Steve Burns brings smiles to Canisius
By Ava C. Green, Features Editor
On Sunday, April 23, Steve Burns traveled all the way to Buffalo to be the subject of a question and answer event hosted by the Student Programming Board (SPB) and to talk to Canisius students about his career starring in Blue’s Clues.
The event was off to a late start as event coordinators accidentally sent Burns to the wrong location by fault of a typo. The start was even further postponed as Griffin staff members Jon Dusza, Maddy Lockwood and myself had the opportunity to interview him before the Q&A. Steve was incredibly kind and eager to meet us.
SPB members Mike Kaplan and Emmalee Sekuterski kicked off the Q&A with questions about the origins of Blue’s Clues. Steve gave Maddy, Jon and I the scoop about the intentions and influences of the show, which was to create a connection-based program that would directly address and engage the viewer. He even said he thought the show would be “too smart” and “not Barney enough." On stage, though, he mostly talked about his audition process and how he didn’t really know what he was getting himself into.
Steve Burns said he went in thinking he’d be voicing a character on the show. Hit with this shock, he took a more serious and less conventional approach to the audition than he had planned. Producers loved it and after making him appear less grungy and more kid-friendly, he was on board.
Being in the role brought Burns lots of pride and joy, but ultimately isolation, too. Oftentimes, filming would just be Steve on an empty set talking to a camera and cartoons that would be added in post. He noted that every time he asked the viewer, “Will you help me?” he was always secretly worried that they would say “no." He talked about what a big responsibility it was to be so popular with so many kids in their most formative years.
Coming off of his time on the show, Burns lost his love for acting and sense of purpose, fell into a depression and dove back into making music. He talked about the time period right after the show, when rumors of his death were circulating – how it scared his loved ones, shocked him and made him feel like his death wasn’t a rumor, but was preferred by people.
In September of 2021, Steve released a video for the 25th anniversary of the airing of Blue's Clues’s pilot on the Nick Jr. Twitter account to check in on his old viewers and reminisce on how far they have all come. He told us on Sunday that this was not only a sentimental moment for Burns, but a way for him to mirror the show’s old values of connection, just on a newer and more modern medium.
He attributed much of Blue’s Clues's success to the threads earnesty, simplicity and respect that run through the heart of the show. Steve Burns gave his viewers someone who needed them and listened to them. An accidental educator and an intentional listener, Steve Burns brought the Canisius community together with nostalgia and reminding us that listening is an act of giving.