Red Green brings 'Wit and Wisdom' to Corn PalaceCanadian show of SDPB fame takes stage on Saturday.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
Work avoidance. That is the key to comedian and television personality Steve Smith’s successful career.
Smith, better known as “Red Green” from the eponymous TV show, said he’s kept successful primarily because he didn’t find anything he wanted to do for a living.
“I can’t stress that enough — not being able to hold down a regular job,” he said. “I didn’t have that as an option. And I needed to find something that turned my peculiar sense of things into an asset.”
Smith, in the guise of Red Green, will bring his “Wit and Wisdom” comedy tour Saturday to the Corn Palace.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing it,” Smith said of the Corn Palace.
When he was told of all the performers and presidents who have appeared at the Corn Palace, he had a typically quick, funny response.
“I hope I don’t sully the reputation,” he said.
He has been in South Dakota before for appearances in Sioux Falls and Vermillion in connection with the series’ run on South Dakota Public Television. He said while it may seem that a broad comedy series would be a strange fit with public broadcasting, in another sense it’s a natural fit.
“I think first of all, it’s odd, so it’s marginal, you’re not going to get a mainstream audience,” Smith said. “With public TV, you don’t need a large audience; you need a committed one, one that will call in those pledges. It’s given me an opportunity to access the U.S. market.”
Smith admits the enduring popularity of “The Red Green Show” has surprised him. He said he meets young fans who weren’t born when the series started.
Smith’s Red Green character is a handyman who looks for shortcuts on most of his projects. They typically include the use of duct tape that can fix, well, pretty much anything.
“I have my doctorate of duct tape. You have to put DDT after my name now,” said Smith, laughing. The gray, super-sticky adhesive has been a regular feature in Smith’s humorous sketches over the years.
Each year of his show, Smith started with 144 rolls of duct tape. “We always had to reorder,” he said. Smith estimated with 200 rolls of duct tape used for each of the 15 years on air, he went through approximately 3,000 rolls of the tape. Smith brings some of his famed television spoofs to his live road shows but he said 90 percent of his tour is new material.
“We’re not trying to compete with the show,” he said. “This show is more personal. It’s just me talking and sharing stories and hopefully saying things that make you laugh.”
He said while he modifies it a bit, for the most part he has determined how the show should be presented, based on what draws laughter. Still, if he wants to make a change, Green said he has freedom to do so.
“I’m alone on stage and so far, I’m getting along pretty well with the entire cast,” he said.
Smith said he had never performed on stage before he started the Red Green tours.
“No stand-up, no theater,” he said. “It’s unusual for a man my age to be doing something new that’s not a medical procedure.”
Smith, 66, said he has passed 100 shows and has discovered that he loves being on the stage.
“This is the most enjoyable thing I have ever done in my entire career,” he said.
There are drawbacks, Smith admitted. He doesn’t enjoy the traveling. He has flown and rented cars but now he drives. Smith said he will put 11,000 miles on this part of the tour.
Two more segments of the tour are planned this year, one on each coast. After that’s over, he will sit back and decide how many more shows he wants to do.
“I don’t look too far ahead,” Smith said.
He’s finishing a book, “A Beginner’s Guide to Women,” and may write more books. Smith said he also may restart a newspaper column he wrote for more than three years while taping the series.
The character “Red Green” started as a parody of fisherman and Canadian outdoor TV show host Red Fisher. Smith played “Red Green” on his show “Smith & Smith” and also appeared in the role on two other Canadian TV shows.
The comical character caught an audience, and Smith agreed for a sixth-month run of “The Red Green Show,” which he created with comedian/writer Rick Green, who played the role of “Bill” in silent, black-and-white sketches in the series.
“It was supposed to be a summer job,” Smith said. “It turned out to be an endless summer. We created this crazy idea. We never thought it would catch.”
“Red Green” is part handyman, part wry philosopher watching a parade of goofy characters pass by, all with their own quirks. He often has verbal battles with “Harold,” his nephew, played by Patrick McKenna, and other denizens of Possum Lodge, a men’s club in Possum Lake, located near a bigger city, Port Asbestos, in the northwest corner of Ontario.
His career began prior to “The Red Green Show,” however, and so did the life of his famous character.
Smith and his wife Morag began working together in television in the late ‘70s. The duo’s show, “Smith & Smith,” was similar to Sonny and Cher, Smith said.
“She was the singer, and I’d do goofy things,” Smith said.
The couple still travel together. They celebrated their 45th anniversary last year, Smith said with pride.
Smith’s “The Red Green Show” ended in 2006 after a 15-year run and 300 episodes, in addition to a movie, “Duct Tape Forever.” The show still appears in reruns on South Dakota Public Broadcasting as well as other American and Canadian television stations.
Smith said he doubts the show will tape new episodes.
“I think it’s over,” he said. “I ended the show. In the last season, we were doing ideas I had rejected in the fourth season.”
He said 300 episodes, several specials and a movie was a great run.
“That’s enough to poison the air,” Smith said.
Plus, he said, he didn’t want to continue to do episodes and damage the show to its loyal fans.
The Toronto, Canada, native has been touring for several years and said he has no plans to hang up the red-and-green suspenders, plaid shirt, khaki pants and battered fisherman’s hat that Red Green always wears.
Submitted Photo Red Green will perform at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell.