One of Canada’s most prolific comics, Brent Butt, was here recently performing a stand-up show, and he spent some time talking to Banff Centre staff, artists, and work studies about building a career in comedy and onscreen. Here are some highlights:
On his influences “When I was 12 or 13 I saw the comedian Kelly Monteith on TV. I look back at that moment as kind of pivotal because it was the first time I’d ever seen a guy do stand-up comedy. I thought, hey, this is what I do with my buddies…..and from that moment of seeing Kelly Monteith on TV, becoming a comedian became an active pursuit.
“So I said to my mom, ‘I’m going to be a stand-up comedian’. The fact that she didn’t tell me to shut up or say, ‘that’s a crazy pipe dream’, that was the moment when I allowed myself to pursue my dream.”
On performing “Being myself on stage is always the most rewarding. It’s easy, it’s just like I’m the same guy sitting around the coffee table with my 12-year-old buddies making jokes…..I don’t get nervous. There are some important jobs in the world and being a comic is not one of them. It’s not life and death. And anyway, if you bomb bad enough you start to enjoy how poorly it’s going.”
On ‘clean’ comedy “When I found out I was born the day Lenny Bruce died I thought, well that makes sense. I’m Lenny Bruce reincarnated only this time I’m going to work clean. The way my brain works – it’s playing with the language, finding fun in the small, mundane things in life. I like finding comedy where it doesn’t look like there’ll be any. Comedy works best when it’s authentic, whether it’s filthy or clean is unimportant to me. If it’s authentic and original is what matters. But there’s a part of me that would like to cut loose a bit more and not feel as censored as I am.”
On being an ‘emotional stripper’ “When you boil everything else away I’m a stand-up comic. Being a comic is like being an emotional stripper. Comics are emotionally naked and you have to be comfortable with people commenting on you all the time.”
On advice to upcoming comedians “Don’t do it. Well, no that’s not true. I’d say to a 12-year-old: go for it. If that same person was 18 I’d say don’t get into it. A 12-year-old can be influenced beyond who he or she is, but by the time you’re 18 you have a sense of who you are…..I’d say to an 18-year-old: you’re stupid to even consider it, don’t even bother, but there’s going to be one out of a 100 who says, ‘screw you fatty I’m going to get into it no matter what you say’. Beautiful! You belong here. If you can be dissuaded from doing it because someone told you not to do it, you don’t belong in show business.”