Monday 24 October 2016

A Sweaty English Chap Meets Brent Butt!

A month ago I made a pilgrimage to Vancouver. It was a short, costly trip and it was Corner Gas' fault that I went. I was visiting the area to see the shows creator, writer and actor Brent Butt live on stage.

Born August 3rd, 1966 Brent grew up in Tisdale, Saskatchewan, a small town in the praries of rural Canada. It was this sleepy town background that would become the premise for Corner Gas and the fictional town of Dog River. 
He moved to the city at the age of 20 to pursue a career in stand up and quickly became a hit on the club circuit. The road called soon later, his appearances nationally and internationally at clbs and festivals cementing his fast growing reputation as one of the funniest men in Canada. 

Fast forward to 24th September 2016, North Vancouver. I was lucky enough to be given, by my very generous family and friends, the opportunity to see a special charity performance by Brent. I had been in town two days of four day stay, short time considering the distance I had travelled. However, in support of a wonderful charity I was bought for my birthday a V.I.P. ticket to the show which meant a guaranteed meet and greet with my new comedy idol, an opportunity I am sure many would not turn down. However, there were many aspects to my trip, that I am sure will I cover in later posts, but no matter what itinerary you add to your Expedia account, how many tourist sites you buy tickets for or how many t-shirts you buy with pictures of a moose on them, when you tell a celebrity that you traveled half way across the world to say hello it is impossible not to come off as something of a stalking nutcase.

A little light entertainment for a good cause!

 I have just discovered that as a tourist, on your way to meet a personal hero and wanting your look your best, probably better to take a cab or at least check to see if the theater you are visiting isn't half way up a road which is essentially part of a mountainous topography before you decide to walk there! I found the camber of my chosen amble was a tiny bit on the steep side, almost vertical would be relatively accurate....well it felt like it when I was half way to my destination. By the time I got to the box office door I was sweating like a cop in a donut factory. Luckily I was over an hour early and there is a nice breeze coming up the hill from the sea below for me to waft about the place and dry myself off, all classy like. 

The Centennial Theatre - North Vancouver 

The venue is very pleasant, the slightly municipal exterior holds a lovely auditorium which seats around 600 people. There is not a bad seat in the house and lends itself to an intimate setting fantastic for a comedy gig such as this. The staff were very pleasant and helpful as I had found trying to book my tickets at home. I ran into a few technical difficulties using the theatre's website and had to send an e-mail to try and get some help which I got in spades, and a bit of banter besides which is always welcome in my book.

Half an hour before the show started I was taken back stage with a number of other patrons to meet Brent. In my years I have been lucky enough to meet more than my fair share of my idols. This was one of only a couple of occasions where I found myself genuinely star struck. In hindsight I think it was probably due to the amount of effort that had to be made to actually get to this legendary meeting of minds.

For the previous few months I had been thinking about what to ask, I've already learnt not to try and be funny to a comedian. So a few genuinely interesting questions that also hopefully skipped past tired and rigid ones that have been asked so many times before were duly stored in the memory banks and practiced there through out the day. When the moment came, I shook Mr. Butt by the hand and my brain and mouth decided not to partake in the proceedings and seized up like the rusty chain of an unused bicycle. All I can remember forcing out of my head is "Do you collect comics?" Not exactly Pulitzer prize winning questioning of a burgeoning blog writer. 

Despite my unwitting impression of a serial nut bar Brent was very charming, friendly and softly spoken. I think when you meet a professional mirth maker, it is a fairly obvious mistake to assume they are going to be immediately wacky and larger than life characters. I have found the majority come across more contemplative and quiet. I had a very nice few minutes chatting with Brent as best as my synapses would allow, most of them were to busy buzzing, using their energy to resuscitate the sensible parts of my brain and override my putz circuits. All in all from that moment I could have gone home a very happy little geek.

Brent Butt and his unofficial stunt double (Me)
I shuffled my way to the auditorium and found my seat. Whilst I was sitting there, waiting for the show to begin. I was to wondering what the show would have in store. There is not a huge amount of Mr. Butt's material available out there on the internet. He is not in the habit of recording his shows. There are some clips on You Tube that I recommend you seek out, most look like they have been filmed from the audience with someones Nokia 3310. There also some great highlight clips from festivals and t.v. shows.

I have seen many stand up shows in my time and only two other people have made me laugh so hard and so consistently as Brent did. 

His style is very laid back and unassuming, covering topics from trying to explain the vastness of Canada to foreigners to proctological examinations and all sorts in between. Just like the humour in Corner Gas there are jokes that range from the subtle to the just plain daft delivered with easy going self assuredness of someone who has honed his craft for over 20 years. All the material is very family friendly, I only heard two mild swears the whole evening. In a comedy world where fruity language is abound, this is quite refreshing.

