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Brent Butt returns to his roots in stand-up comedy

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Comedian Brent Butt has a lot on the go, but he always returns to his roots as a stand-up comedian.


 The Corner Gas creator and star performs a sold up stand-up comedy show at the Yates Theatre, Sunday, April 23. Though Butt is best known for  Corner Gas, he has been doing stand-up a lot longer.


He has his first novel coming out in October, surprisingly not a comedy.

“Well I wouldn’t say I’m on the road again, it’s an ongoing concern,” said Butt from his Vancouver home.

“At the end of the day, when you boil everything away, I’m a greasy nightclub comic, right, so I hit the road any time I’m not in production. I’m trying to get on the road and do stand-up. That’s the way it’s always been. Even in between seasons of Corner Gas, as soon as we were on hiatus I would go out on the road.”

Comedian Brent Butt returns to Lethbridge, Sunday, April 23 for a sold-out show. Photo submitted


Butt is always writing new material, but there are always older bits that people want to hear, so he gauges the audience’s reaction and adjusts his set accordingly.


“I always try to make it a mix of both. Because what I learned is sometimes  I’d go to a place a do all new material and people would storm up to me mad as a hornet  afterwards and say I brought my friend down here   to hear you do such and such a bit. I’ve been doing stand up comedy for 30 years and I can’t do everything on every night but I try to make it sort of a mix and a blend of newer stuff that I’m working and some sort of classic staples in the act. I never really know what I’m going to do when I go out there. That’s one of the things I like about stand-up comedy is that it’s very reactive. I know what I’m going to open up with and depending on how the audience is responding, that sort of dictates the direction that I go and what material I start pulling out of my tickle trunk. Because I kind of have a grab bag of material I’ve collected over the years. Like if I’m  doing some sports jokes and they’re not going over  that great, I ditch the sports jokes and go into something else, But if they’re going over great then maybe I’ll pull out a couple more sports jokes,” he said.


“So you kind of shape it. Every audience is different. It’s its own entity. Once you get several hundred individuals in a room it creates a brand new animal. The chemistry of it creates a brand new animal that has never been there before and you don’t know what it likes and what it dislikes and that’s one of the things that still excites me about doing stand-up,” he said.

“When I’m waiting in the wings,  waiting to be introduced , standing there, I don’t know how it’s going to go I don’t know how they’re going to let me rub their belly. Are they going to bite me what’s going to happen,” he said.

One beloved bit people ask for is  abut  what he’d do if you’d win the lottery. And how if he was a billionaire, it would make him go a little crazy.


 Another bit people ask for like the bit about model Fabio getting hit in the face with a goose while on the rollercoaster aren’t as timeless, but still gets a lot of requests.

“That’s one of the bits that people come up to me mad that I didn’t do that and the Fabio bit. That bit’s like 20 years old now. People come up ‘ you didn’t do the Fabio thing.’ That’s not in today’s headlines,” he said.


 Butt is working on new material, but nothing specific.

“There‘s nothing specific. I couldn’t sit here and say I’m focussing on this. It’s always just little nuggets. Little nuggets that you pull out, tumble them around and see if you can get them to germinate into something. There’s no theme.There’s nothing thematic, it’s just stuff dribbling out of my head,” he said.

 Butt discovered stand up comedy when he was a boy growing up in Tisdale, Saskatchewan, particularly the Alan Hamel show.


“The first time I ever saw stand up comedy when I was 12 -years-old. I was watching. They used to have the old Alan Hamel Show come on in the afternoon. We only had two channels growing up in Tisdale and one of them was CTV and in Vancouver they had an afternoon talk show called the Alan Hamel show. And they would sometimes have comedians on there and I’d never heard of a stand-up comedian before. I’d seen sketch comedy and sitcoms, and I was a fan of funny things. But when they said ‘and featuring stand up comedian Kelly Monteith, I was very intrigued by that. What’s a stand-up comedian? And I saw this guy walk out, Kelly Monteith, and just talk and be hilarious. And I thought that’s it for me. I didn't know that was a thing somebody could do and I told my mom that day that I wanted to be a stand up comedian,” he said.


