Writer, actress, and comedian, Michelle Buteau, has two words for aspiring comedy personalities: “Get funny.”The veteran comedian has appeared on “Broad City,” “Best Week Ever,” and “Key and Peele” and her debut comedy album, “Shut Up,” is streaming on Spotify. With more than ten years in the business, Buteau tells Tech Insider the secret to her success has been to simply enjoy being funny.”It’s not even about doing [comedy] to be seen, it’s about doing it because you need to do it. It’s not about how many lines you can get on your IMDB page,” she says. “If I don’t write something or perform or at least create something, I feel like I haven’t had enough water or enough to breathe.”
Buteau tours and appears on TV shows, but also landed her own spot on the official Comedy Central Snapchat called “I Can’t Even” after a string of gigs on the network. The Comedy Central execs pitched the spot to her as something similar to VH1’s “Best Week Ever” and Buteau was thrilled to jump on and host. “I Can’t Even” is a bite-sized pop culture recap, with Buteau’s trademark mix of bombastic sass and satire.
Buteau says between the TV and digital spaces, digital is much more open: “I do a lot of TV stuff, but I’ve always been like, ‘I don’t need to do anything digital wise.’ But I realize there are so many rules and regulations to TV, and the great thing about doing something digital is that you can just do whatever you want.”
The comedian is also well aware of how critical the online comedy scene is for emerging acts.
“You always know when people don’t like something more than when you do,” she explains. “Because if someone likes something they’re like ‘Oh that’s cool.’ But if they’re super offended that’s when they decide to leave something.”
Buteau is less concerned with building a pristine online brand and more concerned with simply being herself. So we asked her: how exactly do you make it online comedy?
“It’s all a gamble, who knows? It’s like a weird Yelp review,” Buteau says. “If you’re not an a——, people will want you around. They want to be around funny people.”
Despite her success, Buteau was initially hesitant about joining the male-dominated comedy scene and felt like female comics were too often dismissed as “niche.”
“[There were] all these guys talking about how broke they are … everyone’s so broke and unhappy and high all the time,” she said. “I noticed there were like no women doing comedy, and, if they were, it’s a female show. It’s like ‘Why is it a thing? Why can’t it just be funny?'”
Buteau’s original dream was to become a news reporter, but after being told she was “too fat to be in front of the camera” she became a producer, editing news footage for NBC and Fox. Her new career took a traumatic turn after September 11, 2001. Suddenly, Buteau was tasked with viewing and editing countless hours of disturbing footage of the attacks in New York.
“[NBC] offered us therapy ’cause we were editing the most gruesome videos and I was like ‘I don’t need the therapy, I’m gonna try the stand up,'” she told us.
Buteau says her comedy career began “two days” after the attacks, and helped her to work through her emotionally demanding day job.
“It was my therapy. It still is, actually,” she says.
Buteau had a slow and steady rise in the online comedy scene, as opposed to instant, viral success, but she says her goal has always been to simply make people laugh.
“I knew what worked and I had fun and that’s all that mattered.”
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