OTTUMWA — Last time Ottumwans heard from Steve Smith he was on stage at Bridge View Center. He was touring as Red Green, the character he played on television for years. The tour was called “This Could Be It.”
He was not certain. In a 2019 interview with the Courier he called himself “about 90 percent” sure the tour would be the last one. After 305 episodes of “The Red Green Show,” which ran from 1991 to 2006, multiple tours, even a movie, it felt like time.
Chalk one up for truth in advertising.
The show is done. So are the tours. But Red Green is not quite out of stories. Steve and his son Dave looked at their options and landed on a new fan-funded podcast through Patreon.
“I’m a person who likes to go on to something new. When I leave something, I don’t like to go backwards,” Steve said.
The stories still center on Possum Lodge members, people who are either responsible for whatever is going wrong or capable of fixing it, and you don’t know which applies to the situation until you ask. It will expand into the broader Possum Lake community as well.
Steve and Dave said there are about a dozen new characters who will be introduced over the course of the podcast. The community’s sheriff is one; so are the veterinarian and funeral home director. They’ll join longtime fixtures on the program. Characters will drop in and out from one episode to the next. Each actor recorded four scripts, which are used over the course of what are planned as 12 monthly episodes.
Another longtime fixture is actually Dave. Steve’s son has long had a hand in helping shape the program in its various incarnations.
“We’ve worked together before creatively. The last few seasons of ‘The Red Green Show,’ I was a writer for the show. And then, since the show ended, we’ve worked on some Red Green things together,” he said. “But this is, this is next level, and we’re both laughing really hard. We’re having a good time with that for sure.”
For Steve, the podcast is a chance to engage with some of the earliest entertainment he remembers. The format is, in a way, a return to the radio shows that created some of comedy’s biggest stars.
“I’m old enough that I grew up, my initial introduction into entertainment was radio programs,” he said. “I mean, everything was on the radio. Jackie Gleason was there, even Amos and Andy I would listen to. Milton Berle was on the radio.”
A few radio shows have done well since the rise of television. Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” comes to mind. Steve admits there’s some shared DNA in how Keillor’s work explored a fictional community and how the podcast will broaden the world around Possum Lake.
Work began last year, long before everything was turned upside down by a virus.
“The writing all had to be done up front,” Steve said. “We’ve got over 600 pages of scripts here that we started writing in December.”
Recording during a pandemic meant changes. Everyone was careful during breaks, but the studio itself had space for everyone to keep their distance. Steve and Dave see an opportunity, though. There’s a hunger for normalcy, something that can give people a laugh and take their minds off a very weird and stressful time. Trips to Possum Lake could fit that bill.
Besides, you need to be doing something.
“It really is just so much fun for me,” Steve said. “The touring was great. I really enjoyed it. But I would write a 90-minute thing with Dave and then do it, you know, over 100 times. This is just, like I said we’re over 600 pages already. It’s just so stimulating creatively to have that kind of a hole to fill, so I really enjoy it.”
The Possum Lodge Podcast kicks off June 28 at https://www.patreon.com/possumlodge. New episodes debut on the last Sunday of each month. And neither Steve nor Dave are ruling out more if enough people like it.
“We’ll kind of, next year, see what the support’s like and see if it’s kind of worth it to do it again,” Dave said. “It’s going to be supported by fans who want to do that, and we figure if they don’t want to support it, then we’re not going to do it again. But if they do, then we’ll be here.”