Steve Burns Skidoos to Canisius, Sits Down for Griffin Interview
By: J.P. Dusza, A.C. Green, M. E. Lockwood
Prior to his public question and answer session, Burns sat down for a few minutes with some members of The Griffin and fielded their questions.
Burns was asked about the very nature of the interview he was partaking in and the dynamic of speaking to students who knew him as a unique childhood role model but were no longer little children. “It’s easier now,” he said. “When you were four and somebody said ‘That’s Steve!’ and we had to talk, it was weird. First of all, he’s not acting the same, he doesn’t look the same, where’s the dog? I couldn’t viably present Steve to a four-year-old: that’s an age group that is so profoundly literal. … They were a bit disappointed ultimately because I couldn’t deliver the show. … It’s much easier to talk to you all now.”
From a kid of that age group, Burns got what he considers to be his favorite piece of fan mail ever, a letter from a little boy named Scott that read, “Dear Steve, I want to be a pizza, love Scott.” Burns said, “I just thought it was really cool that he would share that with me.” He also talked about a piece of fan mail that he received from an older fan: an 8x10 of a playboy model. “I went on a date with her,” said Burns.
He then talked a bit about his own experience watching children’s television as a child. “I was a Sesame Street guy. I remember watching Mr. Rogers and being pretty transfixed by it, but it wasn’t my favorite. I’m much more a fan of his now than I was then. … I think he was the greatest there ever was by far.”
That admiration for Mr. Rogers was one of the key thoughts that went into the making of “Blue’s Clues.” “‘Blue’s Clues’ is an homage to Fred Rogers,” Burns explained. “He had the sweater every day, I had the green-striped shirt; he used the trolley, I would Skidoo. And with the direct address and respect for the kids, philosophically he was kind of the grandfather of the show.”
The process which went into filming “Blue’s Clues” was quite different from Mr. Rogers’ show, however. Whereas Mr. Rogers filmed his show on an actual set, “Blue’s Clues” was filmed in a completely blue room with no corners. “It was like a void with a camera,” he said. “My experience of the show was that it was extremely small. And when they told us: ‘Hey, you’re beating Sesame Street,’ I was never able to personalize it.” The show became more than just talking to a camera in a blue room when he began to work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, with all the personal connections that came through that. “That’s when the way I felt about what I was doing changed profoundly.”
Burns still has some relics from the show. He said that he had taken a few of the famous green-striped shirts when his time on the show ended, though he does not wear them around, saying that they are very uncomfortable. He also has one of the famous Thinking Chairs, the big red chair where Steve would often sit. “Is it as comfy as it looks?” Burns was asked.
“No,” he replied. “It’s still cool, though… I read books in it.”