Monday, 5 November 2018

Dog River Denizens - Brent Butt

Brent Butt
(Brent Leroy)



I have to make a confession. In my role as the worlds best journalist impersonator I seem to have let the side down somewhat.

I recently had a lovely sit down with the subject of this post. I had prepared an interview with a list of questions as long as Dog River River (have we confirmed there is a river there? Why is it full of canines?) In an effort to try and be slightly original in my questioning I based my work on a biography that can be found in the back of a publication, which I will discuss later, that Brent put out in his early career. I thought it would be a fun way to get some life details that fans may not have been aware of before. It also meant I didn't have to do a huge amount of research. I figured this technique would make for more natural un-expected answers to seemingly random questions. Also - I am lazy, did I mention that? I feel it worked to some degree, some of the details from that interview are here in this post, more will be found in a special post December 2018. 

Then I researched for this biography. I discovered early television work of Mr. Butt that has no other mention on the internet other than a brief mention on IMDb. Curses! If  only I hadn't been such a trailblazing, format skewing innovator in my strenuous efforts not to prepare for my interview. I may have been able to get the details that the public needs about these early works. 

Heaven help us if I get called upon to blow the lid on some political scandal involving various politicians, missing underwear and a large jar of peanut butter. 

Anyhow, read on - 

----------

Born August 3rd, 1966 Brent grew up in Tisdale, Saskatchewan, a small town in the prairies of rural Canada. It was this sleepy town background that would become the premise for Corner Gas and the fictional town of Dog River. 

Brent 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.

One other profession was of interest to young Brent, that of a comic book artist and publisher. In 1987 he set up a publishing company Windwolf Graphics with his friend Colin Oleksyn. The team created Existing Earth a serious, sci-fi opus with Colin writing the story and Brent creating the artwork. It was a tricky business running the company whilst living at home with his parents. Brent had to make phone international phone calls in the middle of the night to try and make distribution deals, warning his mother "if you hear voices it's just me on the phone!" They published two issues before running out of money. The comic did however garner a Golden Eagle award nomination. 

Rarer ...and slightly gross
Rare

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.

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.

With his star on the rise Brent start to appear in television and movies in small roles. Th first of which was on the sit-com Maniac Mansion. Based on the popular computer game it told the story of a mad scientist who moves into the family mansion that he inherits only to find it is haunted by ghost dinosaurs (as you do!) The series ran for three seasons and boasts some impressive names on it's writing team including Dave Thomas, Eugene Levy and Norm Hiscock. Brent appeared in Episode 6 of Season 3 as "Applicant" - a no doubt critical role in the episode and no doubt was enhanced no end by Brent's acting capabilities. I can not confirm that his performance has a direct link as to why season three was the final season of the show.



In 1996 Brent wrote and performed in the mini series Get Serious: Seven Deadly Sins which featured six episodes. The series also had Kevin McDonald , of Kids in the Hall fame and Thomas F. Wilson, aka Biff from Back to the Future, in the cast. The following year he was also a featured performer in the stand up show Comedy Now! 1999 saw his first t.v movie writing credit with Chill a story of the misadventures of John Bueller as he attempts to become a snowboarding god. Unfortunately details on all these projects seem to have been lost in time, however they do show the steady climb of Mr. Butt's career in the decade before the creation of Corner Gas.

Two interesting cameos fell in between the above work. Firstly in Millennium, created by Chris Carter the genius behind The X-Files. The second was in The X-Files created by Chris Carter the genius who would go on to develop Millennium.

Millennium followed Frank Black, an ex-FBI profiler who has the ability to see into the minds of killers. He moves to Washington D.C and begins to work with The Millennium Group, a mysterious organisation of ex law enforcement officers who are committed to battling crime which appears to be on the rise as the new Millennium approaches. Brent appeared in the second episode of season two entitled "Beware of the Dog". Frank is sent by the group to investigate the brutal death of an old couple, killed by a vicious pack of dogs. Brent plays a short order cook - again no doubt a vital role that helped drive the narrative towards it's dramatic conclusion.

