David Koechner clues in to Brent Butt film

David Koechner (Reuters files)

David Koechner (Reuters files)

Jim Slotek, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:36 PM ET

Born in a small town in Missouri, David Koechner admits he's done more than his share of playing rednecks and, in the case of Anchorman's Champ Kind, a Texan.

So when the opportunity came to play a Canadian, or at least someone with no discernible hick qualities, his reaction, he says, was "Finally!"

In No Clue, Brent Butt's post-Corner Gas feature film debut, a dry spoof of noir detective movies, Koechner plays Ernie, the best friend of Leo (Butt), a schleppy guy who's pretending to be a detective to get closer to a mystery lady (Amy Smart).

(The shooting site for the Carl Bessai film is unmentioned, but the location screams Vancouver).

Ernie is the unheeded voice of sense, the guy who advises against the deception, and who - when dead bodies start turning up - insists Leo call the police.

"Basically, my job in the movie is to just remind the audience that yes, we know, (Leo) is an idiot. In a weird way I'm the audience representative," Koechner says with a laugh over the phone from his L.A. home.

So what connects a guy more associated with the oeuvre of Will Ferrell to the star of a dry, low-key Canadian sitcom? "Social connections and mutual respect," says Koechner, who truly does seem to have created a career out of interconnected friendships.

He spent nine years in Chicago, studying improv, four of them onstage at Second City alongside the likes of Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell.

When he was hired at Saturday Night Live in the '90s, Koechner shared a U-Haul with future Anchorman and Talladega Nights director Adam McKay (both movies would feature Koechner).

And his Canadian connections practically qualify him for citizenship. "For starters, I've been close to naked with (Kid in the Hall) Mark McKinney," Koechner says, recalling their Saturday Night Live sketches as the British Fops, among whose peccadillos was watching TV naked. "One time, we had all of our clothes off except for a dance belt. On television. It's a hard image to get out of your mind."

Another odd Canuck link: Koechner was fired by the same NBC exec, Don Ohlmeyer, who fired Norm Macdonald.

As for Brent Butt, Koechner recalls meeting him, "the first time at the Montreal comedy festival (Just For Laughs) in '96. He's a great guy, it was nothing but a great first impression. And I've always thought he was very funny. And then over the years we've had many occasions to run into one another."

Corner Gas entered his radar, "because one of my good friends from SNL, Norm Hiscock used to work on it. Norm and I have written two screenplays together and one pilot. He's a good friend and collaborator.

As for Butt, Koechner says, "he's just a great 'Everyman.'"

But as many connections as he's made over the years, Koechner has lately embraced the most solitary comedy of all - stand-up.

"It's easier to do my thing than to travel and do someone else's thing," he says about his standup. "You have to always create new content, refresh your batteries.

"People are always wondering, 'What's your standup like?' I say it's better than church. It's hard to describe your own act. It's like describing your personality. I do anecdotal stories. Might be true or not. I do music. I have a hard time keeping it under an hour. I tend to go over and wear the audience out."

"There are so many different comedy venues in L.A. right now, it's just a treat. People put up shows in their house, there's a taco stand - I'm not kidding. And there's one I like that's the top floor of a Chinese restaurant."


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