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Brent Butt moves from TV to the movies

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Brent Butt will perform at the Kelowna Community Theatre on Wednesday.
Brent Butt has done just about everything in the business of making people laugh. He's been a successful stand-up comedian for many years, created, co-wrote and starred in the hit television show Corner Gas, as well as another series, Hiccups.
So why not take the next step and jump to the big screen? Why not just write, produce and star in your own movie?
In fact, according to the Vancouver resident, the decision to do that was relatively easy.
"Like most creative people, I love to create," he said. "And that means coming up with new things … you can only spin your wheels so long before you become mentally and emotionally frustrated.
"I have ideas all the time and certain ideas I get I'm compelled to start putting on paper. My mind won't let me do anything else."
One of those ideas turned out to be the script for his first feature film, No Clue, which the film's publicity material refers to as a "comic tribute to classic film noir capers."
Butt is currently doing stand-up on his Almost a Movie Star tour ahead of the Canadian opening of the movie, which will hit Canadian screens in early March.
He'll pull into Kelowna Feb. 19 for a solo show at the Kelowna Community Theatre.
But performing the form of comedy that got him his start is perfectly normal for him. In fact, it's something he's been doing all along. He also credits that experience with giving him a solid comedic base which he's been able to use to hilarious effect elsewhere.
"Before Corner Gas, I did nothing but stand-up for 15 years," he said. "I would do 200 to 250 shows a year, so at a certain point, you develop a pretty good instinct."
A departure from the character he made famous on Corner Gas, Butt plays a hapless guy who is mistakenly taken for a private detective by his co-star Amy Smart, who plays the femme fatale.
While he avoided creating simply a movie version of Brent Leroy, Butt said he still put a lot of himself in the character.
"I always say that no matter what I do, you're kind of going to get me," he said. "The interesting thing for me with this was that I had to do more acting than I've ever had to because this movie has real stakes and real serious situations, and there's actual danger and actual gravity.
"My character, as opposed to other TV shows I've done has to really respond in a real way to these dark situations. It's a comedy, but it's not a zany, wacky comedy; it's a dark, gritty thriller that happens to be funny."
No Clue also stars David Koechner as Butt's crazy friend who keeps offering misguided advice, the picture will be released in Canadian theatres in a few weeks and may see some U.S. markets after that.
A native of the small farming town of Tisdale, Sask., Butt got the urge to perform at the age of 12 when he saw a comedian on television and realized that was for him.
"It just hit me like a thunderclap," he said. "It was very matter-of-fact, I knew I was going to try that."
In his 20s, he moved to Toronto to further his comedy career and soon found himself headlining shows at the comedy clubs that burgeoned in the city, making audiences howl with laughter with his low-key, self-deprecating humour.
Butt became the "everyman" of comedy and parlayed that into greater fame when he developed the idea for a television series, starring himself, set in the bucolic fictional town of Dog River, Sask.
As Brent Leroy, the comic book-loving protagonist on the runaway hit show, Corner Gas, Butt played a character not unlike himself.
Mostly bemused by the goings-on of the small prairie town the series was set in, Leroy was usually good-natured and quick with a sardonic observation about life in Dog River.
In his younger days, in fact, Butt wrote and illustrated a couple of comic books, but decided that wasn't a career for him.
"I didn't see myself drawing eight hours a day," he said. He also played in a rock band called Fast Exit for a time, something he mimicked as lead guitar player for the fictional band Thunderface on Corner Gas.
Co-written by Butt and several writers from the show This Hour has 22 Minutes, Corner Gas developed a loyal following in Canada and beyond for it's good-natured humour and it turned Butt into a bona-fide star.
Despite meeting his real-life wife on the show in the person of actress Nancy Robertson, who played his gas station employee Wanda Dollard on the show, by 2008 Butt felt it was time to move on. Wanting to end the show on a high note, he announced the following season would be its last and the final episode, the 107th, was broadcast in April, 2009.
The show has gone on to be a hit in re-runs in more than two dozen countries, keeping it alive and garnering new fans, and while Butt has fond memories of the Corner Gas days, he's moved on to other projects including his new movie.
"Just a year ago, we finished the filming," he said. "I was nervous and excited in front of the premier at the Whistler Film Festival because for me, with my stand-up background, no matter how good you think it is, until you get it up in front of an audience it doesn't mean anything.
"That's kind of how I felt with this."
The Kelowna show will be the only Okanagan stop on Butt's Almost a Movie Star tour, which also plays Victoria, Nanaimo and Calgary before wrapping up Mar. 4 in Lethbridge.

QUICKFACTS
Who: Comedian Brent Butt live on the Almost a Movie Star tour
Where: The Kelowna Community Theatre, 1375 Water St.
When: Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $36 plus applicable fees. Available online at ticketmaster.ca, by phone at 1-855-985-5000, or in person at all Ticketmaster outlets
More info: brentbutt.com

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