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Red Green returns with one-man show

Courtesy photo
Steve Smith, better known as Red Green, might have hung up his TV show after 15 years and 300 episodes, but the irascible handyman lives on through books and stage shows. He comes to Charleston Monday, Nov. 5.

WANT TO GO?

Red Green's Wit and Wisdom Tour

WHERE: Clay Center

WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday

TICKETS: $49.50

INFO: 304-561-3570 or www.theclaycenter.orgCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Six years ago, after 300 episodes of "The Red Green Show," Steve Smith, the guy who created the eponymous, irascible handyman, decided to call it a day. After 15 years of playing Red on Canadian and Public Television, the 65-year-old retired.

Smith, who returns to Charleston as Red Green for the Wit and Wisdom tour, said, "Yeah, I hung it up, went to Florida and played 162 rounds of golf in 180 days."

One of those rounds of golf was with the head of book publisher Random House. Smith said he was made an offer he could scarcely turn down.

"He said if I wanted to write anything as Red Green, they'd publish it."

Smith had already written a couple of books, including "Red Green's Duct Tape is Not Enough: A Humorous Guide to Midlife" and "We're All In This Together," his biography.

Writing those books, however, was more of a chore.

"I was always writing when I was doing the show, and it was a lot of work," he said. "But [now] I wasn't doing anything and it sounded like fun.

"Plus I thought if I said no, he'll never ask again!"

The first book he wrote post-Red Green was "How To Do Everything: (From The Man Who Should Know)." Smith called the book "pretty successful," but said part of the business of getting the book published meant he had to go out and promote it.

Usually, he said, authors are asked to make public appearances and sign copies of the book. Smith opted to take the book out on tour with him as part of a one-man show.

Things just snowballed from there, and Smith was back in the Red Green business.

"It was a little like sticking your toe in the water," he said. "The next thing you know, you're up to your neck."

Of course, this is not quite the full show. It's just Smith on stage, delivering a monologue and telling stories.

He explained, "It's more like a one-sided conversation, which is always my favorite conversation."

The character of Red Green actually goes back much farther than the 15 years Smith played him on Public Television. He was created as a kind of parody of another television personality, Canadian fishing show host Red Fisher.

"He did a straight out fishing show, nothing funny about it, and Red had the attitude that nothing could bore you. He'd do a fishing show, not catch any fish and air it. He looked at it like it was his job was to fill the half hour. Your job was to make it entertaining."

Smith took the unflappable attitude and gruff personality and fashioned Red Green, a character who first appeared on "Smith and Smith," a sketch comedy show he did in the early 1980s with his wife, Morag Smith.

"I'd do these two minute bits," he said. "But it just clicked."

Fisher eventually became aware of Smith's comedy bit. A radio morning show in London, Ontario, arranged for the two to meet on the air.

Smith said they were supposed to go on the air at 9 a.m., but after a couple of minutes, Fisher still hadn't called in. They waited, and then went to a commercial break while the radio show host phoned Fisher.

"And he got him!" Smith exclaimed.

Smith said the host asked Fisher, "Hey, aren't you supposed to be on the radio?"

Fisher replied, "Yeah, but I've been on the road and really needed to do my laundry."

Smith laughed and said Fisher was an original.

He said he had no regrets about the end of the Red Green show. He'd originally planned on retiring the character, but he's pleased to have found something different for him to do with Red.

Since 2010, Smith has done more than 130 of these one-man shows. His show Monday at the Clay Center will be one of the last as Red Green -- at least with this material.

"This particular version ends November 9. After that, I'm going to put it all away, and I won't say any of those words ever again."

After that, he's got to finish up his next Red Green book, which he's calling, "A Beginner's Guide To Women."

"Chances are this may lead to a lawsuit or a tour -- or both," he said.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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