'It’s always brand new': Ten questions with Steve Smith about Red Green and his upcoming tour

Steve Smith is preparing for his final live tour as Red Green. (Photo submitted by)
Steve Smith is preparing for his final live tour as Red Green. (Photo submitted by)

Countless Canadians know Steve Smith by his alter ego, haphazard handy-man and Possum Lodge leader Red Green.

Although Gemini Award-winning Red Green Show aired its 300th and final episode in 2005, Smith has kept busy performing for audiences across Canada and the U.S. since then.

With 15 seasons of the show, a book, a feature film and three North American tours under his belt, Smith is about to embark on the Canadian portion of his new ‘This could be it tour’ which, despite the title, he says will be his last.

From Sept. 19 to Oct. 30, he’ll give 32 performances of a new 90-minute, one-man multimedia comedy show in cities across Canada. in addition to new DIY projects, life advice and an apology to the world on behalf of all baby boomers, the show will include special contributions from other Red Green Show characters including Red's nephew Harold.

After it’s all done? Who knows. Smith isn’t sure yet, but he was willing to discuss the possibilities with Yahoo Canada.

Here is our conversation with Smith about Red Green, showbiz, Canadiana and DIY repairs.

Q: What is this tour about for you?

A: It’s always brand new. When you’re trying to make people laugh you can’t do your greatest hits. And it kind of wraps things up for me. The last tour was kind of autobiographical for Red, but this one is rounding up where we are now, and I’ve got some new video that I’m presenting. But the major thing is…my tour is showing a little gratitude, as much as Red Green can show it, and passing the baton, making them laugh and wishing them a simple life.

Q: Do you feel like the act on your upcoming tour has evolved much from the original show? Does it reflect how Canadian society has changed since the show first aired 30 years ago?

A: I think it does. But it’s more like, how does a guy like me respond to these changes? The basis of the TV show there was a point of view, and that point of view has not changed. It’s just being applied to more modern things.

Q: What is the message you want to leave your fans with at the end of these upcoming shows?

A: This new one-man show I’m doing ends with a wish for all the fans, and I’m really wishing them a simple life. And there’s something to be said for that, we’ve all gotten pretty complex and stressed out and you can tell that by the way people drive their cars. But it’s not bad to stop for a second and think you know, a simple life is not the worst thing that could happen to you.

Q: You started the show in 1991. Did you ever imagine Red Green would be performing for people in 2019?

A: In November of 2005 we shot the last episode, so that was 14 years ago and I thought it would end then. I retired and was going to do other stuff, then it came back three or four years later. I was asked to write a book as Red Green and then away we went. The amazing thing is that…this is my fourth tour now, my first one was in 2010…and the average age of the audience has gone down, not up.

Q: Is it a pretty diverse fanbase?

A: Oh my goodness, is it ever. There’s a guy in Seattle who is one of the world’s leading heart surgeons and he made me a heart connected together with duct tape. We obviously get the people you’d expect, the blue collar guys and so on, but…you’d never be able to define the demographic. It has more to do with attitude and approach to life than it does with your socioeconomic situation.

Q: I know the character Red Green was written as a parody of Red Fisher, but how closely does Red Green resemble you? Are there parallels or are you complete opposites?

A: Honestly, I don’t think there’s any part of Red Green that’s not in me. But there are a lot of things to do with me that are outside of Red Green’s world. I have kids, I have grandkids and I don’t live in a lodge. But I am a very self-reliant person. If something breaks, the phone is the last thing I reach for. I’m going to my tool box. I want the satisfaction, the sense of accomplishment of fixing something myself. Because it empowers me.

Q: If you were to do it all over again starting right now, would you do anything differently? If so, what?

A: It was a struggle for the first six years to keep the show on the air. When the show was cancelled in its second season, all this mail started coming in from Canadians to keep the show on the air…And that mail, I put into a hockey bag and I went, dressed as Red Green, calling on television broadcasters…and I would take the bag of mail and say, ‘This is what the real people think.’ And that’s how I got onto PBS and that’s how we saved the show. But I made the decision then never to do the show without a live audience. And they so much shaped the show and made it better.

Q: Do you have a favourite moment from the 300 episodes of the show?

A: Pat McKenna left the show for a couple of years and when he came back we didn’t tell the audience. We were filming a scene and there was supposed to be a new public relations director for the Possum Lake area and he was gonna walk in, and well it was Pat walking in, and the audience just went bananas.

Q: Why have you decided to make this your last tour?

A: I’m not the greatest business man, but I have a sense if when something has run its course. I’m not getting any younger and I don’t want to disappoint my audience. It’s 90 minutes with no cue cards and you have to be on your toes and know what you’re doing, and I don’t want to go out there and suddenly forget where I am, who I am or what I am. I’d rather leave it while I can still do this. I’ve seen a couple entertainers who should have stopped one or two tours ago.

Q: What’s comes after this last tour? Have you ever considered doing a podcast?

A: Yeah, maybe I’d do that next. I’m not retiring, I’m just not gonna to tour anymore. I don’t know what I’m going to do next...Of all my career, nothing has been more fun than my live performances in theatres. I don’t want people to think some agent is making me do it. I really want to be there. So I’ll need a creative outlet. I like expressing myself, I like communicating with people and I’ve got a fanbase that responds to it, so I know I have that critical mass of support.