Remember Blues Clues? The Nickelodeon kids show with that guy and the animated blue dog? Who could forget Blue? Who could forget Steve? But then one day, he was inexplicably gone, and we were left with…Joe. Hey, who’s this Joe guy? Where’s my buddy Steve? The show itself was rather tight-lipped about all that. Whatever happened to Steve? Is he OK?
Despite the terrible rumors of suicide or that he died of a heroine overdose, I can happily report that Steve Burns is very much alive and well. And I have the video to prove it. This weekend, I happened upon a recording of a talk he did for The Moth (a nonprofit organization dedicated to the art of storytelling). Available on YouTube, “Tangled Up: Stories About Blue” was recorded at The Players Club in New York City, Sept 15, 2010.
The first thing I noticed was that he lost all his hair, and his natural speaking voice was deeper than I expected. It’s like, hey, this guy grew up. Great, Steve, thanks for making me feel old. Although the show was wildly popular, it was popular with kids. He called what he was “fame-ish,” and said that “fame-ish people are like famous people, without the public dignity.” He recalled his days on the show with affection. “I was yopey and dopey, and so excited about absolutely everything.” Apparently, the past tense of “freaked out” is froke out. As in, “when the mail showed up, I froke out!”
“My favorite part of the show, my job of the show, was to talk directly through the camera and to actually cultivate, if I could, a relationship with an individual child through a TV. The conceit being that I could hear them, and that they could hear me…And that’s tricky. And what we found out was that it totally worked.”
And so kids thought he was their friend, for real. Millions of them. As the show became more popular, his self-described micro-celebrity started to weigh on him. He began to think, “Am I saying the right things to all these children?” To him, it felt like a tremendous responsibility. He was never really sure if he was the right guy for the job. In the end, he thought maybe they should get a teacher or a child development specialist for the show. In addition to talking about Blues Clues, Burns went on to tell a story about an awkward (but at times hilarious) date he went on with a Playboy model who was a fan of the show. He also spoke movingly about his work with the Make A Wish Foundation.
From humble beginnings, it appears that Steve Burns is doing quite well now. As an unknown actor, he moved to New York City “to be Serpico.” He said he wanted to either fail privately or simply become Al Pacino. Of course no one could have expected the worldwide success of Blues Clues. Since leaving the show, he has released a rock album for grown ups he recorded with Steve Drozd of The Flaming Lips, called “Songs for Dustmites.” He currently has a live album available on iTunes. Also, he has appeared in stage plays in New York, and has acted in a couple films- including Christmas on Mars and Netherbeast Incorporated. I don’t know if the site is legit, but according to Celebrity Net Worth, he is worth $22 million.
Even before my daughter was born, I was haunted by Blues Clues. My personal connection with the show came from my days as a schoolteacher. Both in middle and high school, my students would always say, “Dude, you look just like the guy from Blues Clues!” Having never seen the show at the time, I didn’t know who this Steve guy was. I just knew that I hated him with every ounce of my being. It’s hard to enforce your authority over students when the kids are always shouting that you look like some silly guy from a kids show. Now having watched the show with my daughter, I could see what all the fuss was about. It’s a great show- educational and fun for kids. I won’t show you a picture of my current Cryptkeeper look (now that I’m old), but above is an old photo with a side by side of my nemesis Steve.
So, what do you think? Separated at birth, or much ado about nothing?