For the viewers of his program on KCPT, seeing Red Green at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night is an entertainment staple. This weekend, fans of Steve Smith's Canadian handyman character had the bonus of seeing him live and in person on the stage of the Uptown Theater.
The performance, titled "The Wit and Wisdom of Red Green," was something of a mix between a meeting of Possum Lodge, a beleaguered uncle handing out marriage tips, and a stand-up comedy show. As Green, Smith held forth on diverse topics, like marriage and repairs, in an easygoing, conversational tone instantly familiar to anyone who's ever seen The Red Green Show.
The performance opened with lodge minutes, complete with terrible puns (Old Man Sedgwick fell into an upholstery machine, and is completely recovered), which Green said showed "where the bar is." There was the lodge pledge, and the Man's Prayer. The oath needed a bit of prompting, but the man's prayer was simply said, loudly and with pride: "I'm a man, I can change, if I have to, I guess."
There was lots of talk about Canada -- that's from where Smith and his character hail. Because Red Green is something of an unofficial authority on old guys, there was a segment where he addressed the young folks in the crowd. Maybe it's because I am a young person, or just because I'd heard all the jokes before (stuff about piercings, tattoos, and the like), but that was the only segment that seemed to go a bit flat.
The rest was not high comedy, but it was funny as hell. There were points in the program where I was laughing so hard my face hurt, and could barely see my notes through the tears in my eyes. Evidently, no matter how big, no garage door opener has the power to lift even a small-block V-8. A bit near the end of the show, where he was describing how to put on pants as an old man with a gut might have been one of the most perfect pieces of comedy storytelling I've ever seen and heard.
The humor present in his performance is much like that staple of public radio A Prairie Home Companion, laced as it is with songs and poems. Granted, the stories, poems, and songs are a little more lowbrow than the opera or Frost that pop up on Garrison Keillor's program, but that same "we're just folks" sense runs through both.
The fact that Steve Smith is touring the country, performing this one-man show for no recompense whatsoever, helping to raise money for public television, is a wonderful story. If you missed the show, you have a second chance. Topeka's public television station, KTWU, will play host to "The Wit and Wisdom of Red Green" on Sunday, September 12. Tickets can be purchased here.