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Handyman Red Green has constructed himself an enduring career

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Red Green

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Red Green

In the 20-plus years since he first duct-taped himself into the pop-culture consciousness, Red Green has built a lot of things that flopped, toppled, crumbled, folded, collapsed, disintegrated, exploded, imploded, broke down, burned out, blew up, caved in or just sat there doing nothing.

His alter ego Steve Smith, however, has built something that has endured and shows no signs of deteriorating: a loyal fan base that has passed its love for all things Red Green from one generation to the next.

As evidence of Smith's ability to construct a particularly sturdy sort of popularity, consider the fact The Red Green Show ceased production more than seven years ago, but Smith, as Red, continues to tour and fill theatres with adoring plaid-clad fans.

His latest concert-tour foray, Red Green's How To Do Everything Tour, stops at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. (tickets are $69.25 at Ticketmaster).

"I think there's just been a huge shift, as (Red) has gone from television to the Internet and the books and the live touring," Smith said in a recent telephone interview. "Where I'm not getting exposure on TV anymore, we have something like 530,000 followers on Facebook and we generate major numbers on YouTube, where all of our episodes are available and we have a Clip of the Week every week.

"I meet kids at these live shows who don't know the show was ever on TV; they only know it from the Internet. There's been a very big shift, and my feeling is that the brand awareness is higher now than it was in 2006 when the last episode (of The Red Green Show) aired."

In addition to providing a platform for some new bits of Red Green philosophy and not-so-handyman knowledge, the tour will also give a promotional boost to the latest Steve-as-Red hardcover edition, Red Green's Beginner's Guide to Women (For Men Who Don't Read Instructions).

"Part of (the inspiration for the book) was just that I needed something new to talk about, but the major part is that when I was doing a tour a couple of years ago, it was the men/women things that got the best reaction," Smith explained. "That was where the audience really tuned in, so I thought I should look deeper into that. And I've been married for 46 years, so I do have some experience in that area.

"I really enjoyed writing this book. It was fun for me. I wrote it all last year and turned it in on New Year's Eve. The thing that came out of it for me is that, despite the results men get, it's the fact they're trying to get along with women that's important. So I'd call this an effort-based project rather than a results-based project."

Speaking of effort, there's no escaping the fact that mounting a cross-Canada comedy tour that visits 29 cities in just 44 days requires a tremendous amount of energy and stamina. And Smith, who will turn 68 on Christmas Eve, said he's sufficiently inspired by the show and the audiences that he's happy to be taking Red Green out on the road yet again.

"These days, I'm only doing things that I want to do, and that I think will be fun," said Smith. "I think the promoter would like me to tour every two years until I die, and then maybe another year after that. I did a Canadian tour two years ago and a U.S. tour last year, and I thought that after that I might be done, but when I finished, I felt like I still had things to say. I really enjoyed it and I feel like doing the live, one-man shows is absolutely the highlight of my career in terms of how much I like what I'm doing."

Smith has an even more ambitious south-of-the-border tour planned for 2014 and says as long as he's having as much fun as he currently is on the road, with wife Morag as his constant companion, there's no reason for Red to retire.

"There are a few things I can't control," Smith explained. "If the audience stops buying tickets, I'll stop coming out, and I'd be OK with that. If my health goes south, or my wife's health goes south, of course I won't tour. And if she doesn't want to go anymore, I won't tour -- that's the absolute truth. She has been my biggest supporter -- early on in our marriage, she said to me, 'You decide what you want to do, and we will find a way to support that.' That was the ultimate, and believe me, at that point I wasn't getting anywhere, but she gave me the emotional backing to go out and try things, because even if I failed, she was going to be OK with it. I think that's pretty nifty."

 

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2013 C9

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