Artists Interpretation
I couldn't find any stills of Brent in his Millennium episode
However, if I did it would look very much like this
Season 5, Episode 12 of The X-Files saw Brent take on the role of Coroner. The show had a monster of the week type set up in which FBI Agents Mulder and Scully investigated cases of a paranormal nature. This episode had the duo having to recount their exploits to their superiors to explain the events that lead to Mulder driving a stake through the heart of a teenage boy who he claims was a Vampire. The episode was written by Vince Gilligan who went on to create Breaking Bad and it's spin off Better Call Saul. The story line was actually based on an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show in which the cast all recount a fight in different ways.

Is that a steak in your heart or are you
just pleased to see me?


Brent, shocked by the cheeseiness of that last caption!



















2001 saw Brent in a reoccurring role as "Todd" in short lived sit-com Big Sound. The series starred Greg Evigan, well known for his role in My Two Dads and B.J. and the Bear. It took a swipe at the superficial nature of the music industry. Although the show only lasted 22 episodes it was nominated for two Gemini Awards and one from The Directors Guild of Canada.

Artist Interpretation

2004 Television history was made with the first broadcast of Corner Gas, cementing Brent's reputation as a comedic force to be reckoned with. The series get far too much column space on this site so for more details on this little televisual wonder please feel free to have an explore around the many pages contained herein!

2005 saw Brent host a royal command performance for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. The gala was to celebrate the centennial of Saskatchewan as a province. As well as trading jokes with Leslie Neilsen his performance included now legendary renditions of the songs "Nothing Rhymes with Saskatchewan" and "Hairy Legs". The same year he was host to The Juno Awards and continues to be a favourite host or guest for award ceremonies across Canada.

Arti....awww, you get the idea!
Corner Gas came to an end in 2009. The whole team were bought back for Corner Gas : The Movie in 2014 and again in 2018 for Corner Gas: Animated which will continue it's record breaking run in 2019 with Season 2.

Brent followed up Corner Gas with a new series in 2010, Hiccups. The show, starring Nancy Robertson, was the story of Millie Upton a children's writer who suffers with anger management issues. In an effort to control these urges she enrols the help of Stan Dirko, a life coach of no great experience played by Brent. The series ran for two seasons in 2010 and 2011. A fan favourite the series was cancelled by the network despite receiving good reviews and many awards. The series will be covered in greater depth on this website in 2019.


Brent also fulfilled a life long dream of producing a motion picture. Released a full year before Corner Gas: The Movie, No Clue hit screens across Canada in 2013. Starring Brent and Amy Smart the movie tells the story of hapless salesman Leo Falloon who is mistakenly hired as a private detective by beautiful blonde Kyra to try and find her missing brother Miles. The movie pokes fun at all the film noir tropes and contains more than enough of Brent's trademark style humour to keep fans of his previous work happy. However the project on the whole didn't resonate with all of it's intended audience receiving mixed reviews.




Brent continues to be in high demand is currently riding high on the success of Corner Gas: Animated. He still performs regularly across Canada, recently making his first appearance at the Just For Laughs Festival in 16 years. He also has his own podcast The Buttpod, in which he releases, semi regularly hour long programmes in which he chats with special guests. The guests are generally from the world of comedy but have also included the likes of Fred Ewanuick and Craig Northey. Each episode contains much banter giving an interesting insider view of the world of stand up comedy and the entertainment business as a whole. The show also has regular segments "More Smarter" in which listeners can send in titbits of general knowledge to help make Brent a brighter boy. There is also a word from a fake sponsor whilst Brent tries to find a genuine sponsor. In addition to the audio show Brent has a Buttpod You Tube channel which he updates regularly with short videos of behind the scenes action from his times on the road, information for upcoming shows or projects, he even adds vacation videos. He is aiming to have 15,000 subscribers to the You Tube channel by the end of 2018. You can help by visiting the channel here and clicking on the subscribe button you will find therein.

So there you have it, as much information I can possibly give you on the life work of one of the greatest comedians ever to walk the prairies. There would be much more had I asked the right questions of my subject, but we muddled through, made it to the other end and hopefully got away with murder! Wait a minute.... Hey, Brent....I just had an idea for No Clue 2!!

----------

Please visit www.brentbutt.com for more information and tour dates and www.thebuttpod.com to download Brent's podcast.

Thank you to Brent Butt for his time and the particularly good coffee.