Brent Butt pumping laughs on 'Corner Gas Animated' Season 3

Brent Butt says the third season of Corner Gas Animated is its best yet. CTV

Brent Butt has a pretty succinct idea why Corner Gas, the show he created 16 years ago, is still a fan favourite.

“It’s a place of comfort for 22 minutes,” Butt, 54, says in a phone interview from his Vancouver home, where he lives with his wife and Corner Gas co-star Nancy Robertson.

Corner Gas was a top-rated sitcom in Canada throughout its six-season run, which aired from 2004 to 2009. A 2014 reunion movie was also a hit and gave Butt an inkling that he could reimagine the show in animated form. Debuting in 2018, the Canadian Screen Award-winning Corner Gas Animated was a ratings hit.

A popular sophomore season aired last summer with the third season getting underway this week. Butt says the new episodes, which find his gas attendant character Brent Leroy reuniting his old band Thunderface, “are some of the best yet.”

“It certainly feels like with Season 3 we’ve hit our stride,” he says. “Season 1 you spend so much time just building and there are some stumbles and hits and misses, and so you learn all about that. Season 2 creates the machine that will work based on your experiences the first time around. So Season 3, you’re able to hit the ground running, because what doesn’t work has already been filtered out.”

Other storylines will feature Lacey (Gabrielle Miller) trying to purge her possessions; Hank (Fred Ewanuick) and Emma (Corrine Koslo) in a face-off for a pageant crown; Karen (Tara Spencer-Nairn) and Davis (Lorne Cardinal) preparing for crime when the Corner Gas parking lot becomes a drive-in; Wanda (Robertson) forming a bond with a virtual home assistant; and Oscar (Eric Peterson) coming to the realization that he’s terrible at giving gifts.

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“I could see Corner Gas Animated running for many years,” Butt says, noting the show’s newfound popularity stateside where it streamed on Amazon Prime Video before moving to IMDb TV last year. “We’re having fun making the show and that’s an important part of the equation. And since it’s animated and we just need voices, it frees the actors up to keep participating even if they are busy doing other projects, so we could go a good long time.”

For actual acting, it’d be a tie between Harper and Trudeau.

Brent Butt can’t decide who the better actor is between Stephen Harper and . Both prime ministers, along with Paul Martin, have made cameos on the show

With new episodes running through until December, Butt rang up to talk about the show’s longevity, dish on which of the three Canadian prime ministers to cameo on the show had the best acting chops and tell us how he dreamt up the denizens of Dog River, Sask., in the first place.

Before going the animated route, you had this successful live-action show, which ran for six seasons, and the 2014 movie. How did you know a cartoon version of Corner Gas could work?

When we did the movie, and it was successful, the network came to us and asked if we wanted to do more episodes. But I didn’t really want to go back and do that. So I started thinking about ways we could deliver what people liked about Corner Gas with a slightly different wrinkle. I have a background in cartooning and illustrating, and I love animation, so that came to mind pretty quick. But it’s a tricky transition, and didn’t want to just do it for the sake of doing it. So what we decided to do was make a three-minute demo, and see how it felt and if it felt right. One of the benefits that I had on it was one of the guys who wrote on this — Norm Hiscock — was also a writer on King of the Hill, as well as a lot of other prime-time, adult shows. I asked him how we would do it and he told me, ‘Don’t do anything different. This is the perfect show to animate; just write scripts.’ So that really emboldened me. But you never know how fans are going to react. Fans are so invested in this show that they were a little leery, I think. There was this palpable feeling of, ‘If this is what you’re doing, OK, but don’t screw it up.’

Brent Butt pumping laughs on 'Corner Gas Animated' Season 3

Brent Butt’s animated Corner Gas character Brent Leroy in a scene from Corner Gas Animated.


Speaking of the fans, what can devotees of Corner Gas Animated expect this season?

