Why duct tape?” It was the obvious dumb question to ask Steve Smith, a.k.a. Red Green. But that’s like asking Plato “Why dialogues?” or Gretzky “Why pucks?” For Smith, duct tape is the connective tissue of the common man. “It’s cheap. It lasts for a little while, but not too long—for men of my age, a repair job that outlives you is just another reminder of your mortality. The whole military runs on it. A lot more of the medical profession than you’d want to know uses it. Fiigh-end models use it. It’s a huge cleavage source.” Smith peels off the one-liners like, well... you know. But when asked why he made the sticky stuff his pet shtick, he offers a straight answer: “I believe in positioning. There aren’t many products that are funny on their own. In my search to position Red Green, I decided he was the human form of duct tape.”
As the pooh-bah of Possum Lodge on CBC’s The Red Green Show, Smith has parlayed his unique brand of television folk art into a small empire. The show, which is in
its 11 th season, attracts up to a million Canadians, and is seen on over 100 PBS outlets in the U.S., where his fan club boasts some 120,000 members. Now the 56-yearold comedian is trying to stretch the franchise to the big screen with Red Greens Duct Tape Forever. Directed by Eric Till, this goofy road movie follows Red and his nerd nephew (Patrick McKenna) as they tow a giant goose to a duct-tape sculpture contest in Minnesota. They have their eye on a $10,000 third prize to save Possum Lodge from an evil land baron. En route, they run into obstacles laid by the local sheriff— and a parade of cameos from the likes of Dave Broadfoot, Ronnie Hawkins, Sheila McCarthy and Jayne Eastwood.
Red Green fans represent a bizarre demographic, “from bank presidents to garbagemen,” says Smith. “It’s not cultural, social or economic. It’s attitudinal. If you’re hesitant to call a repairman, if you’d even take a run at your microwave oven, you have Red Green potential.” Smith’s own franchise is a
do-it-yourself operation. S & S Productions, which he runs with his brother David, produced the $3.5-million movie. And it’s handling the U.S distribution, releasing the film in Red Greens top 40 PBS markets—promoted by the local stations.
Smith expects his fans to support the movie. Beyond that, he says, “it’s a crapshoot.” Recendy another Canuck TV star, Paul Gross, vaulted to the big screen and found an audience for Men With Brooms, another goofy Canuck comedy about an intrinsically funny topic: curling. But Duct Tape doesn’t have the pizzazz or massive promotion of Brooms, and its charm depends on a stubbornly lame sense of humour. Smith is sanguine: “If I don’t get my money back, it’s not going to kill me.” Meanwhile, he’s promoting a book of humour columns, Duct Tape is Not Enough. And in Hamilton—where he owns a Georgian mansion, writes on a houseboat and is addicted to golf—he’s found a piece of paradise light years from Possum Lodge.
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