I have in the past been accused of being a tad embarrassing by my loved ones when in I am watching a comedy show. Certain things set me off laughing harder than other members of the audience. It's usually a nicely framed turn of phrase that gets me laughing so loud the person sitting next to me shoots three feet in the air. This happened many times whilst watching Brents show, he has a fantastic way with words coupled with a nice line in mime and theatrics that tickle the funny bone into submission. 

I really want to try and find something negative to say about the show to give the impression of impartiality. This is after all a review on a fan site for Brent's work and obviously there is going to be certain amount of gushing and possible rose tintedness going on. In my honest opinion I really can't fault him - actually I can - the show ran a little over an hour which I believe is standard on this side of the pond for a headline act. I think in England we are spoiled as most comedy stars on tour will do a minimum of an hour and a half. I would have loved to listened to Mr. Butts stories for a little longer, all night probably. 

So if you get the chance to travel thousands of miles to see Brent Butt do his thang, full tour details are available at his official web site Do it, you will not be disappointed. Take the whole family. If you are going to see him at the Centennial Theater make sure to get the bus  - don't walk it you'll get all out of puff and sweaty.

Monday 17 October 2016

Corner Gas - A Fan Primer for The Greatest Sit-Com in the World!

Since the announcement that Corner Gas, Canada's most popular comedy of all time, is available to stream world wide on Amazon Prime, the Corner Gas Fan Corner inbox ( by the way) has been inundated with a deluge, nay, a tsunami of mail wanting to know more about the show.  Although I am aware it will take me a good few too many hours to do, taking my precious spare time away from family, friends and getting my undies washed, I will answer all three mails in one sitting.

I will address all the questions put to me by the mails I have received and answer them as fully as I can, preferably without actually doing any work and/or research. I am sure we will all come away from this post all the better for getting to know the characters of Dog River and some of the people who helped bring them to life. asks – “Are you aware of our new lower rate tariff?”

Well this is a great question and one that doesn’t often get answered in the proper detail.

Corner Gas ran for six seasons, airing on CTV, (Canada’s number one television station that boasts these initials placed in this particular order) from 2004 until 2009. Each episode tells the story of its eight main characters and the day-to-day life in the sleepy town of Dog River, Saskatuue…skatattyian…Saskatchewan which I am reliably informed is an area of Canada known mainly for naming its provinces based on the first letters that fall out of a Scrabble bag.
Brent Leroy played by Brent Butt
Lacey Burrows played by Gabrielle Miller
As the shows ear worm inducing theme tune reliably informs us, Dog River is a place where not at lot is going on. A sleepy town where everybody knows everybody else’s business. Each episode is centered around Brent Leroy gas station owner, his neighbour Lacey Burrows owner of The Ruby cafe, Brent’s squabbling parents Oscar and Emma Leroy, local Police officers Davis Quinton and Karen Pelly, Hank Yarbo local unemployed, self-proclaimed entrepreneur and Wanda Dallard – gas station co-worker and know it all.

Hank Yarbo played by Fred Ewanuick
The stories of each episode will have the main characters getting into situations to humourous effect, which I believe – and don’t quote me on this – is where the term situation comedy comes from. Hank Yarbo, Dog River's lovelable loafer and boarderline simpleton, will announce his latest wacky money-making scheme which will be met with derision and shrugs from all. Oscar Leroy, the communities grump old man, deluded that he is capable of mastering any project he sets his mind to, will set to his latest task which will end in disaster much to the delight of his wife Emma who enjoys the opportunity to rub it in his face. Davis Quinton and Karen Pelly desperately attempt to be effective law enforcement in a town with seemingly no crime what so ever. Lacey Burrows, owner of The Ruby cafe and new comer to the area, will try to enthuse locals into starting book clubs or getting involved in town council meetings to minimal effect. Wanda Dollard, points out the idiocy of her fellow Dog Riverians, whilst casually chewing rope liquorice and finishing a crossword puzzle, as is her right to do so as she has somehow been the only one blessed with most of her synapses firing in the right order. There is then Brent Leroy, owner of titular Corner Gas which he took over when his dad Oscar retired. He in the middle of most things firing off a sharp quip or witticism and is often the unwilling participant of all the daftness that surrounds him.

