By Walter J. Lyng Aug 10, 2016 – The Suburban
July was a great month for Abdul Butt. The stand-up comic and former cast member of This Hour Has 22 Minutes got a double dose of the best news possible when he found out he was moving on to the semi finals of the Sirius XM Top Comic competition shortly before his pitch for a sketch series was personally green lit by Kevin Hart at the Just For Laughs festival. “You’ve just got to do everything you can possibly do,” says Butt of the persistence that led to this good fortune.
Now the Montreal native is looking at the possibility of winning a $25,000 grand prize and getting a spot at JFL42 in Toronto, in addition to being the star of his own series on Hart’s soon-to-be-launched Laugh Out Loud streaming service.
“I’m not even thinking of the 25 grand right now,” he says. “I just want to get into JFL42. Getting into the finals would be fun.”
After not entering into the Sirius competition the last two years, Butt decided to submit a video this year at the last minute and took a relatively unorthodox approach.
“I sent in one joke that’s like two minutes long,” he says. “But it was a good joke that I’m proud of and it went well that night. They always ask for a five-minute video, but are they really watching five minutes of your stuff? I feel like after the first two minutes or the first joke they stop listening.”
Butt is one of 18 semi-finalists, after he advanced past the audition phase last month where 72 comics from across Canada competed in six auditions held in Vancouver and Toronto. Until August 22, all Canadians will have the chance to vote online for their favourite semi-finalist. The eight with the most votes will advance to the finale on September 29 in Toronto.
Although competitive contests are not every stand-up’s cup of tea, Butt says it’s all about keeping a positive attitude.
“I think every comic has had a frustrating experience with competitions, but I’ve stopped looking at it like that and since I have, my career has been so much better. In stand-up comedy, you’re basically being judged every moment you’re on stage, whether it’s a competition or not, so you should be able to take any form of criticism. There’s no point focusing on the negative.”
It was that same positivity that lead to Butt’s shining moment at the Just For Laughs festival courtesy of Hart. After leaving This Hour Has 22 Minutes two years ago, Butt spent a considerable amount of time and effort getting his idea for a series based on comedic interview skills off the ground.
“I decided to get involved because I’ve been pitching this idea for two years,” he says. “I’ve driven thousands of kilometers back and forth to Toronto for meetings. It’s an investigative news magazine series but, obviously, it’s comedic. So, it’s like Marketplace, but it’s funny. It’s like what I was doing on 22 Minutesbut it’s more ballsy and in-depth.”
Once again, Butt submitted at the last minute and even when he was told he would be presenting his pitch directly to Hart, he was still filled with uncertainty.
“I can pitch in a room but in this case I was pitching in front of 300 people. I had a video clip, thankfully.”
In an instance of miraculous spontaneity, Hart gave the green light not only to Butt, but to all 10 finalists right on the spot. “He really emphasized that people helped him when he was starting out and that he wanted to help out younger comics in the same way.”
Hart’s streaming service, which will launch in early 2017, will be home to content selected by himself, including shows featuring social media stars and up-and-coming comedians as well as original series and stand-up specials from Hart himself.
“I’m excited to see where it will go,” says Butt. “I’m looking forward to hopefully producing some of these sketches because it’s been two years that I’ve been dying to do them.”
For more information about the Sirius XM Top Comic competition, visit https://topcomic.siriusxm.ca/#VoteNow
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