Brent Butt keeps ’em laughing

When it comes to comedy, Saskatchewan native Brent Butt knows more than a thing or two.

The star and creator of television shows such as Corner Gas and Hiccups has enjoyed a successful career here in Canada and with good reason: His undeniable sense of humour and take on the world around him.

Butt quickly rose through Canada’s comedy ranks, performing at major festivals before developing and starring in Corner Gas, arguably one of Canada’s most popular homegrown shows, which received more than 70 nominations for awards including the Gemini Awards and Canadian Comedy Awards.

The celebrated Brent Butt will be performing at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre on Wednesday night.

While the shooting schedule for his television shows sometimes kept Brent from the stage, he says that stand-up remains an important part of his DNA and is something he will continue to nurture.

‘I never really went away from stand-up,’ Butt says. ‘I typically stayed away from standup anytime that I was involved in production but the minute we had wrapped shooting on any given season of a show, I would hit the road again and get back in front of live audiences.’ Butt shares that he is performing somewhere in the vicinity of 40 to 50 stand-up shows each year now, a drastic change from the 200 shows annually that he would routinely undertake before he entered the world of television production.

‘When I was performing 200 shows a year, I was a single man who had a crappy apartment and frankly, the hotel rooms I stayed in were often better and nicer so there was an incentive to be away from home for two or three months at a time,’ Butt laughs. ‘But I am a married man now and I don’t want to be away from home for long stretches of time anymore. The run of shows I am performing in the Maritimes is going to amount to me being away for six or seven days, and that is ideal in my books.’ While Butt had certainly earned a respect­able audience as a stand-up comedian prior to the launch of Corner Gas, the show helped further cement his celebrity status in Canada. Much to the disappointment of fans all over the world, Butt closed down Corner Gas in 2009, choosing to bring the series to a close on his terms rather than overextending his stay.

‘It definitely was a matter of wanting to go out on top as opposed to staying too long,’ he says. ‘I didn’t want the show to die on the vine; it was too important to both me as well as a lot of people that we not see the show arrive at a point where it would be struggling or begin repeating itself. There doesn’t seem to be any grey area with television; the switch from people loving you to not liking you is almost binary. I didn’t want to see the show ever suffer that fate. We had a great sixyear run that produced 107 episodes. It is rare for many shows these days to last 100 episodes. It is rarity to get there so I had little difficulty tipping my hat, saying thanks and so long to fans of the show.’ Butt’s latest venture in television, a comedy program called Hiccups, recently wrapped up after a two-season run. Butt says that while he would have loved to see the show continue, the decision to discontinue making the show was brought on by a shake-up at CTV and was not necessarily a personal decision made against Butt.

‘The CTV network was bought out and a new group of executives came in and subsequently didn’t pick up a lot of the shows that were under the previous administration, which is actually a fairly common thing in the business.

‘At the time Hiccups wrapped up, I felt as though the show was finally finding its natural legs and that we were developing a good fan base. The ratings were good. We were getting half a million viewers per episode but I truly think that the show had the shadow of Corner Gas hanging over it.

I think that Hiccups had a lot of difficulty because it came too close to the end of Corner Gas.’ He says that CTV has given him the opportunity to develop a new program for the network. In addition to developing his next venture, Butt shares that 2012 will mark the year that he is finally getting a movie into production.

‘For the past three years, I have been trying to get the wheels turning on making a movie that I had written. There are just so many things that need to line up to get something like a movie going though and while I have come close to making it work in the past, there was always one piece of the puzzle that wouldn’t fit. This year, everything is lining up and is moving ahead as it should be,’ Butt says.

Asked if his movie, starting production this coming fall with a projected 2013 release, will stay strictly in the realm of comedy, Butt says it will offer comedic relief but will also delve into action and mystery as well.

‘The movie is going to be an homage to straight-up ‘whodunit’ movies. It is going to be a legitimate mystery movie with thrills and action but still have a comedic edge to it. It revolves around a guy solving problems that is in way over his head.’

Article published in March 12, 2012 edition of The Times & Transcript