We’re running out of hyphenates for Michelle Buteau.
The actress-comedian-reality TV host-mother-wife-friend is one of the busiest women in the entertainment industry, and good luck slowing her down.
With her Netflix comedy special Michelle Buteau: Welcome to Beautopia, she takes a gigantic stride into the mainstream. It’s a journey that received a kickstart with her hosting job of Netflix’s massively popular societal examination reality show The Circle, which aired its second season earlier this year.
In the special, which was filmed in March just weeks before the country went into lockdown, Buteau acts as a comedic prophet of sorts, name-checking celebrities who have made even bigger splashes in the time since.
She talks about the failed (as of then, at least) relationship between Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, the latter whom she stars with in the upcoming movie Marry Me, and the fact that she wants to eventually play Meghan Markle on The Crown.
Buteau, who has three-year-old twins – Hazel and Otis – with husband Gijs van der Most, is a workhorse of the highest order. She spoke with Daniel Trainor about staying true to herself, the rekindling of Bennifer, the process of filming The Circle and why she loves 90 Day Fiance.
Daniel Trainor: Hi Michelle! Thanks for taking some time to chat. I’m excited to get into it.
Michelle Buteau: Me too! What the fuck else would I be doing?
DT: Hey, you and me both! Let’s start by talking about the special, which I loved. The entire thing feels very celebratory. It starts with you walking through the crowd and really soaking it in. How cognizant were you of making the entire thing feel joyful?
MB: Very. Very, very. It was important to make a special the way that I would do any other show, and that’s by connecting with people. That’s what stand-up is about for me. I want to find out about the people in the audience. I want to see them. I worked really hard to be there, and they left their house to be there. Let’s see what each other looks like! Even before it started, when people were filing in and trying to find their seats, I had drag queens do warm-up. I just wanted it to feel like a dope ass night out in New York City, where we start off looking cute but then we get messy. It’s crazy because we filmed it on March 1st and I said “I want it to feel like a New York City night.” And then it turned out to be my last New York City night for a while. But yeah, as far as the entrance goes, none of the special is stereotypical, so why would the entrance be?
DT: Honestly, the outfit alone was a spectacle. There were multiple moments when I had to go back and watch stuff over again because I realized I had just been staring at your jumpsuit for five minutes.
MB: Oh my god, thank you. Let me tell you something, I really wanted to feel like a diva. I love Diana Ross, Tina Turner and all the other bitches that wear sequins on stage. But I realized why they don’t want you to make eye contact with them because the wedgie from those sequins is like teeny, tiny knives in your butt. Little emotional piranhas in your crack.
DT: Oh no! Do you remember the “Divas Live” concerts?
MB: Yes! When Mariah had her hair curly! Talk about it!
DT: I had this thought that they need to bring those concerts back and that you must host.
MB: (gasps) Oh! I would love to. Your mouth to Yahweh’s ears.
DT: It’s funny watching the special and listening to you talk about Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck’s relationship. Lo and behold, here we are in 2021 and they are back together! What are our thoughts on Bennifer 2.0?
MB: (screams) What am I supposed to say?! I can’t say anything on the record.
DT: I’m not trying to get you in trouble! J. Lo is your friend. I’m not trying to push any buttons. Just any broad thoughts.
Buteau: Okay, first of all, let’s say J. Lo is my friend. Sure. That makes sense. You know, there’s a lot of things. I did not ever think that this would happen. I think we’re all giddy and excited about it. There’s always that one person from our past where it’s like coulda, woulda, shoulda. The fact that she’s taking control of the narrative of her love life, not giving a fuck and doing whatever she wants to do? I think we’re all standing in the back snapping our fingers like “get it, Jen!” Come on! With abs, good knees and edges, why the fuck wouldn’t you? I’m cheering for them. I want her to call me and tell me everything she’s going through.
DT: I echo everything you said.
MB: Next thing you know, Meghan Markle might actually let herself go.
