Welcome to Buteaupia, Michelle Buteau’s Netflix special is called – and Buteaupia is where we find the 43-year-old, two decades into her standup career, cresting a career-high wave. She’s the host of reality show The Circle, has a string of recent scene-stealing comedy cameos, and – in the opening words of her show – “I just wrapped a movie with J-Lo. Whaaaaat?” Truly, here is a set, replete with joyous reflections on new motherhood, to test the theory that only in adversity can comedy truly put down roots.
There’s adversity here, too, of course, but it’s of the mild variety, as Buteau addresses her tendency to take tumbles and her difficulties with Dutch, her husband’s native language. On being told, in an Amsterdam museum, the correct pronunciation of Van Gogh: “No wonder this motherfucker cut his ears off!” Cue another of Buteau’s blank stares, those frozen features a screen on which we can project her disapproval or dismay.
That’s a trick she uses again and again, and fair enough: it works, communicating her withering feelings about unwanted parenting advice, say, or her husband’s enthusiasm for camping, with nothing more than a minutely raised eyebrow. The culture clash between Buteau and spouse is a source of dry humour: “European white boy shit is next-level white boy shit.” The J-Lo routine is another highlight, as our host conceals her obsession with the superstar behind a veneer of strenuous faux naivety.
Usually, the combination on display here of camp, larger-than-life self-projection and no-nonsense Jersey sass makes for a winning hour. It’s not always adventurous: even Buteau’s theatrics struggle to refresh parenting material that leans heavily on tiredness and poo. A section on her zeal for fellatio is marked more by excess than wit.
And I could have lived without the “chase your dreams” bromides at the end, more and more a staple of American standup on Netflix. I don’t want comedians telling me to believe in myself. I want to be made to believe in them. And, in Buteau’s case, this confident, charismatic special makes it easy to do so.