“And she said  fine go do it outside. That was her standard response to anything I wanted to do,” Butt laughed.


In addition to Corner Gas, the animated version of Corner Gas, Butt also finished his first novel— a thriller called “ Huge” 


“ I did. It’s not a comedy. That surprises some people. It’s about comedy. It’s about three comedians on the road. It’s actually a dark psychological thriller. It follows  three comedians out on the road, two of whom do not have a disturbing capacity for violence. It’s just based on first  starting out in standup going out on the road. Sometimes you  have to go out on the road with people you don’t really know and you’d be a couple days into the gig, driving across Northern Ontario in the middle of the night, listening to this person and you’re thinking to yourself am I safe? Am I going to be killed out here by this guy who clearly isn’t thinking properly. So that’s the feeling I wanted to capture. That’s the type of  book I like to read. I like to read thrillers. I like to read books that kind of scare you a little bit. I like classic murder mysteries and procedurals but I really like if a book has a scary element to it that’s what I like to read. So when I sat down to write a novel, that’s what I wrote,” he said, adding the book will be released  Oct. 3, but it is available for pre-order now through


He gave the book to a few writers he really respects for feedback.

“It hasn’t hit the market yet but the from advance readers. Some people I know who are both writers, like authors who have written thrillers and crime novels, the response has been really good. And some people in the TV and  film industry who have read it just to see what they think of it and the feedback has been fantastic including some people that I really look up to,” he said, adding he love authors like Stephen King, Linwood Barclay and Shari Lapena.

 “There’s a lots of  good writers out there who can really give you the creeps when you’re reading. That’s what I like, I like somebody who gives you the creeps,” he said.

“I’m a late adopter to Stephen King. I’ve read maybe eight or 10 of his books. I still have a wealth of Stephen King to read through. Linwood Barclay is somebody that I really like to read. He’s a fantastic thriller writer and he‘s one of people who I cajoled into reading an early draft of my novel and I got some great feedback and some good constructive criticism that I think really helped the book,” he said.


 He never expected Corner Gas to be  an immediate success let alone result in an animated spinoff and movie.

“We certainly didn’t expect it to develop into an animated show. When we first started doing Corner Gas we didn’t think anybody was going to watch. When you pitch a show about a gas station in Saskatchewan, that’s a hard sell, but somehow they bought into the idea and then we thought  okay, this is great they bought 13  episodes but surely to goodness nobody’s going watch this show and so we just made a show that we liked,  that we could be proud of, because we thought this was going to be it — 13 episodes and then we’ll have to walk away  so at least let’s make something we’re proud of and I think somehow that authenticity caught on with people,” he said.


“They could tell they weren’t being sold something. The show just clicked in a way none of us expected and it took off in ways we couldn’t have dreamed of. The thing I’m proudest of is I think that it’s the only time in recorded history where the number one comedy in Canada was actually from Canada. There were weeks when we were topping all the U.S sitcoms in terms of viewership. That’s never been done before and I don’t think it has been done since. And that’s will always be a feather in our cap,” he said.


 The Corner Gas cast was essential to the show’s success though he didn’t know them before casting the actors.

“It was nobody who I knew really. I had people I knew in mind for almost every part, but at the end of the day none of them got the part,” he said.


“We were very lucky CTV gave us a decent budget to go out and cast. Because sometimes you don’t have any money for casting and you have to do it in your backyard and you can see a limited number of people. But we were able to look really all over the country and that allowed us to find these amazing individuals. And one of the learning things for me was that the stronger the actor, the funnier the scene was. Like the more the actor could make these characters seem like real life people as opposed to somebody delivering a funny line. So the more they could breathe life into them the funnier the scene was. So we what ended up happening is we cast these amazingly talented actors who could make everything seem real and once it seemed real, the comedy was elevated, and that was a cool learning thing for me,” he said.


