Always in pursuit of dreams: Brent Butt becomes a novelist

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Small-town native Brent Butt never lost the opportunity to pursue his dream. But wait, he’s not finished yet.

Sit at the local coffee shop, chat with friends about where to find the best gas prices in town, or nod your head about Justin Trudeau’s latest gaffe – that’s what people do . Canadian comedian/writer Brent Butt does too, and it’s where the 56-year-old still finds material for his projects, from stand-up to TV screenplays. Butt said, “Conversation in a cafe was a great way to learn comedy. It’s relaxed and conversational and the jokes build naturally without forcing them.”

The everyday life cat has been Butt’s bread and butter during a successful career spanning more than 30 years, although the modest Canuck and youngest child of seven says all he ever wanted to do was to be a comedian.

“I wanted to get my family’s attention – we all tried to make each other laugh,” Butt said in a phone conversation from his home in Vancouver. “When I was about 12, I saw a comedian on Alan Hamel’s old show on one of our two TV stations, and I told my mum that’s what I wanted to do. Either that or be a superhero crime fighter. She said, ‘Go do it outside.’ But what she really did was legitimize the lawsuit for me. She didn’t poop it.”

Although his doodling abilities came in handy later (in the animated version of Corner Gas), Butt turned down the opportunity to study animation at Sheridan College after high school, opting instead to try stand-up comedy at near Saskatoon.

chasing a dream

Butt is right to transition from small-town life in Tisdale, Saskatchewan (about 3,000 people) to the big-city stand-up circuit, but his emergence on the scene (in the mid-90s) has been a golden era for comedy in the country, says Butt. And stumbling onto the Just for Laughs stage after only a few years on the road was not only fortuitous to raise his profile, it gave Butt a stable life and the opportunity to try acting gigs (Millennium, The X-Files) and even take on movie roles.

“It never escaped my notice, I was allowed to pursue a dream,” Butt said. “I also had no intention of attacking TV. I had hidden a treatment I had written – a story about a gas station in Saskatchewan which I thought would not be funny for nobody. But it ended up changing my life.”

Corner Gas: The Gift That Keeps Giving

It’s no understatement to say that Corner Gas has become (and still is) something bigger than Butt could ever have imagined. Not only did the show become the highest-rated sitcom on Canadian primetime television, it won numerous awards for the team and Butt, who served as series creator, writer, executive producer and director.

The original six seasons (107 episodes, from 2004 to 2009) aired in 26 countries and recently found new life on the Amazon Freevee streaming service which streams Corner Gas reruns 24/7. There was a feature film (one of the most watched in Canadian history – that’s okay) and the animated version of the series, which also ran for four seasons.

“I now get a lot more correspondence from the States than here. The show is really about how people are more alike than they are different,” he says. “Lacey is a big-city girl with no small-town experience, and Brent is small-town, no big-city experience. But they click.”

Reflecting on how it all came together, Butt said: “It was all pretty quick, if you don’t count the 17 years on the road as a stand-up. They (the network and the public ) didn’t want It was hard to walk away, but I didn’t want us to get into a rut, wither on the vine.

In the years that followed, Butt also created the Hiccups series and wrote the 2013 feature film No Clue.

Fulfill another dream; this time a novel

Although he’s made the West Coast his home for several decades (with his wife Nancy, who starred in Hiccups and played Wanda on Corner Gas), Butt says he’s happiest when he’s touring the country. and performs in clubs or at corporate events. But when the pandemic brought it all to a halt, Butt said he knew it was time to revisit his lifelong dream of writing a novel.

“I had the idea of ​​percolating for a long time, and I thought ‘if not now, when?’ I finally had no more excuses,” he said. “I had spent 30 years writing screenplays and stand-ups, but I wasn’t sure people would want a dark, psychological thriller from me.”

Butt says he put the book together in about twelve weeks; mathematical in his approach of writing 1,000 words a day in segments until he has something to show a literary agent.

“It’s really happening; I’m more excited than I feel comfortable showing it,” Butt said. “Doubleday Canada will publish it next fall, and I’ll be alongside authors I admire on the library shelf.”

Butt sums up his first novel, HUGE, as “Three comedians on the road, two of whom don’t have a huge capacity for violence.”

“I feel like the horse is out of the stable, so I’m already well into my second novel,” he added. “I was able to do just about everything on my list, but I still want to write a play that’s professionally produced. I have a pilot for another TV show in the works, and Nancy and I listen to old songs the radio plays; I would like to do that too.”

“But stand-up is still my favorite thing to do. I feel the most when I’m on stage with a mic,” Butt said. “I’m an ‘ear opener’ type, never afraid to dive in, but I try not to look too far down the road – I just want to enjoy the moment. People can sense when you’re authentic , and if they like what you do, they respond.”

Butt is well versed in using social media to let people know what he’s up to. There’s brentbutt.com, which leads followers to its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, YouTube posts and a recently resurrected podcast aka The Butt Pod.com. To stay in the know (and get a glimpse of a chapter in her novel), Butt also recommends fans sign up for her BB Bulletins.

“Besides performing, it’s a way for me to connect with people,” Butt said, reflecting on what has always worked for him before. “I think of it as just having a coffee. Only now it’s with hundreds of people at once.”

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