More Than Just a Green-Striped Shirt
September 13, 2019 9:17 PM   Subscribe

Steve Burns – the first host of Blue's Clues – has a rather rich indie rock and musical career that many people don't know about, as well as a rather fun catalog of shorts that he put on the Web in pre-YouTube days and that still exist. Why deep dive into He of the Green Stripes? I went to college with the guy, he's always been a cool dude, and I want to share some of his cool stuff with you. Plus, it seems timely enough given his recent re-appearance as the character for Steve and Joe's handoff to the new host of Blue's Clues & You. Much, much more under the fold.

Steve's first television appearance was in the teaser of Law & Order S5E19 "Cruel & Unusual" (1995), in which he promptly dies before the credits. In September 1996, he began his tenure as the host of Blue's Clues. During his time there, he also did a small student film (La Leçon, 1997, excerpt) and did an amazing turn as a bullied teenager in Homicide SS6E18 "Full Court Press" (1998). In 2000, People named him one of America's most eligible bachelors (for more on this, see his "Moth" talk further down, in which a hilarious story is told).

In 2001, Steve filmed two short-form comedies, The Bill and Hot Pants: Enchilada Surprise, in which he rather bravely films an existing urban legend.

Prior to official album releases, Steve had a website online in which he posted a Rocky-esque video, "Mighty Little Man" (including a 'Dancing Gabe' version), and another anthem, "I Wanna Be Your Alpha Male", as well as two playful commentaries on affirmations: "You Have Been Affirmed" #1 and #2. Other original songs such as "Dirty Hair Breakfast", "My Eyes Are Full", and "When I Fall Down" were published around this time.

Steve left Blue's Clues in 2003 and promptly became the subject of an urban legend himself (joining fellow kids' show hosts Mr. Rogers and Captain Kangaroo), when in fact he left due to male-pattern baldness.

Later in 2003, Steve released SONGS FOR DUSTMITES (promo): Mighty Little Man (for Aidan) ('Young Sheldon' intro), What I Do On Saturday, Maintain, <1, Troposphere, Stick Around, A Reason, Music For Montgomery County, PA, Song For Dustmites (live), Superstrings, Sniveling Mess, and Henry Krinkle's Lament.

The next year, a live album was recorded, LIVE AT THE CASBAH: Intro, Talkin' 'Bout the Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues (Everyone Wants to Live Forever), What I Do on Saturdays, Paper Bag, Maintain, Unbeliever, Merch Commercial, Henry Krinkel's Lament, Don't Blame the Weatherman, Songs for Dustmites, and Strange.

In 2007, Steve appeared in the film Netherbeast Incorporated with Darrell Hammond, Dave Foley, and Judd Nelson – described at the time as "Office Space" meets "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". The next year, he contributed to a They Might Be Giants cover album with a great cover of "Dead", and was in the short film that The Flaming Lips put out to accompany their album "Christmas on Mars."

In 2009, Steve released his second album, DEEP SEA RECOVERY EFFORTS (2009): Projecting, Newton Creek Song, Unbeliever, Strange (Galaxie 500) (live), Slightly Bigger Space, Tiger Tiger (The Angie Song), Lords of Cobble Hill, Leviticus, and Very Troubled Day.

In 2011, he was asked to speak by The Moth in "Tangled Up: Stories About Blue", and gave a talk both funny and moving about "Fameishness," in which he describes his date with a Playboy model and successfully defines the past-tense of freaking out as "froke out." In 2013, he recorded a guest spot on The Professionals (a web series as "contract assassins meet tech support") as "Investor X" (Part 1, Part 2).

