Brent Butt

The “novelist”

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Story by Joe Leary
Photos by Jacob Couture

When I was a little kid, I made a list of things I wanted to write in my life professionally, and a novel was the second to last thing.

In addition to the titles of screenwriter, actor and comedian, you can now add “novelist” to the list of Brent Butt credits.

And his first foray into the literary world comes with Huge, an unexpectedly dark and twisted thriller.

Set in 1994, it’s a psychopathic tale of three stand-up comics on a touring run of shows, set within a remote stretch of a rural Canadian landscape. Suffice to say that things go horribly awry. It’s also not the type of content one would expect from such a funny guy.

Published by Doubleday Canada, Huge marks the beloved comedian’s literary debut and begs the question: how long has this concept been percolating?

I love writing and I always wanted to write a novel,” he says. “In fact, when I was a little kid, I made a list of things I wanted to write in my life professionally, and a novel was the second to last thing.

It’s pretty daunting. I always wanted to do it but didn’t know if I would be able to.

It turns out he was — it just needed to be the right time.

When normalcy was curtailed during the Covid-19 shutdown, Butt figured there was no time like the present. I thought if not now, when? Fortunately the origins of Huge had been ruminating within for some time.

Doing stand-up over the years, I often had this notion of being on the road in a vehicle, and you’re driving across Northern Ontario or Saskatchewan at midnight, often with other persons, and the things they’re saying make you realize they’re not wired up right and certainly volatile.

You’re thinking: ‘this guy has got issues and there are a lot of places to hide a body. There’s nowhere for me to hide—but he could hide my body.’ That was the germ of the idea.

Huge marks a dramatic departure from Butt’s traditional comedic styling, honed after years of stand-up and writing television scripts.

TV scripts are very structured and very ‘to the minute’ and you need a plot point by a certain page count. I told my literary agent that this book is more like a horse that you let out of the pen and it just runs freely along the beach. It was just such an enjoyable experience.

After years as one of Canada’s most popular comics, Brent Butt hit pay dirt in 2000 as the creator and star of “Corner Gas,” the highly-rated CTV sitcom about life in the fictional small town of Dog River, Saskatchewan. The acclaimed series brought together a memorable ensemble cast of characters and achieved top Canadian primetime ratings in the process.

It was a blast, he says, of the quirky comedy that ran for five years as live action, before completing a two-season run in animated form. It captivated Canadian audiences and far surpassed network expectations.

Interestingly, despite our country’s wealth of top-tier comedic talent, few Canadian TV projects resonate with viewers. Corner Gas is a notable exception.

For a long time we always heard that Canadians don’t watch Canadian television shows, he adds. ‘Corner Gas’ kind of broke that notion.

It was the only time since they started keeping track that the Number One comedy in Canada was from Canada. That had never happened before.

Mark McKinney from ‘Kids in the Hall’ said in an interview that Canadian TV will now always be dissected between pre & post “Corner Gas” because after it, you started having “Little Mosque on the Prairie” and “Schitt’s Creek” and broadcasters suddenly started taking meetings about Canadian sitcoms that they didn’t do before.

With Brent Butt now an accomplished actor, writer and comedian and, most recently, published author, his wishlist of writing goals has realized another career achievement.

I’ve been able to accomplish them all with one exception, he says. The only thing left on that list now is to do a play and have it staged professionally.

Stay tuned.

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