More of the same. That’s always been my goal with Corner Gas. It’s a show that doesn’t arc. The characters don’t arc. The series doesn’t arc. Thematically, it’s about being resistant to change. It’s a show about comfort and it’s about giving people an opportunity to escape. This is a show where you know what you’re getting. All those series that I loved growing up like The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy and Cheers, those were programs that I couldn’t wait to watch because I knew it was a place of comfort. That’s what Corner Gas is.

The show debuted in 2004 and went on to great success here in Canada. Just where did the idea come from?

It forks from two spots into one. When I was growing up in a small town in Saskatchewan, I always felt like you never saw where I lived on TV. It just didn’t happen. As a little kid, when I dreamed about going into show business, I used to think that if I ever got a chance to do a show, I wanted to set it in a small town in Saskatchewan. So that was planted in my head at an early age. Then, when I was in my 30s, I had been in stand-up since I was in my 20s, I had an idea for a movie that could kind of take place anywhere, so I thought, ‘Why not Saskatchewan?’ The main character ran a gas station in this small town in Saskatchewan, and as I was writing it I realized it wasn’t going to work as a movie. But what I wasn’t having trouble with was the characters. The dialogue came easy, the jokes came easy and those characters were a lot of fun. One day, this director friend of mine, David Storey, called me up and told me (CTV was) interested in new TV show ideas. And I told him about my idea about a gas station in Saskatchewan, but I didn’t think anyone would be interested. Shortly afterwards, he got back to me telling me that they liked it and it went from there.

Brent Butt pumping laughs on 'Corner Gas Animated' Season 3

Brent Butt’s Brent Leroy and Gabrielle Miller’s Lacey Burrows in a scene from Corner Gas Animated.



Sixteen years doing anything is a huge achievement, let alone entertainment. What do you think the key to Corner Gas’ success was?

When we got green-lit for 13 episodes, and we went to Rouleau, this little town in Saskatchewan, I thought it was a mistake on the network’s part. I didn’t know how we convinced them to do the show. But I remember thinking that no one was going to watch it and so all we could do was take pride in the product. We just wanted to make a show that we could enjoy and that made us laugh. I thought that, at the end of the day, seven people were going to watch it and then we’d all go our separate ways. The result of that attitude — not worrying about demographics and ratings and appeasing people — allowed us to focus on what we wanted to make and that allowed us to create something with some authenticity. People responded to that. People could tell the show didn’t have an agenda other than to be funny for 22 minutes.

Brent Butt pumping laughs on 'Corner Gas Animated' Season 3

Jason Priestley in a scene from Corner Gas Animated.


Corner Gas has had some notable cameos and this season is no exception. We see characters voiced by Win Butler, Andrea Martin, Bret Hart, Trish Stratus, Jason Priestley and more. Do you have a dream actor you’d like to see make an appearance someday?

I’ve always wanted to have Bob Newhart on the show. I came up with this story where he’d play my grandfather. He was the polar opposite of Oscar — just the most mellow, easy, hard rankle guy. We approached him when we were doing the live-action show and his people came back and thanked us for the offer, but said he wasn’t doing anymore half-hour television. So, he was the guy that was on my radar that we couldn’t get.

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You’ve also had Canadian prime ministers Paul Martin, Stephen Harper and make cameo appearances on the program. Which of the three could have had a career as an actor?

I would say that both Stephen Harper and gave us much better reads than expected. That’s no slight on Paul Martin, because the bit he did was actually one of my all-time favourite Corner Gas moments. But, for actual “acting,” it’d be a tie between Harper and Trudeau.

So how long do you see this incarnation of Corner Gas continuing?

I don’t know exactly. Let’s say … winter of 2044.

What’s the best advice you ever got?

This always sticks out and it’s from David Storey — the guy who first approached me about Corner Gas. When I first started directing TV, he said to me, ‘Always show up with a plan and always be prepared to abandon the plan.’ That’s such good advice. Be ready, but don’t be so fenced in that you can’t roll with the punches. It’s good advice to apply to almost anything you do.

Corner Gas Animated airs Mondays on the CTV Comedy Channel. The entire Corner Gas series and the movie are available to stream on Crave.

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