Canada’s favourite ‘handyman’ will be stocking up on flannel shirts and duct tape and hitting the road this fall on his latest tour.
The trek dubbed ‘How To Do Everything (From the Man who Should Know)’ show, featuring Red Green, makes a Red Deer stop Sept. 30 at the Arts Centre, with showtime set for 7 p.m.
Red Green (aka Steve Smith) had an amazing run in Canada in 2011 and in the U.S. in 2012, playing to sold-out houses and garnering rave reviews.
During that run, he did a whopping 139 shows. “After the 10th or 11th show, I was pretty comfortable on stage,” he explains. “I now have a sense of what the audience is going to do, what they are interested in and what they are not interested in. At least I hope I do.”
It was also a relatively new venture for Smith as of course he had been a comic staple on TV for many years as the iconic Red Green. He laughs recalling how he didn’t expect the series, which went off the air in 2006, to go beyond one season.
It lasted nine seasons, and it was Smith – not the network – who decided to wrap it up.
Smith originally created the character for his 1979–1985 sketch comedy series Smith & Smith. The sketch was a parody of the long-running Canadian outdoors show The Red Fisher Show (1968–1989), starring BH ‘Red’ Fisher in which Red and his friends would show silent films of their fishing trips with commentary at ‘Scuttlebutt Lodge’.
The Red Green character also appeared in Me & Max and The Comedy Mill before becoming the focus of his own series. Smith also attributes the show’s longevity in part to the fact the team wasn’t looking for a season renewal.
They poured everything into that first year, and that kept things strikingly fresh, original and on the edge. “We were just trying to be funny – we’d be laughing while filming the show. We were just having fun. We weren’t looking for a career.”
The show was produced first by CHCH in Hamilton then by CFPL in London, then by the Global Television Network. It then landed a permanent home at CBC for the 1997 season onward.
For those unfamiliar with show’s premise, Red Green was the president of the Possum Lodge, a men’s club in the Ontario town of Possum Lake near the also-fictional town of Port Asbestos. He and fellow lodge members had their own TV show in which they gave lessons and demonstrations in repair work and outdoor activities and advice for men.
As for Red Green’s enduring popularity, Smith credits the appeal of the character and his setting to audiences. There’s something comfortable, simple and even rather innocent about Red Green and his surroundings, and folks want to check into that place. Particularly in an increasingly complex, fast-paced and stressed-out society.
Born in Toronto, Smith recalls being the funny one of the family.
“I’ve never been able to see things the same way other people see them,” he explains. “If I had chosen another profession, that would have been a huge liability.
“But because I’m doing what I’m doing, it’s a huge asset to see things differently. Audiences may be familiar with the subject matter, but they’ve never looked at it the way I present it.”
As the years passed, he became increasingly interested in music as well. He went on to play with a few bands. During one concert, his comic gift surfaced that much more.
“One night during a show, our guitarist broke his string. So I just started talking and the audience was laughing hysterically. I went on talking long beyond when the string was replaced.”
He later realized humour was his thing, and decided to whole-heartedly pursue it.
Although he went on to study engineering at the University of Waterloo, in 1979 he began to produce write and star in a comedy series along with his wife Morag, called Smith & Smith. In the mid-eighties, he also created a sitcom called Me and Max, before returning to sketch comedy with The Comedy Mill which ran for four years.
Meanwhile for the coming tour, Smith started creating dialogue and sketches from scratch this past January. Over the space of about six months, after countless rewrites and rehearsals in character, he came up with 90 minutes of fresh, cracking material.
“Steve Smith writes it. And rewrites and rewrites it. It gets to the point where I’m pretty satisfied with it or I’m running out of time. That is then ‘handed over’ to Red Green. I then set up in my old garage kind of like a stage, and I perform the whole thing as Red Green. While I’m doing it, I listen to it, too. Red Green takes what Steve Smith wrote, and turns it into something that works for him.
“So it’s really a process.”
This fall will also see the release of Red Green’s Beginner’s Guide To Women (For Men Who Don’t Read Instructions), his third book for Random House.
As for hitting the stage, Smith says bring it on.
“I never did this as a young man. So most guys like me, who go and do this, they’re trying to recapture something they might have done better 35 years ago. But for me, it feels fresh. I’m 67 years old doing something that feels fresh and new – that’s not easy to come buy.
For tickets, call 403-755-6626 or check out www.blackknightinn.ca.