DT: This leads into my next question! You also talk about Meghan Markle, who has obviously been an even hotter topic of conversation since the special was released. I’m sure you’ve been keeping tabs on that. What do you make of her current situation?
MB: It’s really crazy. I’m really happy for them because they are, again, taking control of the narrative. They’ve said “you can’t treat people like this, we’re going to do our own thing.” It’s really hard to have a family and protect them, it doesn’t matter how much money you have. All that said, they’ve done the work! Have a little fun. Have too many mimosas at brunch. We don’t have to go on a full Chrissy Teigen “I am leaving Twitter” thing. We don’t need all that. But just a little something something. I really want to see Meghan’s hair curly.
DT: You mention 90 Day Fiance in the special, which I was very grateful for. I’m curious if there’s been any other comfort food television that you’ve devoured during the past year and a half?
MB: Oh my gosh, what a great question. You know what I finally watched? When I went to England to film The Circle, I watched She’s Gotta Have It with DeWanda Wise. Brilliant! What was I doing? I should have watched it sooner. Just watching stuff that was filmed pre-pandemic provided a sense of happiness that you just don’t with stuff now. Now I’m just counting how much background they actually have, like okay you really utilized those three people who have different wigs on. I also watched Halston. I watched High On The Hog. Obviously The Circle, let’s not be dumb.
DT: Well, you and literally everybody else.
MB: I know. I love that people are into The Circle. I think it’s really well-made. Obviously the host is pretty tight. It’s a really fun watch!
DT: Could you ever have anticipated what a phenomenon it has become?
MB: No. Not even a little bit. I saw the UK version and I was like “this is fun.” But you never know. So much stuff gets made, but so much stuff just doesn’t take with people.
DT: What is your process for your involvement with The Circle? How long does the voiceover take?
MB: You know, the production company is so on top of it. Every T is crossed. So, I get the episodes and I watch them while they are still in the apartment playing the game. I watch the dinner where they meet in real time. It really all happens in real time. That’s when we’re all still processing everything when we do the finale. It isn’t like we film it and then meet later. It’s all fresh. The voiceover happens after and takes about two or three days. Everything is well written and they let me put my stank on whatever I want. I love to watch TV and talk shit with my husband on the couch. That’s why 90 Day Fiance is our favorite, because we kind of went through that process! He came from Holland. But of course when you come from a rich country to America, you migrated, you’re not an immigrant. L-O-L. Anyway, I end up saying what I’m thinking and they end up liking it and it all comes together that way.
DT: I feel like I’ve nearly gone off the deep end multiple times during the pandemic, and I don’t have two young children. What has it been like raising them during such a chaotic time?
MB: It’s wild! I’m really lucky that I don’t have to go to a lot of places. If I had to travel with them on mass transportation, that would not be fun! That’s like The Hunger Games. I’m not here for that. I don’t volunteer as tribute. At first, it was really tough, but then I feel like I became a better mother because I figured it all out myself. I didn’t have to rely on somebody to come help. I was like “we’re all going to watch mom take a shit right now because it’s a learning experience.” There isn’t any time for me, but I also really love all the time we got to spend together. Now, I’ve found a really good daycare for them as things are opening up, and listen, if I could take edibles and rosé to those teachers, I would. But we’re all just trying to get back to normalcy, which is why I’ve started doing shows again.
DT: Well, now that live comedy is returning, I’m curious about how you think audiences and comedy itself have adapted. What are your hopes and expectations?
MB: For me, it’s just really important to recognize the elephant in the room that is 2020. But you also have to move on and talk about other things. People have left their houses and they’re excited to be out. So, let’s talk about something joyful. I’ve seen comedians not address COVID at all and I’ve seen comedians only talk about how horrible things have been. I think it’s whatever you need. For me, as long as there’s ice in the rosé, I’m good.
Michelle Buteau: Welcome to Beautopia is currently available to stream on Netflix. Michelle Buteau is Emmy eligible for Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded) and Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special.
Photo: Marcus Price/NETFLIX