Michelle Buteau is bringing sassy back. Embrace it – you’ll enjoy it. Trust us.
Up until recent days, the New Jersey-slash-Miami, Florida native—yeah, it’s complicated—may have been best known for her performances on seasons five and six of NBC’s defunct Last Comic Standing. After performing alongside the likes of George Lopez and at celebrated comedy events like Bumbershoot, HBO Aspen’s Comedy Festival, and the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival – Buteau is now emerging into mainstream success. You know, the kind where one is recognized at Rite Aid by moms and pharmacists.
With her cheeky swagger—and her staple “Panties On, Panties Off” segment—Buteau is helping revive the comeback of VH1’s Best Week Ever. And she was handpicked by Jenny McCarthy herself to act as a sidekick on The Jenny McCarthy Show.
So with every success story – people are like, ‘Duh… That happened overnight!’ Are you getting that a lot?
Oh my god! Overnight. That’s so cute! If people only knew that I started all this madness when Goldie Hawn had her real face! Kiddin’! Actually, I started in September of 2001. I was working at a local NBC news station doing editing. I was working, like, 16-hour shifts and all of my coworkers were like, ‘You’re so funny, you’re so funny. You should be a comedian!’ And I was like, ‘Actually, honey – no. I’m a lady. I like dinners, I like hair, I like shopping.’ And then I started going to comedy shows. I was listening to all these dudes tell stories about jerking off while accidentally leaving their window shades up and they were talking about getting high and, like, their moms walking in and…yeah, okay, cool.
I noticed a void. There were no ladies. So I thought I’d give it a whirl– and I fell in love with it. I took a comedy class with Stephen Rosenfield. It was a cool class. He was weird. But the class was cool. I would do like two or three shows a night and then do overnights at NBC. And I did that for like five or six years. Yeah, so I was just out there planting seeds. Wow, ‘planting seeds’ sounds like something you’d say after you’ve been farting everywhere, right?
Yeah, actually. Were you?
And all these fart seeds lead you to your current gig on Best Week Ever?
I started doing a bunch of different fun projects for VH1 – talking head-type work for their ‘Top 100 whatever’ stuff. Corny work. So I started developing relationships with executives and people in development and such – so when Best Week Ever came back around, it was sort of a natural fit. And then from Best Week Ever – Jenny McCarthy saw me and was like, “That bitch is funny!” And then Jenny hired me [for The Jenny McCarthy Show]. That was great.
Nice! So Jenny was just like, ‘Be on my show, boo?’
Yeah, they were looking for a fun segment for the show and the people at VH1 asked Jenny, ‘How do you feel about that panties girl?’ And she was like, ‘Hell yeah. Is she free?’ And that was pretty much it.
We’ve caught a couple of episodes of The Jenny McCarthy Show and you weren’t physically on set. You chime in from a floating TV.
I’m in the studio. I’m just in the back. They keep me there because I’m a naughty girl. No, the studio is so small — it’s like a walk-in closet — and she likes to have it full of people and craziness. She loved the idea of having a sidekick but she wanted to do it in a different way than other shows are doing. She wanted to have me be a part of the show, just in a different way. So she thought of the idea of flying me in, literally, like, just have my head drop in. I love it. It’s great. Because now I never have to go to the gym!
How did your ‘panties on, panties off’ bit come about?
It’s crazy. I just have a lot of catchphrases because I’m that bitch. I have ‘from the waist down.’ You know when people go out and do the whole fortune cookie thing and say, ‘in bed’ at the end? I would say, ‘From the waist down’ and it still makes sense. But if a telemarketer calls and asks for me, I say, ‘This is she…from the waist down.’ So I always just take it there and keep it fun. I just started saying ‘panties off’ when something was awesome, delicious or fun. It’s not literal…all the time.
In my Best Week Ever audition I said it and they were like, ‘What is that?’ They liked the idea of turning ‘panties on, panties off’ into a ‘thumbs up, thumbs down’ segment. And we just ran with it, but it all came from an impromptu moment. They were just smart enough to do something with it (see video).
VH1 plays the shit out of Best Week Ever. So what is the newfound fame like?
It’s weird. I was shopping at Macy’s the other day and this guy came up to me and was like, ‘Are you the panties girl?’ I was caught off-guard and I was like, ‘Oh, yeah! That’s me.’ And then he turned all hyper and ghetto and Spanish and trolled away. He was awesome. My fan demographic is very aggressive and—um—teen? This one girl came up to me at Old Navy and called me hilarious and ran away, but the way she said ‘hilarious,’ I couldn’t tell if she was mad at me.
You can see Michelle on The Jenny McCarthy Show every Friday at 10:30 pm ET on VH1 and on the network’s Best Week Ever pretty much all the time.