Saturday, 3 February 2018

Brent Butt: 30 Years A Stand Up

1993

Standing in the tiny, dimly lit corridor that runs behind the stage from the dressing room, one of the nights comedians stands waiting for the M.C. to announce his name. Just behind him is the dressing room, full of professional comedians all waiting to see how the new guy is going to do, not expecting much more than failure. It is open mic night, and they have seen hundreds of new comers die a horrible death on this stage and many others like it, all over the country. The first of the two open mic acts went on twenty minutes before, his performance taken from his drama school final exam entry met with icy silence, save a soul voice from the back of the room that advised that the fledgling comic's taxi has arrived. That chaps failure only adds to the tension welling in the second acts stomach as he stands there, in among the electric cables, dust and mice. He starts breathing deeply, nerves suddenly get the better of him as he searches his brain for his opening gag which has disappeared from his memory, despite being repeated over and over as he traveled up to the gig.

"Ladies and gentlemen, it's his first time at The Comedy Store, please welcome...."

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This month marked Brent Butt's 30th year as a stand up comedian. In that time he has grown from self proclaimed greasy night club comedian to a Canadian national treasure. His career has seen him command stages all over the world, create Canada's most popular t.v. show, become a movie star and be proclaimed Canada's funniest man. 

Brent Butt knew he wanted to be a comedian from the age of 12. At this formative age he was already practicing his craft, looking for humour in every day situations with his friends. Around the age of 18 he had worked various jobs but knew that he was working out of necessity until he was able to start doing stand up. He was almost obsessed with the idea of joining the world of comedy, not an easy career path to take in a small rural town in Saskatchewan. His first attempts at public performance were made at his high school variety and drama nights. He wrote an original play that he did not perform in but sat and listened to at the back of the high school gym and marveled at the reaction that his work produced from the audience. In 1988 he played his first proper stand up gig at an amateur night at a comedy club in Saskatoon, it wasn't long before he was gigging regularly across Canada, developing his skills, filling clubs and eventually headlining at comedy festivals and in mainstream theatres.

1992

Brent moved to Vancouver five years into his career as a stand up comedian. The comedy scene in the area was on the wain, well past it's hey day in the late seventies and early eighties. Brent is often considered the main component of the revival of the popularity of stand up in the east of Canada. His routines raised the comedic bar and pushed local up and coming performers to up their game and write great new material. Brent was known at the time for being a prolific writer with an amazing work ethic.

Brent is comfortable playing small venues as well as the larger theatres. Performing in a small club to around two hundred people is his preferred option, being more intimate. This said, he has mentioned in interviews that playing to bigger crowds is also enjoyable as it requires a slightly different set of skills. He believes, at larger gigs, a comedian has to slow down the set, allow the material to reach the audience. He says, the reaction you get from a large audience can be quite a rush as it comes at the stage in a giant wave. The first gig he played in a large room the first few gags did not go very well because he rattled them off as if he was in a small club with only a short amount of time to get his material out. You have to allow the audience to react. Brent has suggested that as a stand up you have to treat a performance like a conversation with the audience, you can tell if your material is going well by the reaction you get from them, if the laughter doesn't come talk about something else.

2002

Interacting with his audience is something Brent is very keen to do. Creating new material on the fly from whatever information he could get from a comedy club patron. This came from being a regular in clubs, doing two shows a night to people who were regulars and would have seen him many times before. It would be impossible to come up with so much new quality material for every show so new hilarity would come from the one to one with whoever may be sitting in the room.

His shows are known to be clean as his other work reaches a broad audience but Brent has occasionally expressed the desire to do a stand up routine that is nearer the knuckle. The choice to work clean was not one he made consciously. Some times at smaller gigs material on occasion may become slightly naughty as a natural, organic progression of how the set was developing.



It was very rare that any of his live material would find it's way into Corner Gas. Unless there was a scenario that was written into a story line that a bit of material would fit into. When the show was being filmed Brent would keep a little black note book in which he wrote jokes that were not suitable for the show, that were better for stand up. Whilst filming it was harder to fit in a stand up performance, however he would try and show up for gigs when filming was on hiatus. At local Vancouver comedy clubs such as Yuk Yuk's, Brent would try out his new material before having to return to filming Corner Gas. These jokes would often only be a premise that would be fleshed out at these performances. New material would also find it's way into the middle of a theatre show as it is a good place to test a reaction to something that is a work in progress when the privilege of performing five nights a week is no longer possible.

Never to be one to rest on his laurels Brent has never let the idea that his fame would make doing stand up any easier, that an audience will just laugh because you are "that guy from the t.v." He is aware that a famous stand up may get a few minutes grace, but if your performance isn't top notch
you can still die a horrible comedic death on stage.

2013

Brent has mentioned in interviews past, that he could never give up stand up. He has gone on record to suggest that if he could not do stand up he would be miserable. So lets hope that this means that Brent will never retire from the road and continue, Don Rickles like, to make us all laugh for another 30 years and beyond

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1993

"Ladies and gentlemen, it's his first time at The Comedy Store, please welcome....Ian Richards!!"

It's show time.

.....you thought I was going to say "Brent Butt." That's what we in the business call the old switcheroo!

For more information on Brent Butt and all his latest tour dates please visit www.brentbutt.com
Also visit www.thebuttpod.com and subscribe to thebuttpod You Tube channel.