"Time will tell, I guess. As long as it's funny, I think it has potential. Because it's a comfortable show.
I don't think it has any particular kind of flavour or is trendy. It's just a comfortable show with quality
jokes and interesting characters. That probably gives you some legs more than another
show that's maybe device-y or has a certain funny element to it but the wheels could come off it.
This is simple enough that it could potentially have legs."
– Brent Butt
Guy MacPherson: Being here, now I get all your jokes in standup. I never got them all these years. Driving here to Rouleau [Saskatchewan], I saw the ditches on the side of the road and was thinking of your Sasquatch joke.
BRENT BUTT: Oh yeah?
GM: That's where the Sasquatch would lie!
BB: It all comes together.
GM: And the mayor was talking about how there's not much crime.
BB: The Dwayne joke.
GM: And I told him the Dwayne joke. He didn't know it. He laughed.
BB: It was probably your delivery.
GM: I think so. Anyway, so this is amazing. This is great.
BB: Yeah, it's cool, eh?
GM: You told me about the show long before you started doing it. I gotta admit I was a little skeptical. Only because it's Canadian show business.
BB: Sure. I was skeptical myself.
GM: You must have been. You knew how great the scripts were, but then can the product be as good?
BB: Yeah. There's always a million reasons for it not to work.
GM: Tara [Spencer-Nairn] was saying there's not a weak link in the chain. Because you need everything, don't you?
GM: And the attention to detail on the show is amazing, too.
BB: Yeah, it's just a lot of hours... (to Nancy) Hey, man, where are ya to?
GM: I took her behind the building.
BB: What the--?
GM: Ask her about it.
BB: I wondered where she was for thirty seconds... Yeah, it's just a lot of hours. I'm putting in, like, 16, 17-hour days. Honestly. I haven't slept in three days. I haven't slept since we came back.
GM: When did you come back?
BB: Sunday. [This was Tuesday.] You go in the edit suite and you look at the scripts. I'm taking, like, the sixth pass at a script right now. My sixth pass at it, and other writers have taken passes at it. It's just a lot of attention to detail. I don't think you can afford to not do that. It's tempting not to when it's like three in the morning and you're tired and you're like, "Ah, it's funny enough."
GM: I was even noticing things like the velcro shoes Eric wears. And he said, "That's Brent."
BB: A little detail.
GM: A little detail. But you have to notice it yourself because you're not drawing attention to it on the show.
BB: That's kind of one of our mandates on the show is that we have little things that you see or you don't, and you get or you don't. But if you don't, you don't realize you've missed anything. I did that with my standup, too, sometimes. I throw in little tags or stuff like that, and if you get the reference, great. If you don't, I'm onto the next joke and you don't feel like you've missed anything. It's always bothered me when a comic does a joke and they'll be like, "That's for three people in the room." Well, let it be, then. Don't make the other 200 go, "What? What did we miss?" That's jerky.
GM: Is this like a Seinfeld for a small town where it's coming from parts of your standup act?
BB: Now and again a piece of my standup will crawl into the show. A line or something. But it's rare. For the most part it's just original stuff. Because you're coming up with situations and scenarios that aren't from my standup, so they come with their own set of potential jokes that you've got to glean. But every now and then you find something. I'm not above taking something from my act and putting it in. You see the situation and you go, "Oh, that line from my act would work" and you throw it in there.
BB: Yeah, Dwayne could work.
GM: With Canadian acting comedy, there haven't been many.
BB: Short list.
GM: King of Kensington, Mosquito Lake.
BB: Yeah, there hasn't been a lot. Not a lot of success stories.
GM: But even beyond the comedy, in Canadian TV in general, either it's going to last three weeks and nobody sees it, or it'll last for 25 years... and nobody sees it! Now you've got this show with crazy numbers – if you can believe them. I happen to not believe them.
BB: (chuckles) Yeah, that's the best policy. I happen to think they're twice as big as what we're seeing. I think we're getting about 3.8 million people every week. That's what I tell myself... Yeah, so what's your question?
GM: I guess that it's just a huge shock. It's hard to wrap your head around the fact that it's getting over a million a week.
BB: It's averaging just under 1.2, I'm told. 1.19, or something like that.
GM: Everyone was worried this year because the scripts were so great last year, how could they improve. But they all say this year they're even funnier.
BB: We learned how to make the show last year. Now we're kind of doing what we learned last year. So I think we're a little better at it. A little smoother.
GM: Any big changes?
BB: No. Certainly nothing intentional. If there are any big changes, it's a mistake on our part somehow. Because people liked what we did last year. So I don't want to fuss with that.
GM: All the hours you're working is because of the many proverbial hats you're wearing, right?
BB: And literal hats. I wear a hat for every role. I'm a young Jonathan Winters.
GM: Executive producing is new to you. Is there much to do with that job?
BB: Every executive producing role is different, so I can't say in general. But my capacity as executive producer means that I'm in charge of the creative: the final say on what's funny, the tone of the show and all that kind of stuff. And I'm involved in decisions in regard to financing and production issues and things like that. But I'm one of three executive producers. One who's in charge technically, how the show looks. There's one who's in charge of the business of the show. And then there's me, who's in charge of the funny, the creative of the show. And it's fortunate we all get along great. We seem to stay out of each other's way and we all kind of pull in the same direction. And we'll back each other. This may change in season three or four or five, but right now there's not much in the way of in-fighting. We all pull in the same direction. I think that's a big part of things running smoothly and running well.