“If you have somebody saying things as crazy as Oscar was saying and they’re sort of delivering it like they were in on the joke it’s not as funny as if somebody’s delivering these crazy lines in a way that makes you think this guy really believes what he’s saying. And each of these actors could do that. They could deliver lines as weird as they were in a way that makes you think this person really believes this. And it just made it that much funnier.”


With having so many projects on the go, he doesn't visit much with the other Corner Gas members other than his wife Nancy Robertson.

“Not that often, but we stay in touch. It’s sort of like we’re family. I mean we’re spread out so it’s not like our paths are crossing. Even the ones that are here in Vancouver. We’re in different parts of the city or different parts of the province and others are in Ontario. But we stay in touch like  family does so any time there’s something big in our lives we always reach out and say hey this happened. I think it’s always going to be this way. I think We’re always going to be part of this weird family. I just bumped into Fred (Ewanuick) the other day actually. It was very rare to bump into each other in a city the size of Vancouver. I was out to lunch with someone else  and finished lunch and left and here comes Fred walking down the sidewalk. Nancy and Fred talk quite a bit.

Butt doesn’t have a lot of time to watch TV, so doesn’t have a favourite sitcom on the air now.


“Maybe ‘Children Ruin Everything.’ At this stage of the game I’m not a big TV watcher. I’m not really watching much TV outside of live hockey games.  Usually we watch British mystery shows or I’m reading a book,” he said.


“Because I remember people telling me we can’t do sitcoms in Canada and that always chaffed me. Just because we haven’t done a lot of them doesn’t mean we can’t do them,” he said.


“ Yeah we’ve done some bad ones, but we’ve also done some good ones too. I still think the sitcom ‘Hangin In’ is not as not well known enough for how well written it was. There’s a lot of good jokes. And ‘King of Kensington’ too. Like really solid jokes that hold up,” he said. 


“I always felt like we can do it, we just don’t do it very often because it’s a high risk investment because you’ve got to  to invest a lot of money and the odds of it clicking are really low and there’s no real incentive to do that in Canada because our market is so small. Because even if you get a hit it doesn’t pay for the losses of the other ones,” he observed.

“That’s the thing in the States, they can make 30 crappy sitcoms. If one of them is Cheers it pays for the other ones 10 times over but we don’t have that market,” he said.

Among his many projects, Butt also does a sporadic podcast, usually with other comedians.


“It’s something that I really enjoy doing, but it‘s difficult to find the time to commit to doing it. I basically do it once a month. It’s a podcast called the ‘Butt Pod’ because why wouldn't you call it the Butt Pod?  And it’ s available wherever you find your podcasts,” he said adding it is also available at the

“Just make sure you type the word ‘the.‘ It‘s very, very important. I’m not responsible for what the Internet may spew out at you,” he laughed

“It‘s usually with another a comedian but it’s always some creative type and we just kick around and we  talk about the process of creativity and how they got into the business and try to make each other laugh. There‘s a segment called ‘more smarter’ where each of us, my guest and myself, we trade little bits of trivia information that the other one probably isn’t aware of. The idea being that each episode incrementally I will get more smarter and I’m aware of the double superlative,” he chuckled.


“Some people will say ‘you shouldn’t say— well that’s the whole point, ” he said.


 All of his creative endeavours including his free newsletter are on his website, but he is moving it to Substack

“I really like what Substack has done.  So over the next while I’m going to be focussing on Substack as a place to put all my extra creative energy. So at some point my podcast is probably going to live on there. I do writing, I do drawing,” he said.


“I always call it noodling and doodling, just thoughts and drawings,” he said.


“I’m just very much looking forward to the show. I hope everyone comes out and has a good time,” Butt said.


 Brent Butt plays a sold out show at the Yates Theatre, Sunday, April 23.

—By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat editor

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