Comedian Brent Butt recalls how one of his earliest goals was to make his older siblings laugh.
Hailing from Tisdale, Saskatchewan, the acclaimed comic always had a knack for garnering a chuckle.
But as the youngest of seven, it was when he made his older brothers and sisters laugh that he knew he was really onto something. That’s pretty much when the path to a successful career in stand-up comedy and TV was born.
He performs in Red Deer on Feb. 21st at the Memorial Centre. Showtime is 8 p.m.
These days, he’s excited about the coming launch of an animated version of Corner Gas, set to debut April 2nd on the Comedy Network.
“After we did the series, we all liked the idea of coming back one day and doing a movie – so we did that. But the response to the movie was huge – bigger than anyone had thought.” So the wheels started turning again.
“It was selling out theatres – my brother called and said, ‘I can’t get a ticket to your stupid movie’,” he laughed. “The response just blew everybody away.”
The network called Butt up and asked if he would be interested in penning some more scripts for future projects.
“We weren’t interested in doing more of the same; we felt we’d run the risk of getting in a rut. And we are all just getting older – at a certain point it could just get a little weird. Remember when they all came back to Gilligan’s Island, and Gilligan had white hair?
He noted that during the run of Corner Gas, they had tossed around the idea of doing an animated scene here or there.
“What about animating? We had a few discussions about that, and we were intrigued by the notion.”
From there, a demo was wrapped up and it was clearly a terrific idea.
“Everyone loved how it worked, so we decided to dive in and the network ordered 13 episodes.”
Things don’t exactly pick up where the series wrapped up. Or where the movie finished either.
“We plunged back into the body of the series, in terms of everyone’s relationship to each other. But having said that, it’s also a contemporary show – like when you see someone holding a phone, it’s a smartphone,” he laughed. “We can make contemporary references – so it’s a little nebulous – you have to be flexible in your mind.
“But it really feels like Corner Gas – we wanted to bring everything that people liked about the show there. We didn’t want to make it weird where there’s an alien from outer space who grants wishes. Our Dog River world stays the way it always has.
Everyone was keen to jump back in, as well. Sadly, Janet Wright, who played Emma Leroy on the series, passed away last year, however.
As to production, members of the cast today are based in either Toronto or Vancouver.
So each group would get together in a studio in those cities and provide their voices. “Half of us together in one room and the other half are together in a room, but via headphones, we are listening to each other in ‘real time’.
“I always felt we had a bit of magic with this cast – the way they interacted with each other,” he said.
Switching gears, Butt is also excited to be hitting the road with his stand-up show.
“It’s just a guy, trying to be funny,” he laughs. “Nothing nutty, just what you would expect from a stand-up show. In terms of material, there’s nothing I can really say because I don’t really know what I’m going to get into. I always know what I’m going to start with, and a couple of bits I’ll be doing. But one of the things I love about stand-up – that keeps me excited about it 30 years into it – is that I don’t know what each crowd is going to like, or how they are going to respond, or what they are going to want.
“And so, as I’m waiting in the wings to be announced, I don’t know what a given crowd is going to like. I just start pulling out material from my tickle trunk based on how people are responding.”
As mentioned, Butt got an early start in venturing down the comedy road.
“Mom and dad are both funny, and my siblings could all make me laugh. It was really a household of people trying to crack each other up.
“There was something, too, about being the youngest. I was always keen to see if I could make my older brothers and sisters laugh. That was the high water mark, because they wouldn’t give it up easy,” he recalled, adding that at 12, he saw a comic on TV and knew from then on that was the life for him. And we can all be thankful for that.
“I went out and said to my mom, I want to be a stand-up comedian.”
For tickets, check out www.blackknightinn.ca.