The charismatic comedian is host of Netflix's The Circle and had a breakout role in a recent episode of Comedy Central's Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens.
You can’t blink and miss Michelle Buteau. If you’ve watched Always Be My Maybe, Isn’t It Romantic, Russian Doll, Someone Great, or most recently Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens, you’ve probably noticed the comedian is a magnet for attention — even when she’s only on screen for a few minutes. And now, the charismatic scene-stealer is getting a Netflix special to shine all on her own, and it’s about damn time.
“You know, everyone keeps saying ‘It’s your year, it’s your year.’ People have told me that for over 10 years,” Buteau tells EW. “Netflix has changed the game for me. They have really good taste when it comes to talent. LOL, c’mon. Nailed it!”
Buteau’s Netflix special will be taped at Sony Hall in New York City in March, with a release date still to be determined. The special comes off the heels of her master of disguise turn on an episode of the Comedy Central sitcom Nora From Queens alongside someone who knows just what it’s like to be a breakout star, Awkwafina.
“It was a dream job,” she says of doing the Natasha Lyonne-directed episode that aired Feb. 12. “When you have a fierce, funny female who created a show with a platform for not just funny comedians and actresses, but also for the diversity, you’re like, how can I not be winning?”
Buteau’s pop isn’t out of nowhere. Her work can be traced back to her start in the stand-up scene in 2001. Two decades doing the stand-up rounds led her to form a friendship with fellow comedians like Ali Wong, who cast her in Always Be My Maybe. In 2019, Netflix caught Buteau fever. In addition to the Wong-Randall Park rom-com, she had breakout cameos in Lyonne’s Russian Doll, Gina Rodriguez’s ode to friendship Someone Great, and the Laura Linney-led Tales of the City. This year, she’s continued her hot streak on the streaming giant by stealing scenes without even showing her face as the hilarious narrator-host of reality show phenomenon The Circle.
“Most of my DMs used to be ‘Are you my cousin?’ But now it’s ‘How can I get on The Circle?'” Buteau jokes. “We should be renewed for a few seasons,” shes says of the show, which has yet to get a season 2. “I’m on the edge of my seat like Pete Buttigieg at the Iowa Caucus.”
Buteau also landed the role as a series regular on the BET+ show First Wives Club, which will be back for a second season. But Buteau knows how to make the most of both a starring role and a one-liner.
“Don’t ask for permission. Just go!,” Buteau says of taking advantage of her moments on screen. “I feel like a lot of us live in fear because we don’t know. You can be a scene-stealer without being a steamroller.”
Buteau has a little advice for rising comedians that are also making the rounds with smaller spots on TV shows. What’s the secret to being a scene-stealer? “You have to listen,” Buteau advises. “People want to keep talking over. You don’t get anywhere with that. It’s like [acting with] mom.”
Buteau looks up to the scene-stealers of her past, including actress Allison Dean in Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America, playing Lisa’s sister Patrice McDowell. Patrice, who believes everything good must come to her, famously falls for Arsenio Hall‘s character’s lie that he is the prince. (She also has an amazing dance moment.)
“Lisa’s sister was so goddamn good. She was horny. She was giving you all the one-liners. She’s about that life!” Buteau says.
Buteau can’t wait for people to see what she has coming next in 2020. The recent success (which she still doesn’t quite understand) has become a humbling reminder of where she came from.
“I’m not like a Seth Rogen or a Rosie O’ Donnell where I could quit school because I’m like ‘This is my gift,'” she says. “I graduated from school and I didn’t trust my inside voice. I’m glad I waited until I was an adult because I could handle rejection the proper way. With anything you really love, I hate to be sappy, but it feels like Christmas.”
Not to be sappy, but whenever Buteau pops up in something it feels like Christmas to us, too.