Emma Leroy play by Janet Wright
The second question out of our full to bursting mail bag is from, he asks – “Please can you send me your bank account details and pin number please to please be able to release the deeds into your name thank you please”

Well actually you would be right Edmund, from my rather shoddy description of the show and characters above, you would be correct thinking this is a fairly by the numbers set up for a sit-com, which I believe – and don’t quote me on this – is the shortened variant for the term situation comedy, which you might remember, I mentioned in the previous paragraph.Where Corner Gas scores over so many is the quality of the writing and the performances of the strong actors given the task of breathing life into the denizens of Dog River.
Wanda Dollard played by Nancy Robertson
Brent Butt, Mark Farrell, Paul Mather and Andrew Carr and a few others produced the scripts for the show between them. The skill in which they weave the stories with gags, verbal and visual, ranging from the ridiculous to the so subtle you could miss them is second to none. A particular favourite episode of mine finds Lacey, a Scrabble player of outstanding ability (and possibly member of the Canadian Province Naming Committee), taking on Hank an obvious vocabulary deficiency at said game. In a heated round Hank spells the word “ARRRHHHHHHH” which Lacey counters as not being a proper word, an indignant Hank argues “I have a Superman comic that would disagree with you”.
Davis Quinton played by Lorne Cardinal
I would like to tell you about certain members of the cast being stand out. I don’t think that would really be fair. To point out particular actors would suggest the other performances are not as strong. Not true, as every actor involved does a fantastic job with the material. In each episode each actor is given their own time to shine and after viewing I guarantee you will be looking them up on Google to see what else they have done in movies and t.v. before whipping over to You Tube to try to find videos.
Karen Pelly played by Tara Spencer-Nairn
I have found in the past that perfect casting is often the make or break of a show, Fantastic case in point being the also mostly absent from U.K. screens Married….with Children. We in the U.K had a brief fling with the show in the late 80’s, where it was slapped in between “V” and Sledge Hammer at about 3 a.m. before it quickly disappeared. The fact that it was only me and a select few that had seen the show over here didn’t stop ITV from making their own version of it. Married..with Children was hilarious, its English knock off was anything but. However, as I remember, the scripts were word for word identical, the abysmal performances of the English cast let it the material down.
Brent Butt, Gabrielle Miller, Tara Spencer-Nairn, Nancy Robertson, Fred Ewanuick, Lorne Cardinal,Janet Wright and Eric Peterson are all on top form. They make you want to visit Dog River and cosy up at the hotel bar and have a listen to the hi-jinks.
Dog River is a character in itself. The series was filmed in Rouleau, Sassykittylitter. The town has benefitted from vast amounts of tourists visiting from around the world keen to see the true home of Corner Gas. If you are British and have visited Rouleau – how did you know about the show, and why didn’t you tell me about it?
My final mail is, he writes “Your order of member enhancement tablets has been shipped”

Oscar Leroy played by Eric Peterson
Well yes Steve, the original show has been off air for a few years now. However, it was followed up in 2014 with Corner Gas: The Movie. Rather than carrying on from the end of the series the film tells the a new story. Dog River has been bankrupted and it's time to move on, can the citizens we all know and love come up with a last ditch effort to save the day? The movie was a massive success and interest in all things Corner Gas was invigorated. It was because of this that the germ of a new idea and a new direction started to take shape. In 2018 Corner Gas: Animated hit the airwaves, with 13 episodes. The show again was a huge success and broke records for it's home network The Comedy Channel. The movie and the new show have all the elements of the classic show a fan could want only with a broader scope. The animated show in particular allows the scenes, often shown in the original series as "swoosh cuts" in which a character has a flash back or even a dream sequence, to be bigger and contain elements of a more fantastical nature.

The movie and the animated series bought back everyone involved in the original series. Due to the sad passing of Janet Wright, the role of Emma was given to Corrine Koslo who was a very good friend of Janet and has a voice that is a an excellent likeness. With a comic timing that matches that of  he friend Corrine was a perfect fit in the Corner Gas family.

So there we have the basics. Everything you need to get you going as a burgeoning fan of the series. The rest of the details are available all over this site. Check out the Posts page for all the latest news, reviews, interviews and no end of silliness. We have biographies of cast and crew, links to some are above in the names of the actors below their pictures.

I will be updating as I go, new details will be added regularly so keep coming back to see that there is very rarely not a lot going on! (Yes I am aware that sentence has some very bad grammar but I had to squeeze in the reference.)

Please get in touch with any of your Corner Gas related stories, pictures  anything related to the show using the details on our contacts page. You can even leave comments under each post. Just say hi if you want to.

Don't forget to click the follow button in the top right of the right hand side column to be informed when there is a new entry here at Corner Gas Fan Corner!

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Welcome to Blog Paper's Corner Gas Corner!

Corner Gas is one of Canada's most popular sit-coms that ran for six seasons between 2004 and 2009. This was followed in 2014 by Corner Gas: The Movie. Now in 2018 we have the all new, record breaking series Corner Gas: Animated. 

Corner Gas Fan Corner is a place for fans old and new to come together and share there favourite moments, characters, actors anything related to the tales from Dog River. 

You will find episode guides, reviews and behind the scenes info. We will also catch up with the actors, writers and creative team of the show with exclusive interviews and news of all their latest projects. 

We would love to hear from you. Let us know your Corner Gas memories or any questions you may have about the show. Send in your stories, art, music - anything you like and want to share with other Corner Gas fans all over the world. There are links on our contact page if you would like to get in touch. 

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