Michelle Buteau’s new stand-up set is “a little dark.”
When the New York-based comedian first performed the material for her husband, he noted the shift in tone. The show is still “sassy and fun,” Buteau told the Globe, but she’s now largely “reflecting on motherhood within deep quarantine.”
“Michelle Buteau: Bitch Gotta Babysitter,” which Buteau is scheduled to perform at The Wilbur on Friday, comes on the heels of a banner couple of years for the comic. The host of Netflix’s “The Circle” and one of the stars of BET+’s “First Wives Club,” Buteau took home the Critic’s Choice Award for her 2020 stand-up special “Welcome to Buteaupia” (in a tie with Jerry Seinfeld).
“Bitch Gotta Babysitter” also marks a change in Buteau’s work from a creative perspective. She said parenting in the early days of the pandemic left little to no time for writing and, for a while, notes for the show simply existed as ideas on grocery lists. She’d jot down a joke or premise here and there, but it wasn’t until later in the pandemic, when her twins went to daycare, that she was able to craft a show.
“By the time we were vaccinated and able to have a $52 lobster roll in a parking lot with the rest of the tri-state area, I [thought], you know what? This is a good time to get my thoughts together,” Buteau said.
Even then, the development strayed from her past 20 years of stand-up, which typically allowed her to workshop individual bits at comedy shows several times a night.
“This is a completely different process, because I can’t be out and about all the time and do all the shows because of Covid, so it’s really fun and scary to trust my instincts on stage,” she said. “But it’s been working out and it’s been very satisfying.”
The writing experience wasn’t the only aspect of stand-up that has shifted with the pandemic. Since starting in-person shows again, including last month’s New York Comedy Festival, she feels that both audiences and comedians – and people in general – have changed a bit, too. She attributes a lot of this to the amount of work it takes to get everyone safely in one space now.
“You’re giddy you’re there. They’re giddy they’re there. People are laughing at the setups, we haven’t even gotten to the punch[line]. It’s like, ‘oh my god, I can’t believe we’re here,’” Buteau said. “And I think for comedians, for better or for worse, there’s a lot of self reflection going on. And in a way that feels just more like a joint, shared experience.”
This isn’t the first time that the comic has turned to the stage in the midst of difficult experiences. Her comedy career kicked off in her 20s while she was working at New York’s WNBC, where she did editing and field producing. But after 9/11 and spending so much time working with terrible footage of the attacks, she finally decided to give stand-up a try. The effect was “therapeutic.”
“I did stand-up for the first time and totally fell in love,” she said. “I don’t think I was perfect at it. Stand-up was sort of like my husband. All I knew was that I wanted to see them the next day.”
Buteau steadily worked her material over the years, landing a half-hour special on Comedy Central in 2015 and appearing in a variety of movies (including the upcoming Jennifer Lopez-helmed rom-com, “Marry Me”). “Welcome to Buteaupia” marked Buteau’s first filmed hour-long stand-up special. The show – a nostalgic remnant of maskless, crowded, and carefree gatherings – was taped just before the country began to lockdown in March 2020 and landed on Netflix in September of the same year, in the thick of Covid. The special covers everything from cultural differences in Buteau’s Dutch husband’s family to welcoming twins by IVF surrogacy following a challenging fertility journey.
With “Welcome to Buteaupia” and now “Bitch Gotta Babysitter,” Buteau has reached a level of confidence on stage (which she likens to “a second home”) that leaves no subjects off limits. People can talk about anything as long as it’s funny, Buteau said, “because if it’s funny then it’s relatable.”
“I just feel like a lot of times women feel like we have to pander or hurry up or get our thoughts out really fast because no one wants to hear us talk, because ‘Oh my god, I’m taking up too much space,’” Buteau said. “So now at 44, with toddling twins and a 13 year marriage, I’m like, ‘Oh, [expletive] that, I’ve earned this space and you guys bought a ticket.’ So I’m going to take my time and it’ll be fun and we’re going to learn something, too.”
Dec. 10. $39. The Wilbur. 617-248-9700, thewilbur.com.