In 2017, he recorded a new children's album with Steve Drozd as STEVENSTEVEN, called FOREVERYWHERE (2017): The Unicorn and Princess Rainbow, Mimic Octopus, A Fact is a Gift That You Give Your Brain, OK Toilet Bowl, Space Rock Rock, The Lonely Unicorn is Never Giving Up!, If You're Ginormous and You Know It, I Won't Let You Change Who I Am, The Happy Then Sad Then Triumphant Spider, I'm Up, and Foreverywhere. The album was just released as an Audible audiobook (no Pepsi Blue intended).
posted by WCityMike (20 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
1. Original Steve fan from way back and the jokes in the handoff video literally made me laugh at the funny jokes and I love that

2. Could Original Steve + Steven Drozd doing children's music be something like the Flaming Lips minus the weird, creepy & sinister stuff?
posted by bleep at 9:27 PM on September 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wasn't expecting it to be that sweet. Thanks. I tend to think of Steve Burns as somewhere between Fred Rogers and Smoochy (from 'Death to:') with a lotta bitta Caspar Babypants
posted by es_de_bah at 9:58 PM on September 13, 2019

I honestly love Steve and the calm demeanor he brought to the show. My kids were born long past when Blues Clues aired, but I still put it on for them because the show still holds up, and so does he.

I used to work a long (10+ hours) night shift, and at night I'd come home just as Blues Clues was coming on. I'd turn it on and wind down to it. I love that he's still out there, doing things. Definitely going to check out his children's album. Thank you for the link explosion!

Also, that new clip made me melt. Love that they put a hat on him and made him a detective to hide the fact he's shaved his head/gone bald in the intervening years. Meanwhile, I'm sure "Joe" continues to drink the blood of innocents to maintain his youthful visage.
posted by offalark at 11:22 PM on September 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

Growing up my parents let me take a lot of "sick" days which were really mental health days where I pretended to cough and have a fever the night before. I was too old for it, but I loved watching Blue's Clues and Steve especially on those days. When I was a 10-13 year old struggling with things like depression and thoughts of self harm, Steve cheerfully and calmly working through Blue's games was a balm like nothing else.

I watched a lot of daytime television growing up and have always loved unusual animation, and I guess the sort of chunky collage stop motion of the original is what first drew me to it. But it was Steve's little moments of like... wry self awareness that drew me in and let me exist without conflict during an episode. I gave the new guy a fair chance but it was nothing alike.

The phenomenon of calm tv is a thing now in the era of Bob Ross twitch streams and ASMR cooking videos, but Steve's Blue's Clues was my most important experience with it. His work absolutely helped those mental health days do their job. I did think to google him a time or two in the past and got a kick out of the urban legend stuff and knew about the music career. Now I have friends with young kids and I'm totally going to share his album with them in the hopes they get relief from a constant stream of MLP music. If I ever met him I would like him to know that he most likely kept me from self harm multiple times through the simple power of reruns. That handoff clip made me tear up.
posted by Mizu at 11:43 PM on September 13, 2019 [24 favorites]

My mother was a preschool teacher for years, and thought Blues Clues was the absolute best show going; everything about it was spot-on, she thought. When she was retiring, she actually tracked down a Blues-Clues branded "handy dandy notebook" and came up with her own little game of Blues Clues as a way to break the news to the kids in her preschool.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:36 AM on September 14, 2019 [6 favorites]

When Steve left we stopped watching, despite having kids still in the target ages.

So fun to see he's still doing fun, creative stuff!
posted by wenestvedt at 4:38 AM on September 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

My experience with Netherbeast Incorporated is that if you tell people that Steve from Blue's Clues starred in a movie about cannibal vampires who run a phone company they will basically never believe you.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:43 AM on September 14, 2019

Wow, a classic MetaFilter megapost! I haven't seen one of these in ages, and I think it's wonderful. I have Burns' first album and I love it, so this will be fun to dig through. Thanks so much for the fun, unexpected post!
posted by hippybear at 6:06 AM on September 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

