April 20th, 2018

Nothing is impossible when ‘Corner Gas’ goes animated

By Chris Brown on January 12, 2017.

News file photo
Brent Butt of "Corner Gas" fame will perform at the Esplanade Jan. 19.


Unburdened by pesky nuisances like reality, practicality and the law, the sky’s the limit for “Corner Gas.”

The chance to have Oscar Leroy strap a rocket to young Brent’s back and firing it up into a tree so Brent could get back his balloon is partly why “Corner Gas” is returning, this time in animated form.

The initial sitcom run of the show used fantasy “popout” sequences to great effect. But logistics, budgets and, in the case of the young boy and the rocket, child endangerment hampered what they could do. Not anymore.

Creator and star Brent Butt, who performs at the Esplanade on Jan. 19 at 8 p.m., is excited about the places the show can go in its newest incarnation.

“In real life there’s no way we could have 100 dune buggies rolling over a desert, we couldn’t have the Corner Gas station basically sitting in a post-apocalyptic landscape and have 100 dune buggies in the crazy post-apocalyptic world,” says Butt of a “Mad Max” parody fantasy sequence conceived in the “Corner Gas” writers’ room long ago.

But in animation?

“We drew it, it was part of the demo,” he said last month. “It all falls within the way we used to do things in “Corner Gas” creatively, except now within those fantasy sequences we’re no longer inhibited.”

The series, scheduled to debut with a 13-episode season on The Comedy Network’s 2017-2018 schedule, was first thought of a few years ago after the initial series’ run ended. After the response to the feature film in 2014 was bigger than anyone expected, Butt said they revisited the idea of the animated show, seeing it as a way to give the fans what they wanted but also bring a fresh take.

The take may be fresh but it’s still the same comedy about people. Some may think of it as a story about a small town on the Prairies. Butt says otherwise.

“Corner Gas” isn’t about small-town Saskatchewan. It’s about these people. Small-town Saskatchewan is where they happen to be,” he said. “It’s not like story lines about barley prices, or cattle. The story lines are rarely driven by rural machinations, and plus they’re very small stories, small people stories. And that’s an endless well.”

To his fans, Butt must seem like an endless well of laughter. He says that’s just how he’s hardwired.

“(My brain) instinctively recognizes things that might be useful comedic bits as opposed to stuff that’s funny in that situation in real life and can never be repeated,” he said. “It’s that thing where you have an idea, sometimes that’s funny and that’s all it is. Other times you have an idea that’s funny you go ‘oh I could use that.’ It’s a matter of recognizing that, your eyes and ears being open and having trained yourself to recognize stuff that could be used.”

Tickets for Brent Butt at the Esplanade are $39.95 plus service charge and GST, and are available at http://www.tixx.ca, by calling 403-502-8777 or in person at the Esplanade box office or the Medicine Hat Mall customer service desk.

Butt fondly remembers his TV mother

All the original cast will lend their voices to the new “Corner Gas” show, with the exception of Janet Wright.

Wright, the voice of Emma Leroy, passed away Nov. 14 at the age of 71.

Butt says there was hesitancy about continuing the show without Wright, but after meeting Janet’s husband Bruce, the decision was made to go on.

“He made it very clear to me Janet would absolutely want Emma to live on. She would be very upset at the notion of Emma not continuing,” Butt said.

At the end of December he said they thought they had found the right person to take on the role.

Butt remembers with fondness the joy of being on set with Wright.

“When you would look at the call sheet and see what scenes you were doing tomorrow and you knew it was going to be scenes with Janet, it was always a great feeling because you knew you were going to have fun,” he said.

A running joke between the two involved their love of food. Butt recalls a season that they were each trying to lose weight and Wright was trying to avoid carbs but also missing them.

“There was a scene coming up and I was writing the script where she and I were at the Leroy house. So I thought ‘there’s no reason we can’t be having lunch, and there’s no reason we can’t be having macaroni and cheese’ because it was one of the things she was commiserating about missing,” Butt recalled. “She was so excited she came on set and she said to me ‘You did this on purpose.’ I said ‘yes’ and she said ‘ I take back what I said to everybody, you’re a great writer.’ That was a running thing. She come up to me and say ‘you know I think in this scene where you and I are talking I, think it would make sense that we would be eating. Macaroni and cheese would be a good thing for the characters to be eating in this situation.’”

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