Comedian Steve Smith started his career in comedy because he believed he viewed the world differently than the average person. After portraying the character Red Green on television and live on stages across North America for over 20 years, Smith is finding that audiences everywhere appreciate his simple yet hilarious approach to the world we live in.
“I’ve probably done two or three hundred shows by now, and I just keep meeting the same guy — and it’s basically me,” Smith said. “I’m not saying there are a lot of us in downtown New York or Chicago, but there are a lot of us in Maine. … They prefer a simple approach, and they’re pretty self-reliant, trustworthy people.”
On Nov. 11, Smith will be bringing Red Green and his “tell it like it is” perspective to Husson’s Gracie Theater in Bangor as part of his “How to Do Everything” comedy tour.
For 15 seasons, Smith gave television audiences lessons on how to do almost anything the Red Green way on Canadian sketch-comedy and sitcom “The Red Green Show.”
Whether it was constructing new tires out of old shoes, tackling the question of why your wife isn’t happy and why it’s your fault, or how many ways a true handyman can utilize duct tape, Red Green and his cast of Possum Lodge friends had the answers.
The line where Smith ends and his character begins is blurry, so it’s no wonder fans often mistake him for Green — the flannel-wearing, “not as dumb as you think” kind of guy who professes to know a little bit about everything and probably shares a few similarities with your neighbor, your uncle or even yourself.
But as someone who first and foremost is a comedy writer, Smith never feels outshined by the character of his own creation. In fact, he considers Green to be one of his closest friends.
“Red Green is probably my best friend and certainly someone that I wish I was sometimes,” Smith said. “He keeps life pretty simple and is straightforward kind of a guy. He may be wrong about certain things, but you know exactly where he stands.”
Smith first began his career as Red Green on a variety show he and his wife created in the late 70s. When “The Red Green Show” became an entity all its own on Canadian television in 1991, viewers went crazy over Green’s backwoods humor and relatability.
After two seasons, the show was canceled for financial reasons. But the cult following the series gathered was not ready to lose Red Green just yet.
“They were sending me a thousand letters per day, saying, ‘You gotta keep this show on the air,’” Smith said.
This fan outcry is why Smith considers this initial cancellation the best thing that ever happened to him.
“As soon as we got canceled, and as soon as I got all those letters, I thought, ‘I’ve been working for the wrong boss,’” Smith said. “[The show] has always been amazingly fan-driven.”
After filming in the Hamilton, Ontario, wilderness for the first six seasons via Global Network, “The Red Green Show” found its home on the CBC Television Network in Canada. In 1995, the fan base crossed the border when PBS began airing the show in the U.S.
The series ended in 2006, but a new generation of Possum Lodge devotees is flocking to the show’s archived PBS reruns and YouTube clips. Smith, whose first live comedy tour as Green was four years ago, says his audiences are more diverse than one would think.
“If you came to see our show, you wouldn’t believe the demographic. We have university educated people, we get a lot of blue collar people and we get a lot more young people than you would imagine,” Smith said.
The long-term success the Red Green character has had over the course of Smith’s career is something he finds baffling and amazing, considering Smith believes himself to be a completely different breed from the popular comedians in today’s entertainment industry.
“I am completely wrong to be doing comedy now,” Smith said. “When you go and see an average comedian, they’re either angry or obscene or both — and I’m neither.”
The mini northeast leg of Smith’s “How to Do Everything Tour,” begins in November, with six stops scheduled throughout the region. The show, which is 90-minutes duration, is based around a Possum Lodge meeting.
Smith encourages honorary Lodge members in the audience to dress the part — plaid shirt, suspenders and trusty field hat — and not to leave the wife at home. Afterall, the Nov. 11 show is Smith’s own wedding anniversary.
“What I’m doing is I’m kind of explaining to [women] why their men do the things they do, so it gives them a little insight,” Smith said. “It’s amazing how many women are coming to the shows and really love it.”