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Made up words, Virtanen chirps and Canucks fandom: A one-on-one with Canadian Comedian Brent Butt

If you have been around Canucks Twitter over the past decade or so, you may have noticed a certain Canadian comedian cracking wise and live-tweeting the club’s games. He offers up a scaled-back play-by-play of what is going on while providing those who follow his account with his trademarked wit complete with onomatopoeia. Don’t worry, I had to look that word up as well after Brent Butt threw it at me during our chat. We will get to that soon enough.

I had been noticing that Butt was live-tweeting game action for a few years and at one point I even made up a photoshopped image of Gump Worsely with Brent’s face on it and I topped it off with a Corner Gas logo on his jersey… that was back during the 2016/17 season. I tweeted the pic out and Brent retweeted it with the caption: “GUMPER!!!”

I grew up in Ontario as a Leafs fan but that loyalty slowly shifted to the Canucks after I moved to BC in 1989. The Cup run in ’94 sealed the deal for me and I’ve never looked back. With Butt being from Saskatchewan, I wondered how he became a fan of the club and if he remembered the moment when the Canucks became ‘his’ team.

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Well, there’s no team in Saskatchewan, so I don’t have any inherent team, you know, running through my blood like you’d have if you grew up in Edmonton, or Toronto, or something. So I didn’t have that inherent kind of loyalty. I grew up watching Hockey Night in Canada and it was mostly Toronto and Montreal games. I was a goalie, so I was a fan of goalies, guys like Ken Dryden and Mike Palmateer.

There’s something about a left-handed goalie that I love, it looks weird, so I’m fascinated by it. So I was kind of a Toronto fan more than any other team, but certainly not down to my roots. Then I lived in Toronto for about five years when I got started doing stand up. I felt that’s where you were supposed to be to make it happen. So, I lived there for almost five years, right beside the old Maple Leaf Gardens for a good chunk of it. 

Anyway, in February of 1993, I came to Vancouver to do some stand up work… I had actually moved from Toronto to LA. I had been staying in LA for about six months and I was thinking that I was probably going to move there, try the Hollywood thing down there. I had some work booked in BC, in Vancouver, the Okanagan, and over on the Island. I had never spent any time in Vancouver, I would always come in and play a club and leave, but you know, it seemed like such a beautiful city, you’re flying in and it’s gorgeous and the weather is great, but then I would always turn around and leave. 

I thought, well, I’ve got some friends, here… I’m gonna do my couple of months worth of work here and I’m just going to hang out for three or four months in Vancouver and just experience Vancouver, and I just never wanted to leave. 

And so, the 93/94 season was when they went to game seven when I was coming in as a fan. In my early days, they were taking a run at the Cup and the city was so alive and just very exciting and I kind of got on board with it. I remember, the next year, I was on the road with a buddy of mine who is a Leafs fan. I went over to his hotel room and we were watching the game together… Hockey Night in Canada, it was Toronto vs Vancouver and Vancouver scored, and I cheered. He and I were both surprised and I said, ‘there it is, you can’t fight your heart, right?’ Vancouver scored and I was happy! So I’ve been a Vancouver fan since 94/95.

One of the things that I picked up on in his answer was that Butt had played goal and was a fan of Mike Palmateer. As someone who was also a big Palmateer fan growing up, and as a fellow target, (goaltender) I was curious about how Butt became a goaltender and such a big fan of the position.

I started to play goal because I wasn’t a very strong skater and it just seemed like a logical thing. So that’s kind of why I started playing goal, but I fell in love with it right away. In baseball, I was a catcher all the time, and so it seemed like kind of a natural position for me to play and I just really liked the notion of, you know, there was something about being that guy that if the puck gets past you, you’re the last line of defence. There was something that I liked about that. 

So I didn’t start playing it because I wanted to be a goalie, I started playing goalie because I couldn’t skate… I say in my stand up act… short, fat kid who couldn’t skate, you’re kinda limited, right? You hang him from the crossbar and bounce pucks off of him, that’s the strategy that the coach had.

But I really loved it, and also, I draw a lot… I’m a graphic artist and cartoonist and illustrator, so one of the things that I loved to do was sit in school and design masks. 

Now that I knew when and how Butt became a Canucks fan, and a bit about his love for the goaltending position, I had to know what drove him to open a separate Twitter account so that he could live-tweet the games of the team that he has become so enamoured with.

I tweet whenever I can and with me not being on the road travelling and doing stand up right now because of COVID, I’m able to hunker down for a lot of the games this year. So this year has been good so far. 

The way that it kind of came about, I think once I started my regular Brent Butt account, I fired out some tweets about the Canucks game as I was watching it. But I realized that most people were following me because they’re fans of stand up, fans of Corner Gas or whatever and they’re not all fans of the Canucks. 