So glad to discover I was not the only person much older than the target demographic who found Steve wonderful. I was in middle school when my youngest sister was just right for Blue's Clues, yet I thought him the greatest man on TV. His earnest performance, taking the unseen audience seriously and acting foolish in order to be a little below their level (in terms of reasoning & observational abilities) in order to win them over and give them the space to solve the mystery themselves, have been an inspiration working as a summer camp counselor and now a high school teacher. I don't wear the same shirt every day (although... closer to that than maybe should be), and none of my shirts are green stripes, but there's something there.
posted by timdiggerm at 6:11 AM on September 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

I never watched a single episode of Blue's Clues, but I know what it is and who he is from seeing a few clips here and there. I really enjoyed going through some of these links, just watching a young man explore and grow creatively. At 52, he reminds me that there is a lot of fun still in the world. Thanks!
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 6:56 AM on September 14, 2019

I own Songs for Dustmites! On tangible media that I paid money for, even! I like that album a lot. The mister once said that Steve has an eerily soothing voice and that is really the best way I can describe the album.

I'm part of the MeFi directional dyslexia club. When I was a teenager, I was awoken by a very early morning phone call. It was a very stoned friend if mine calling to tell me that he was watching Blue's Clues and Steve did the L for left thing and it made my friend think of me. It tickled me that Steve later acknowledged the stoner demographic when promoting his debut album.
posted by Ruki at 7:24 AM on September 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

I just this week lost my childhood dog who went from family member to family member through his life, so the handoff clip between the cousins (and the 'hey, can i talk to my friend out there?') is hitting me in just the right spot and now i'm going to cry every time i think about it lol. I love a gentle, tender dude who knows how to care for his family ): don't remember much about watching the show, but I know that it was on all the time for me and that I was still watching it on sick days when he left (did not approve. I also remember hating Paprika. I don't think i was a big fan of change.)

Can't wait to check out his music, especially with the comment on one of the kid's album songs that "this is noise rock for kids." What a cool man!
posted by gaybobbie at 9:03 AM on September 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Blue's episode when Steve left for college had our entire family bawling. I think it was my kids' first experience of what growing up and moving away feels like. Today, as a dad of a high school Senior, just thinking about it gives me the feels.
posted by simra at 10:25 AM on September 14, 2019 [6 favorites]

When my son was little he was obsessed with Blue's Clues. He had 2 Steve shirts, worn in rotation. He carried that handy dandy notebook everywhere. Now he's 19 and he has a little Moleskin with him at all times. Does he still ski-doo? I don't know. I will be sharing this post with him!
posted by Biblio at 10:41 AM on September 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

I am here to say that Paprika was the best and cutest and I loved this show even after I was no longer babysitting.
posted by VyanSelei at 11:42 AM on September 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

My kids were right in the prime age for Steve's reign on Blue's Clues so I probably saw them all. It was always my favorite of the kids shows I had watch over and over again.
posted by COD at 12:12 PM on September 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I still sing the song about mail whenever I get to be the one to go to the mailbox. I am 47 damn years old.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:54 PM on September 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

I just re-watched the handoff clip (Steve and Joe talking to Josh on the phone) and just caught that at the very end, after Steve has "talked to my friend out there" to ask them to help Josh), when they say "thanks" at the end, they also do the ASL sign for "thanks". This makes me so happy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:30 AM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Blue's Clues was THE BEST show my kids watched. The best. I often think that if I end up with dementia of some sort, I want Blue's Clues to be played for me if I'm having a rough day.

My husband is a wonderful, thoughtful, kind man and having Steve (and Joe) as additional wonderful, thoughtful, kind role models for my kids was just icing on the cake.

And when my son was three, he was Steve for Halloween. Just so many fantastic memories. The way he'd sing the theme song, the way he said Buwes Cuwes...thanks for this.
posted by cooker girl at 9:28 AM on September 15, 2019

Oh this is adorable, I've been on a bit of a Steve Burns crawl and found this anecdote from the Wiki page about Songs for Dustmites:

"Burns stated of recording with members of the Flaming Lips that 'There were definitely moments when I would run into the next room so I could giggle maniacally, jump up and down and clap my hands'."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:42 AM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

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