Saskatchewan-born comedian Brent Butt is currently on the road with his Almost a Movie Star stand-up tour, which stopped in Saskatoon on March 3. Best known for his TV series Corner Gas, Butt has recently taken a step towards the movies.
Butt wrote and starred in No Clue, a film about an average guy who ends up mistaken for a detective and decides to run with it — all to impress a woman. Although this is Butt’s first experience doing a movie, it has always been something on his radar.
“On my list of things I’ve wanted to do was make a movie,” said Butt. “It ended up being something that I decided I wanted to pursue and the fact that I have my own production company made it something that we could do.”
Butt began by writing down ideas and from there the story began to pan out.
“I’ve always been a big fan of detective movies and murder mysteries. It’s not a zany, wacky comedy. It is kind of a dark, gritty thriller at times,” Butt said. “It’s a funny movie but it really explores how a regular joe deals with being put in a dangerous situation. The next thing you know it’s a much bigger case and he’s in way over his head.”
Making a movie has been a different experience from previous projects and Butt recognizes that it came with some feelings of uncertainty.
“I was excited but I was also kind of nervous about it. We felt that we had made a good movie and we liked it, but there’s a part of my brain — the comic part of my brain — that says ‘It doesn’t matter what you think, you gotta get it up in front of an audience and they’ll let you know,’” Butt said.
In contrast to stand-up, once a movie is completed there are no opportunities to change it — something Butt was not accustomed to.
“If I’m doing a show and it’s maybe not going well I can start to change things and start to shift. But I knew with this movie there was nothing I could change now. The audience was going to like it or not like it,” Butt said.
Though No Clue will be released primarily in Canada, there is potential for international distribution depending on domestic ticket sales. Butt emphasized the importance of having a good audience for No Clue on opening weekend.
“With Canadian movies you really have a short window to prove that you have any box office merit, so it makes all the difference in the world to a Canadian film if people see it that opening weekend,” said Butt.
Butt has primarily worked on TV series in the past, where he created his two sitcoms Corner Gas and Hiccups. There are many notable differences between working on a movie and a TV series.
“For me personally, the big difference was I had a much lighter work load. When I’m doing a series I’m kind of working on multiple elements of different episodes at the same time,” Butt said. “In this situation all my writing was done [before] the acting phase and I knew I wouldn’t be editing for a couple of months, so it was a much lighter work load for me during actual production.”
No Clue was shot in 20 days using two cameras, which allowed for a lot of footage to be covered in a small amount of time. The cast includes Amy Smart, David Koechner and David Cubitt. Working with actors for a shorter period of time was also a shift for Butt.
“It’s very interesting because you don’t really become family like you do with a series,” Butt said. “It’s like having a party instead of roommates.”
While Butt thoroughly enjoyed the experience of movie production, he still continues to do stand-up comedy. Butt prepared mostly all new material for his Almost a Movie Star tour, which began in Ottawa at the end of January and wrapped up in Lethbridge on March 4.
“Going into the tour I wanted to make sure that I good amount of newer material because I am going to places where I’ve been numerous times,” Butt said.
Even though he has worked as a stand-up comedian for many years, Butt still recognizes the importance of staying focused and keeping his audience entertained.
“I’m in a situation where I’m playing in nice venues and people are coming out specifically to see me. A lot of the battle part is gone,” Butt said. “But it’s amazing; the onus is still on you to do the craftsmanship — to deliver.”
Stand-up comedy is a huge part of Butt’s life and was an important element for both writing and acting in No Clue.
“For me stand-up is central to everything. I look at stand-up as not so much what I do, it’s who I am. For me it all spokes off of stand-up,” Butt said.
“I know stand-up is the thing I could never walk away from. Nothing else matters to the same degree. If I never did another TV show, if I never made another movie, I would be sad. But if I could never do stand-up again I would feel incomplete.”
Hitting theatres March 7, the trailer for No Clue can be found on brentbutt.com.
Naomi Zurevinski / Culture Editor