I was also annoyed… I follow Norm MacDonald, he’s a friend of mine, and I had to mute him because his whole feed would be about golf! If you’re not interested in that, he’s clogging up your whole timeline with 217 golf tweets. So I thought, well, hell, I don’t want to do that to other people. If you’re not into the Canucks and you follow me… I don’t want people muting me or blocking me or unfollowing me because for three nights out of the week I will be clogging their feeds with my Cancuks tweets. At the same time, I like the idea of live-tweeting and you know, cracking wise about the game and just staying on top of things.  

So I thought I’d make… kind of a burner account. I thought there would maybe be a dozen people follow me as I tweet Canucks games, but I think there’s a little over 6000 now on the @BBonCanucks account, (6527 at the time of this writing). But yeah, there are people that I know who are fans of the Canucks but can’t follow the team as closely because they’re in Europe or somewhere where they can’t get the game broadcast. That’s why I almost do play-by-play… like I’ll have a tweet that will say, faceoff to Demko’s left. There are people out there that I know that are… well, that’s them watching the game. They’re getting my little updates.

If you follow that @BBonCancuks Twitter account, you will probably have noticed those crazy words that Butt uses when someone rips a shot off the post, or when the horn sounds to end the period. It is something that gives me a chuckle every time. Does Butt have a list of these words at the ready for each game, or is it an off-the-cuff thing each time?

It’s more fun to do it on the spot. Someone ‘Kashlangs’ one off the crossbar! You know, being an old cartoonist, I loved Don Martin’s cartoons in Mad Magazine where he would always come up with those weird onomatopoeic sound effects like glip, glorp, katweetle, and derp and all of these weird sound effects. So it’s just fun for me to come up with stuff like that. And every time a period starts… I’m a big Sherlock Holmes fan and he would always say, the game is afoot, so I always say, the second’s afoot, or the third is afoot. 

Butt has had a bit of pushback at times over his Canucks obsession on his Twitter account and he touched on that briefly as well.

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I’ve actually had people say to me on my @BBonCanucks account, does everything have to be about hockey? That’s literally why I created this account! You should absolutely not be here if you don’t want a lot of hockey tweets… it’s the only reason that the account exists. It says right in my bio that I like to mega-tweet during Canucks games. It’s like going into a rock concert and going… does it have to be loud rock-n-roll music all the time? Can’t you do, like a quiet cello piece?

Being someone who spends the bulk of my time covering the prospects of the Canucks who play in Utica, I thought I would check to see if Butt had any young players in the system who he was excited about or was keeping tabs on. At the beginning of our conversation, he had asked me right away about how Kole Lind was looking this year and mentioned Jonah Gadjovich as another player who he liked. Has anyone else caught his eye?

I mean, those are the two that I kind of feel connected to. I am excited about Rathbone, (Jack) though because I think he’s got it. He seems like an NHL player to me. He seems like a guy who is gonna be in the show at some point, hopefully with us. He’s another guy that I expect to see up here, but I haven’t been able to really dedicate any time to the young guys coming up. 

The topic soon turned to Nils Hoglander… as it does when two hockey fans are speaking about the Vancouver Canucks and their young players.

He’s one of those guys that just seems to be strong. Travis Green has talked about his strength. He’s not the biggest guy, I think he plays around 185/190lbs. He’s not tall, he’s like my height… He’s like if I was in shape, I walk around at about 210, but you know, in good shape, I’d be about 180lbs. He’s a strong guy.

While Butt had me laughing with that comparison, he kept the good times rolling by telling me about how Jake Virtanen once chirped him at a fundraiser about a photo that he saw from a Just for Laughs appearance in 1992 when Butt had hair. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it might have been this pic:

Butt has been working with the Canucks for a number of years with their fundraising efforts as well.

I got booked to do some stand up for them once, a long time ago and ever since then, every year I end up doing a comedy piece at one of their fundraising functions here in town. So that’s kind of intertwined me with the team as well. They do so much, it’s such a strong community team. They do so much for Canuck Place and the Special Olympics etc, so I’m always happy to help out.

A good Canadian kid who loves hockey, the Canucks, and enjoys interacting with fans of the team via his specialized Twitter account. Brent Butt brings his own blend of made-up words, comedy and a passion for the team to Canucks Twitter and I, for one, am here for it. In a season when the team isn’t performing in the way many of us would like to see, at least we know that Butt brings some levity and entertainment to the Canucks Twitter experience.

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I had an absolute blast speaking with Brent about all things Canucks and got a kick out of how many things the two of us have in common… from being Palmateer guys, goalie geeks and transplanted Canucks fans, to using colourful words while describing the game we love. The world of hockey connects so many of us and I enjoy the idea of Butt sitting down to watch a Canucks game with his phone in hand, rapidly tapping away on it to bring us words like glerp, shkroooooonts, and kflannngs while describing the game for us.