Midwesterners are about as Canadian as Americans get, says comedian Steve Smith, famous for his duct-tape wielding, underachieving handyman character Red Green.
And that’s probably why he likes them second best. (Alaskans will always be his first favorite Americans.)
Smith, an Ontario native known for his homespun PBS series “The Red Green Show,” is touring the United States this spring with his one-man “Wit & Wisdom Tour.” It’ll arrive Saturday at the Orpheum Theatre, 200 N. Broadway. A sold-out Canadian tour inspired the U.S. tour, which already has had several sold-out dates of its own.
“I think Canada is a lot like the Midwest,” said Smith, calling recently from a tour stop in Ames, Iowa. “Midwestern people are kind of down-to-earth and sometimes below. They have some old-fashioned morals and standards. They have the same kind of sense of humor that I do.”
That humor, Red Green fans know, is endearingly hokey.
Smith created the flannel shirt and suspenders-wearing character in 1991, and the show — a sketch comedy series that parodied other do-it-yourself and outdoors shows — ultimately was picked up by PBS in the United States. The last episode aired in 2006 but has been in frequent reruns ever since. There are 300 episodes total, and Smith is partway through getting all of them posted on YouTube.
The stage show will feature Smith offering the same type of advice Red Green offered on the television show — famous nuggets on life, relationships and home improvement such as “Anything is possible if you use enough duct tape” and “Women always have the last word in an argument. Anything after that is just the beginning of the next argument,” and “Never get in between electricity and where it wants to go.”
Smith admits that he attracts a niche audience. In fact, he said, he’s met the same guy at nearly every show he’s ever performed.
“It’s an insult to both of us, but he’s just like me — a free thinker, independent, self-reliant,” Smith said. “His education has not exceeded his intelligence. I meet him and, within 10 seconds, we have a rapport. We’ve been through the same things. We’ve tried putting the wrong engine in the wrong car.”
His shows are easy to perform because of that camaraderie he shares with his audience, Smith said. As a general rule, he said, anyone who’s ambivalent about his comedy won’t be there, so the affection is instant.
The very homespunness that made his career as a comedian, Smith said, also probably limited it. He’s not angry, and he doesn’t curse on stage.
“I am very much limited because people that make decisions about who goes where have decided that that’s the comedy that’s en vogue,” he said. “But I’m too old to really need a career, and I’m not sure I could change that stuff. If I’d had a miserable, horrible life, I think I would have been a much better comedian.”