GM: You're already looking ahead to season five?
BB: Sure. Yeah.
GM: How long can this run?
BB: I don't know. Time will tell, I guess. As long as it's funny, I think it has potential. Because it's a comfortable show. I don't think it has any particular kind of flavour or is trendy. It's just a comfortable show with quality jokes and interesting characters. That probably gives you some legs more than another show that's maybe device-y or has a certain funny element to it but the wheels could come off it. This is simple enough that it could potentially have legs.
GM: Soon every cast member is going to demand $500,000 a week.
BB: That'll be the end of the show then. The death-knell of the show.
GM: Who's expendable?
BB: We all are.
GM: They said you when I asked the others... Do you have a favourite episode, scene or moment from season one?
BB: Moments are difficult. Every episode has moments.
GM: I have a favourite line.
BB: Do you? What's your favourite line?
GM: Tara's "Wow! Sparrow's can do 40!"
BB: That's good, because I wrote that line.
GM: I figured. It was a very quick one.
BB: Yup, that's one of those where you like it or you don't. And then she's right into another conversation so there was no hanging around on the joke... I mean nothing comes to mind line-wise. Tons crack me up. Episode-wise, I really like the hockey one just because it has a really nice pace to it. And also you get to see them in a different kind of setting. It's not the blue shirt and the gas station everyday. We were playing hockey, so it's just something different. And the jokes in it. And my buddy Jamie's in it. It just has a nice feel to it. Solid jokes. The final episode of last year where there are four different stories about going to the Grey Cup. I like that one because they all dovetail together.
GM: In the heat.
BB: The hottest Grey Cup ever. 39 degrees.
GM: When can we expect Corner Gas: The Movie?
BB: Don't think I haven't thought about it. I don't know. The role-playing CD-Rom.
GM: You're from Tisdale. Did you scout Tisdale as a possible location?
BB: No, Tisdale's too big. I wanted to accentuate the smallness. Because Tisdale's a bit of a hub. It's the hub of the Carrot River Valley. It's like 3000 people. So I would say Dog River is the type of town where if you lived there you'd go into Tisdale to get your groceries. When you got to the age of 14, you'd leave the local school and go to high school in Tisdale. There's all these little towns around Tisdale that are like that. Tisdale's the hub for them. And that's kind of what Dog River's like. It's too far. We had to find town within shooting radius of the sound stage in Regina. We needed to use the sound stage and that's where we live and that's where all the production stuff is. So you had to be within a certain distance of Regina before it got impractical for production.
GM: Is it getting crazy for you getting recognized now?
BB: It happens all the time, for sure. I was just out in Prince Edward Island for three days and everybody watches the show there. We had a hiatus so I just went to the east coast for a bit. I hadn't been in PEI for a long time. I love it there. In the summer it's awesome. It's neat. You kind of forget, you know? It's funny because this show is getting big at a time when digital photography is getting big. So everybody has a camera now. Whereas, just two years ago who had a camera on them at all times? I've got mine all the time. Everybody has a camera on them. Or they're at least with someone who has a camera. So the amount of people who want their picture taken at airports and stuff... But it's all positive. Nobody's like, "Your show stinks." I did have one guy say, "I don't get it." He said, "Oh, you're from that Corner Gas show. Everybody I know loves that show. I don't get it. No offense. I don't get it." But I said, "No, no offense." It says more about you than the show.
GM: Are you gearing down your standup?
BB: I just did a set at the Urban Well on Tuesday. This past Tuesday. It was my birthday, August 3rd, and I went down to the Well. Hiatus ended August 8th. From PEI I went back to Vancouver and I went down to the Urban Well because I miss it like crazy. I don't get a chance to do any standup here. I carry this little black notebook around and I have all these jokes that I've written that really don't apply to the show. They're only kind of standup things but I got nowhere to do them. It's driving me nuts. So I go down to the Well on my birthday and do a set. And I got on stage and I realized, looking at the book, I don't have any jokes. I have premises. I have a whole bunch of things that could potentially one day could be humorous. But I just hashed out the bits in front of people and it worked pretty good. It's glorious to have a couple of shots of rye in me and doing standup.
GM: So it's not something you're going to give up.
BB: Never. I couldn't. I couldn't if I wanted to. I know I'd be miserable. Even not doing it for six months, that's right at the limit of what I can do. I would have to take a break and go on a standup tour. But as it is, it works out that we can stop shooting the show and then I can go on the tour.
GM: I look forward to the episode where everyone's dressed up like they're in the 1800s, like most Canadian series.
BB: A period piece. Do you know how layered the show is? We had a fantasy inside a flashback. That's how layered the show is. We flashed back to when I was a kid and the kid flashed into a fantasy sequence – a vampire coming up the stairs. After I edited that together, that's when it hit me: That's a fantasy sequence inside a flashback. There are no rules in the show!