On the Saturday November 25, 2023 edition of the Richard Crouse Show we meet two Canadian legends.
First up is stand-up comedian Brent Butt, the star, writer and/or producer of TV shows such as “Corner Gas,” “Hiccups” and “Corner Gas Animated.” He recently added a new line to his resume, thriller author. His debut novel is “Huge,” and it is indeed a huge bestseller.
Set in 1994, the darkly comedic psychological thriller follows a trio of comics on a tour put together by a shady Winnipeg-based comedy booker, through small-town Manitoba and Ontario. The situation goes from bad to worse to downright frightening and violent as they try and get off the road in one piece.
Then, we’ll meet Canada’s sharpest and funniest political satirist, Rick Mercer. His latest project is a book titled “The Road Years: A Memoir, Continued…” It’s a look at the his wildly popular show The Mercer Report, it’s beginnings, it’s end and everything in between, including Every living prime minister. Rock and roll royalty from Rush to Randy Bachman. Olympians and Paralympians. A skinny-dipping Bob Rae. And Jann Arden, of course, who gets a chapter to herself.
Each week on the nationally syndicated Richard Crouse Show, Canada’s most recognized movie critic brings together some of the most interesting and opinionated people from the movies, television and music to put a fresh spin on news from the world of lifestyle and pop-culture. Tune into this show to hear in-depth interviews with actors and directors, to find out what’s going on behind the scenes of your favourite shows and movies and get a new take on current trends. Recent guests include Chris Pratt, Elvis Costello, Baz Luhrmann, Martin Freeman, David Cronenberg, Mayim Bialik, The Kids in the Hall and many more!
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Happy Canada Week. Here at the House of Crouse we go big. Not satisfied to simply celebrate Canada Day on July 1, we’re honouring our home and native land for the whole week! Spend some time with us and noted patriots Brent Butt, Jay Baruchel, Jill Hennessy, Deepa Mehta, Patrick Mckenna and the most Canadian being of all, Captain Canuck. Stop by and stand on guard with us.
“How long has it been since anything exciting happened around her?” asks Hank Yarbo (Fred Ewanuick) at the beginning of the big screen reboot of the one of the most successful Canada sitcom ever.
Seconds later some exciting, and unexpected stuff happens but not to worry, it doesn’t take long before “Corner Gas: The Movie” is back to doing what the television show so reliably delivered for the six seasons it was on the small screen—dishing up homespun, gentle small town humour. Not exactly exciting, but reliable.
Life is pretty much the same in Dog River, Saskatchewan as it has always been, but there is change around the corner. The town is almost bankrupt, with no money to pay the municipal power bill or fix the community water system. After a town meeting where the mayor Fitzy Fitzgerald (Cavan Cunningham) suggests scratching lottery tickets to raise the money to save the town, people leap into action. Hank looks for get rich schemes, Wanda (Nancy Robertson) opens a casino in Sergeant Davis Quinton’s (Lorne Cardinal) man cave while Brent (Brent Butt) invests in the town and buys the local bar. Others contemplate leaving until local café owner Lacey (Gabrielle Miller) comes up with an idea to “quaintify” the town and enter the National Star’s Quaintest Town in Canada contest. The large cash prize could get the town out of hock and maybe life can get back to normal. Or at least as normal as it ever gets in Dog River.
“Corner Gas: The Movie” feels like an old comfortable shoe. The jokes are well worn in and there’s no fear of rubbing or chafing of any sort. There’s loads of slapstick and sarcasm delivered by an ensemble cast who spent six years honing their chemistry.
Cutting edge it’s not, but there is something to be said for a comedy that focuses on Canadianisms like charging 5¢ for a plastic shopping bag. It’s a warm hug from the Prairies and a thank you to the fans that stood by the show.
Six years after Corner Gas called it quits on the small screen the citizens of Dog River are back, bigger than ever. Corner Gas: The Movie will play in theatres for five days before moving to television and then a DVD release, all in time for Christmas.
“It’s all very fast,” says star Brent Butt, “I don’t think it has ever been done before.”
The pace of the film’s release schedule may be accelerated but Butt and company took their time bringing the show from television to theatres.
“When we wrapped the series up the notion was, ‘It would be great if we could come back one more time to do a movie,’” says Butt. “We didn’t know if we could come up with a script that would justify doing the movie. It’s weird. If you are trying to convert a known twenty-two minute project that has a known rhythm and characters and try and make that live over ninety minutes it’s a trick. You can’t do that easily. You can do it poorly easily, but to do it well is tough.”
The film sees the good folks of Dog River try and save the town from bankruptcy by winning the Quaintest Town in Canada contest.
