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.