Steve Smith (1945-)
Smith, Steve (1945- )
Steve Smith was born in Toronto in 1945, and studied engineering at the University of Waterloo. Early in his career he worked in a variety of jobs, among them being steam fitter, postman, car jockey, lab technician and elementary school teacher. He got his first taste of showbiz when he and his wife Morag, a fellow school teacher, joined a rock band, Jason, in 1971. But any illusions of a career in music ended when, as Steve told CBC’s Life and Times, a big U.S. promoter pointed out that his group’s versions of Beatles, Four Seasons and Beach Boys songs were done far better by the original performers. Then, said Steve, “I realized that if you want to make money out of the business, you’d better put something into it. That was the beginning of the end of the band.”
Morag and Steve left the band in 1978 to form a comedy duo, Smith and Smith, and their quality act was soon opening for top US performers of the calibre of Ricky Nelson, Al Martino, Roy Orbison and Helen Reddy. In 1979, after appearing on CHCH Hamilton’s New Faces, the act made it to series with an eponymous 195-half-hour Smith and Smith sketch comedy series on CHCH, a series which spawned the Red Green character that would become Steve’s bread-and-butter role for over 25 years. Steve wrote and produced every episode in the series, which won many awards including an Iris Award at NATPE in San Francisco in 1985.
Smith and Smith was followed on CHCH in 1985 by Me And Max, 26 half-hours which included Steve’s sons Max and Dave in the cast, and then in 1986 by The Comedy Mill, for which Steve won a Gemini Award. As a sideline, Steve was also writing material for others, including pilots for CTV (Offside) and Tribune (Out Of Our Minds – for David Steinberg, which later became a thirteen-week series for Global, Laughing Matters, though without Steinberg). He also found time to write three episodes of Top Cops for CBS.
It was in 1990 that Steve made his Red Green character the star in its own right with a new series for CHCH, The Red Green Show. When budgetary problems forced the cancellation of the show in 1993, Steve bought all rights, and a few months later the third season of production began at CFPL London, in association with YTV. In the fall of 1994, production returned to CHCH and the title became the New Red Green Show, with Steve’s S & S Productions buying airtime on Global in Ontario and syndicating the series nationally.
So successful was the series that by 1997 Steve had been wooed to take the Red Green Show (no longer New) to the CBC, where over 300 episodes were produced before, at the final taping of the 2005-2006 season in November 2005, Steve announced that he had decided to end the series. As he told the Toronto Star: “I’m 60. I just need a break.” At the time, the series was being seen nationally on CBC, as well as on over 87 PBS stations in the U.S.
Along the way, Steve – along with Red Green Show co-star Patrick McKenna – won a Gemini for Best Performance in a Comedy Program or Series, and the Red Green Show had twenty-one Gemini nominations. A feature film, Duct Tape Forever, was released in 2002. Steve was also Executive Producer of the comedy series History Bites, and a creative consultant for An American in Canada. He guested from time to time on Royal Canadian Air Farce, and also appeared in an episode of Due South. He was often asked to help host PBS fundraising specials.
In 2005, Steve Smith’s enormous contribution to the Canadian entertainment scene was recognized with his appointment as a Member of the Order of Canada. On November 7th that year, the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television announced Steve Smith as the 2005 winner of the Earle Grey Award, “for his outstanding body of work, and his significant contribution to the international profile of Canadian television.”
Written by Pip Wedge - November, 2005