“One of my first thoughts was, ‘Will it just be like a really long episode?” says series star Fred Ewanuick, “because that would suck. When I first got the script, right away I thought, ‘It’s a feature script. That’s good.’ It’s still Corner Gas, we’re not going to knock your socks anybody’s off, and it is not this whole new thing, but it works as a film.”
“I agree with that,” chimes in Gabrielle Miller who played Lacey on the show, “except we are going to knock your socks off.”
The film comes almost six years after the one-hundred-and-seventh and final episode of the popular sitcom aired.
“It felt like we had just been on a really long hiatus,” said series regular Tara Spencer-Nairn. “We were all just a little bit older. All the men had to get their hair coloured. On the first day all the girls were in hair and make-up tests and the boys all went to get their hair coloured.”
The cast fell back into their roles despite the long break, but according to Butt this may be the last time they are all in Dog River together. “I’m a never say never kind of guy but the plan isn’t to do another one.”
But fans shouldn’t give up hope. When Ewanuick suggests another related project Butt’s eyes brighten. “Corner Gascapades? I could work with that.”
“No Clue,” a new film from “Corner Gas” star Brent Butt may be the most Canadian murder mystery ever made.
The story of Leo, (Butt) a bumbling Vancouver tchotchke salesman lured into investigating a crime by a femme fatale played by Amy Smart, is a mildest mannered murder mystery since “Mysteriously Yours” started serving up main courses with mayhem.
The movie begins with Leo taking a meeting with Kyra (Smart). At first he thinks she’s a client for his doohickey business but soon realizes she’s wandered into his office instead of the private detective agency across the hall.
As she tells him the story of her brother’s disappearance he becomes enamored of her and plays along, agreeing to take the case despite his total lack of Sam Spade experience.
Blundering his way through the case he soon learns there is more to Kyra than a pretty face and crocodile tears for her brother.
There isn’t a lot of grit to “No Clue.” It grafts a sitcom premise to a “Columbo” episode, relying on the comedy to sell the story. Butt and David Koechner go for laughs, while the rest of the cast—Smart, David Cubitt and Dustin Milligan—play it straight.
It’s kind of an odd mix. Movies like “Fletch,” “High Anxiety” and “Foul Play” have walked this path before but each of those had more edge. “No Clue” is an amiable attempt at mixing and matching film noir and gags, but feels more like a Halloween episode of “Corner Gas” where “Hank” Yarbo mysteriously disappears after a wild weekend in Carrot River, Saskatchewan.
Butt is a likeable performer, the same likeable performer who was the cornerstone of “Corner Gas” for six seasons. He brings the folksy charm that kept that show on the air to the film but he doesn’t fill the big screen in quite the same way he did the TV screen.
“The Whistler Film Festival was the first opportunity I got to sit in a room with strangers and have them watch the movie and I was very nervous going into it,” says comedian Brent Butt about his new film No Clue.
In the film he stars as Leo, a mild mannered Vancouver tchotchke salesman lured into a murder mystery by a femme fatale played by Amy Smart. “It’s a very dark, classic kind of detective mystery but the main characters say funny things,” says Butt.
“We really felt, totally objectively, that we made the movie we wanted to make but that part of my brain that is the stand up comic said, ‘What you think doesn’t really matter. The audience will let you know,’ and the audience is everything to me.
“Long before Corner Gas came around I was just a greasy nightclub comic, out there getting it done. When you are doing that you always have the ability to shift gears. You think, ‘They’re not buying the sports stuff so I’ll talk about politics,’ but with this movie if they’re not liking it five minutes in you can’t say, ‘Everybody go get a drink. I’m going to reedit this.’ You are locked in.”
Audience reaction was “better than we ever could have imagined” for a movie he calls a “tricky balancing act.”
“I wanted to make a movie that if it wasn’t funny would still be entertaining. It would still be thrilling and a mystery and have all those good, juicy elements and then the funny kind of folds in like gravy. It’s on top of everything else.
“From the writing stand point there were a lot of funny jokes I neglected to put in the movie because I felt this is funny but it is ultimately going to damage the reality. For this movie to work it has to feel real. One of the things we did early on was tell everybody to forget that this is a comedy. Pretend you are making a dark murder mystery. That’s what this is. The comedy will come in elsewhere.”
Butt cites a famous example of the kind of film he wanted to make.
“Beverly Hills Cop was written not to be a funny movie. It was written to be a thriller and then they cast Eddie Murphy and said, ‘Let’s make it funny.’ But if you take all the funny things that Eddie says out, it still holds water as an action movie.”