In support of his first feature film, No Clue, Brent Butt is doing something he hasn’t done in a decade, a standup comedy tour of the country.
“I never stopped doing standup, but this is the first time since before Corner Gas that I’ve done a tour like this,” he said.
The “Almost a Movie Star Tour” kicked off January 30 in Ottawa and will have Butt bouncing back and forth across the country—including a stop in Yorkton February 27—until March 4.
No Clue, written by Butt and produced by his production company Sparrow Media, is a homage to the hard-boiled, film noir gumshoe only Butt’s protagonist, Leo Falloon, is no Sam Spade. In fact, he’s not even a detective. He’s a novelties salesman, who simply cannot say no when Kyra—the classic noir trope of the beautiful dame played by Amy Smart (Crank, The Butterfly Effect)—walks into his office and asks for his help to find her missing brother.
Butt is hoping the murder mystery, filmed entirely in Vancouver, stands on its own while garnering some laughs along the way.
“I didn’t want to do a crazy, zany comedy,” he said. “I wanted to do a dark, gritty, realistic thriller that happens to be funny.”
To bring that cinematic vision to life, the comic called on Edmonton-born director Carl Bessai (Repeaters, Normal) and Winnipeg-born cinematographer Jan Kiesser (Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift).
While Butt may have been shooting for a somewhat serious whodunit, the trailer—which he shamelessly points out is available on his website www.brentbutt.com—indicates the script is peppered with classic Brent Butt humour.
“Maybe I was a sucker for a pretty face,” Leo explains to his friend Ernie, played by David Koechner (Anchorman 2, Get Smart). “She’s a stone-cold, gorgeous dish full of red-hot fox meat that was set under a hottie lamp until it was smokin’”
The film premiered in December at the Whistler Film Festival and Butt breathed a sigh of relief.
“It was received very well,” he said. “It was my first opportunity to be in a room with strangers for a screening. We felt that we made a good movie, but you don’t know until it’s in front of an audience. It was very gratifying. They laughed in the places they were supposed to laugh, so we were happy about that.”
Of course, Butt is best known as Brent Leroy, the beloved proprietor of a gas station and convenience store in the fictional town of Dog River, Saskatchewan.
Corner Gas is the most successful Canadian sitcom of all time, broadcast in 26 countries and recipient of dozens of awards and award nominations.
Butt, who was born and raised in Tisdale, Saskatchewan, told Yorkton This Week he always wanted to do a show set in small-town Saskatchewan. He attributes the popularity of Corner Gas to not being a show about small-town Saskatchewan, rather, a show about people who happen to live in small-town Saskatchewan.
“There’s a universality to it,” he said. “Even if you live in New York City, you probably know a grouchy old man; you probably have a dopey friend who you don’t even know why you’re friends with any more except that you’ve known each other since you were five.”
Following Corner Gas, which went off air in April 2009 after six seasons, Butt embarked almost immediately on a new TV project. Hiccups (2010, 2011), in which he played a self-styled life coach to a zany children’s author played by Nancy Robertson, his real-life wife, never reached nearly the heights of Corner Gas. It was, however, The Comedy Network’s second highest rated Canadian show and won several Leo Awards.
Butt said he never intended for the program, which lasted only two seasons, to be a long-lived series, but he was disappointed only in the fact they didn’t get to do the planned third season after CTV and The Comedy Network were purchased and the new owners decided to go a different direction.
“We were having a lot of fun doing Hiccups, but we’re not the first people in the business to have that happen to them,” he said.
He also admits the timing may not have been the best.
“It might have been too close on the heels of Corner Gas,” he said.
No Clue hits theatres across the country on March 7 when Butt will find out if “almost a movie star” translates into actually a movie star.
If not, he will always have his first love.
“It’s really the standup I can’t get out from under my skin,” he said. “I’m a standup comedian.”
Yorktonites can see Butt’s standup comedy in action on stage at the Anne Portnuff Theatre February 27. Tickets are $41.50 available at www.ticketmaster.ca