Grab your duct tape and get ready to celebrate one last party with the leader of The Possum Lodge, Red Green, as he tours his farewell tour across North America.
The Canadian icon will be all over the 519 area this month, including Imperial Theatre in Sarnia on Oct. 11, 2 shows at the Blyth Memorial Community Hall on Oct. 19, Migration Hall in Kingsville on Oct. 20, the Sanderson Centre in Brantford on Oct. 22, Centennial Hall in London on Oct. 23 and Centre in the Square on Oct. 24 – many of these shows are already sold out.
For the uninitiated, Red Green is a fictional host of an outdoorsman TV show from 1991 to 2006, partly created by actor Steve Smith. The rugged comedian quickly became a Canadian TV legend and has gone on to sell various books and a whack load of concert tickets.
We caught up with Steve to chat about life as Red Green.
The new tour is called This Could Be It. It’s very Michael Jackson of you.
Well, I’ll tell you what, this is it, April. It is it. When I came up with the name for the tour, that was a couple of years ago when I decided I might do two more tours, so I’ll call this one This Could Be It, and the next one would be This Is Definitely It, but I toured the US in the spring, and it just went so well that I just… I can’t top it, and I don’t even want to try, so this is it.
What can we expect in the show? Should fans be prepared and bring their own duct tape?
They usually do, mainly to get it autographed. Yeah, well, I mean, this is my fourth tour, and when you’re trying to make people laugh, you got to always do new things, so it’s 100% new, for one thing. And I shot some video just for the tour. I’ve got three of the characters from the show phoning in during the show, so it’s kind of neat. And I end it off with a wish for the fans that’s gone over pretty well, so the undercurrent really is, number one, gratitude and number two, you know, goodbye.
Red has been with you for about 28 years now. That’s a long time for an alter ego.
He’s my best friend, you know? He says things I want to say but can’t get away with. He does things I only dream about, and every time he makes money, he puts it in my bank account.
What a great friend, I need one of those.
Yeah, we could all do with a Red Green.
How did Red originally come about?
There was a fishing show in Ontario called The Red Fisher Show. I mean, he had Scuttlebutt Lodge, and he used to read his own poetry and stuff, and he was kind of a droll character. When I would watch his show, it seemed like he thought nothing would bore you. So, I was really kind of making fun of him. That was 1978, when I created the Red Green character as a kind of, a spoof of Red Fisher and then away it went. I mean, started the TV show in 1990, did that for 15 seasons, and I thought that would be the end of it. Well, here we are. I mean, this is 41 years since I created the character.
Is there a part of Red in you at all?
Oh my goodness, yes. All of Red is in me. They’re just parts of me that aren’t in Red.
Red is known for his use of duct tape. I’ve taken some of his lessons to do a few things.
Good for you!
Is there anything that can’t be fixed with duct tape?
Somebody told me that duct tape can’t be fixed with duct tape, which I never completely understood, but I didn’t want to argue with them. Duct tape has one flaw, which is when it gets really cold, which, once in a while, it does in this country, duct tape does not stick. So then, that’s when you whip out the zip ties.
What was your most surprising personal use of duct tape?
Well, believe it or not, we towed a car out of a ditch and made the rope out of duct tape. I was with a military guy, and he knew how to kind of braid it so that it was really, really strong. And we used about half a roll for a little thing, it was about three feet long, but it did it. It pulled the car out of the ditch, so that was pretty impressive.
When the TV show ended in 2006, at that time, you said you wanted to retire Red, but then several books came out later, you’re on the road again, what are some factors that kept him alive?
Well, when I stopped doing the show, and I ended the show, I thought it was time for that to end. And I even… my hat went into the University of Toronto library archives, so I was gone. I played 161 rounds of golf in 180 days. So, that’s not a good sign. That means you’re taking something fun and making it a job. Plus, I would still think of what I thought were amusing things, but I had no audience, so I would just share them with my friends, and they were getting really annoyed.
And then, the next thing that happened was, I was golfing with the CEO of Random House, and he said any book that I wanted to write as Red Green, he would publish. I guess a compliment, but if I say no, he’ll never ask again. So, that’s when I wrote How To Do Everything.
And then, you have to promote, you have to have these book tours, where I would have to go to Saskatoon, to a bookstore, and sell 10 books, and I’d say to them, “Look, I’ll buy 11 not to go,” you know? But then, I thought, “Well, instead of doing just a book tour, why don’t I see if I can do a one man show? I’ve never done that. I’ve never done stand up. I didn’t come out of a theatrical background.” And so, that became the first one man show that I did, that was 2010 by that time. And once I did that, it was like, “Man, I’m hooked.” These live shows are the most enjoyable thing I’ve ever done in my whole career. So, it was a great way to end it.
You’re not going to be like some bands that say they retire and then come back?
No. I’m definitely not going to do that because you know what happens? In most cases, they’re kind of a diminished version of their greatness, and it makes you feel like, “I’m probably in the same boat.” If I do another tour, it won’t be any better than this one, and chances are, it won’t be as good, and then the audience will think, “Well, maybe I’m not as good either.” And I don’t want to disappoint the fans after they’ve been so good to me for all these years.
I know you said that Red is your best friend, but how do you actually feel about him?
I like him. Yeah, I got no problems with him at all. And the people… I do a meet and greet after these shows, and so, I mean, I meet literally thousands of people. And the stories I get that how… this show helps them through a tough time and just gives them a break from the drudgery of life and so on, it means a lot to people. Red Green is a friend of theirs too, and that’s pretty neat.
Do you find that random people approach you, knowing you only as Red and not as Steve?
Oh God, yeah. I’ve signed my name Red Green more than I have Steve Smith, and Steve Smith had a 45 year head start.
You have very popular YouTube videos, you have social media presence, you have an online Red Green fan club with videos, you have merchandise, monthly messages from the lodge. You really embraced technology.
Well, I’ve got two sons… that’s what they do, they’re into that. And the net result of that is that I’ve been touring for 10 years, and every time I tour, the average age of the audience is younger, you know? More and more young people coming out because they’ve been exposed, through the internet, through YouTube and so on. They don’t even know the show was ever on television. So, there’s been a lot of benefits to that. And when we created Red Green, we also created Possum Lodge. It’s like a world, so, there’s all these little sayings, and they have a mental image of the place. And so, it’s become more than just a character.
I would say that Red is truly an original TV star. There are not many TV stars anymore, and you got to live through the good old times of TV. Do you miss the importance of what TV used to be?
You know, for me, it even goes back before I was in my show. I was a kid in the 50s, and comedy in those days was just fun. It was kind of silly, wasn’t necessarily stupid, but it was silly, and it was fun and it was well intentioned. I didn’t see anybody yelling at me from TV. They weren’t angry and they weren’t obscene. Any joke they told or funny thing they said, I could repeat in school or to the family without a problem. Well, that all went away. I mean, I tried to keep that going with the Red Green Show, and even now with this tour, there’s nothing that the audience is going to see or hear that will make them twitch? But, I’m not sure that, starting from zero, you could have a career doing that these days. It seems that you have to have an agenda, political or otherwise, to be heard.