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TV Special Review: 'Brett Butler: Sold Out'

Another Slice of Wry Brett: The ‘Grace Under Fire’ sparks a stand-up special

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It’s unusual for a sitcom star at the height of her popularity to deign to return to her roots in stand-up comedy, but that’s what Brett Butler: Sold Out (Showtime, Nov. 12, 9:30-10 p.m.) offers. Her Grace Under Fire is always nudging the top of the Nielsen ratings these days, but in this concert, taped at Portland, Oregon’s Intermediate Theater, she seems relieved to be back in front of an audience alone, telling many jokes that wouldn’t pass prime-time network standards. Butler’s trademark style is that of the neat paradox: Playing with Southern cultural stereotypes, she drawls exaggeratedly, but instead of coming out with bumpkin cornpone, Butler lets loose with complicated, high-flown, grammar-perfect sentences. She doesn’t just assert that some jerk insulted her with a vulgar expression; she gets her laugh by saying, ”A petulant and eloquent retort was his,” and then giving us the guy’s crude punchline. Butler is really clever, but also a little troubling. Why is a woman as patently intelligent as she is so obsessed with her recent breast- enlargement operation that she works it up into a lengthy, none-too-funny routine? Perhaps there’s a pop-feminist argument here that I’m missing, but too often, Butler’s wit is wasted on subjects that seem unworthy of her. B