower McPugg defeat the California Killer (Billy Barty)? Don’t bet on it!