Brent Butt sounds like someone who isn’t ready to leave Dog River.
TV PreviewClick to Expand
Corner Gas Animated
• Starring Brent Butt, Gabrielle Miller, Fred Ewanuick, Eric Peterson, Lorne Cardinal, Tara Spencer-Nairn, Corrine Koslo and Nancy Robertson
• Monday, 7 p.m.
• CTV Comedy Channel
The comedian, writer, actor and creator of the Corner Gas franchise says au revoir, once again, to the fictional Saskatchewan town when the finale of Corner Gas Animated, the cartoon revival of the hit sitcom, airs on CTV Comedy Channel Monday night.
Butt wasn’t the one who wanted to turn off the gas pumps and close the Ruby Cafe, the meeting place for characters who Canadians have grown to love and laugh at since Corner Gas debuted on CTV in 2004.
"It’s kind of bittersweet, you know," Butt says of the Bell Media decision to not pick up Corner Gas Animated for a fifth season. "We were really enjoying doing the animated show, a lot of fun to do, and we had a lot of laughs making it and would have been happy to do a few more seasons, but it wasn’t our call."
The 55-year-old comedian, who had been a success on the standup circuit prior to adding television to his resumé, shot to fame across Canada by bringing Corner Gas and its quirky characters to life. The show ran on CTV from 2004 to 2009 and still airs in reruns in Canada on Bell Media’s array of cable channels and its Crave streaming service. A feature film, Corner Gas: The Movie, was released in 2014 and Corner Gas Animated began in 2018.
While he is sad to let the show go, Butt remains focused on the achievement of bringing Corner Gas from its humble origins to one of Canada’s most enduring TV franchises.
"When I first wrote the treatment for a show about a gas station in Saskatchewan I didn’t think anybody was going to show any interest at all. For us to be here 17 years later talking about wrapping it up is quite a blessing," he says.
Corner Gas Animated’s swan song provides a crossroads of sorts for its characters, who consider what they would do if they all didn’t hang around together. A sequence involving Oscar, Brent’s father on the show, imagining travelling the world is particularly funny, and shows the voice chops of Canadian stage and TV great Eric Peterson, who played the grouchy character throughout the Corner Gas run.
"One of the things that makes me laugh the most in that episode is... the way that Eric read the line, ‘See the world?’ (Like) it was the craziest thing anybody could every want to do," Butt says.
Corner Gas and Corner Gas Animated were famous for celebrity cameos, and the finale doesn’t disappoint, with Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds, or at least his voice and an animated likeness, appearing in a fantasy sequence.
Butt said producers wanted to swing for the fences to get an A-list cameo for the finale but they didn’t expect success when they reached out to the Deadpool star.
"I fully expected we would get a polite decline from his people," Butt recalls. "We were able to get word to him directly and he just responded right away, "Yeah, I’d love to.’ "
Reynolds was good for his word and Corner Gas Animated producers received his voice recording shortly after he was sent the script.
"We had his voice track recorded and in our files so fast it made our head spin," Butt says. "He follows me on Twitter and he sent me a little DM, thanking us for asking him and that he was honoured, and congratulating us on the run of our show. It was really nice and classy."
While two former prime ministers, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper, made stops in Dog River during the original Corner Gas series, and sitting PM Justin Trudeau did on Corner Gas Animated, Butt has fond memories of two of Canada’s biggest celebrities who made appearances on the show, whether for real or in cartoon form.
"Tragically Hip did a cameo; we shot with them first thing in the morning at the studio. They basically did a concert for us at 7 a.m. at the studio in Regina. That was pretty surreal," he says.
"I’ve always been a fan of Michael J. Fox, and in the late ‘80s I published a comic book, and there was a questionnaire at the back... one of the questions was ‘What are your goals?" I said, ‘I want to go bar-hopping with John Candy and Michael J. Fox.’ So to be in New York recording Michael J. Fox’s cameo for an episode of Corner Gas Animated, that really stands out to me."
Butt hasn’t ruled out a Corner Gas comeback someday — he said the ending of Corner Gas Animated is only the closing of a chapter — but he has found other ways to channel his creative energies besides continuing his standup career, which he says is the "hub of everything" in his career.
"I just finished writing my first novel and it looks like there’s some interest in that," he says. "I always wanted to write a novel to see if I could, and I thought during the pandemic, ‘If not now, when.’
"So I just sat down to see if I could do it, and if I could do it, would I enjoy it — and I loved it.
"In fact, I started writing my second novel now just because I enjoyed the process so much."
Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.