Michelle Buteau smiling and pointing wearing a white tank top and jeans against a gray background.
Bronson Farr

Michelle Buteau On Being A Mother To Twins: “Holy Sh*t, I’m Amazing”

The comedian stars in Babes, a new mom buddy movie with Ilana Glazer.

There’s debate about whether motherhood changes you. Some say having children stirs in them a whole new sense of self. Others don’t feel all that changed or different. But all of us, certainly, learn a thing or two about ourselves in the process. For actress, comedian, and mom of two, Michelle Buteau, motherhood has taught her what an absolute badass she is. “I didn’t know how amazing I was. Am,” she tells me by Zoom. “I’m just like, ‘Holy shit, I’m amazing.’”

And yet The Circle host wasn’t always glowing with this same level of confidence and self-assurance. There was a time, she says, she wasn’t comfortable calling herself an artist or even a comedian, so she relished in any opportunity to express herself, she says. Open calls and contests were the perfect vehicle early on, and now she’s on the other side of the judges’ table. Buteau has partnered with Miss Vickies to help judge the company’s “Stroke of Goodness” contest, which invites kettle-chip enthusiasts across the country to submit a piece of original artwork via Instagram inspired by their favorite Miss Vickie’s flavor. (Don’t ask Buteau hers though: “Impossible. Picking my favorite flavor would be like picking my favorite child.”)

Buteau has a lot going on at the moment. Her Netflix series, Survival of the Thickest (based on her memoir of the same name) was renewed for a second season earlier this year. Presently, she’s gearing up for the premiere of her new movie, Babes, directed by Pamela Adlon. In it, she plays Dawn, a married mother of two who helps guide her single friend Eden (played by Broad City’s Ilana Glazer) through an unplanned pregnancy. Babes explores pregnancy and childbirth, motherhood, and friendship through a lens that’s at once hilarious, real, and distinctly feminist.

“It’s always been my goal to work with people that I like and I’m inspired by,” she says. “And being in a movie that is directed by Pamela Adlon — what?! — and starred in by Ilana Glazer — who?! — it’s like, ‘Yes, sign me up. Do I need a drug test? I don’t care. Give me 24 hours. I’ll pass it. Let’s go.’”

She was particularly drawn to the idea that comedy can be a means to educate about important, decidedly unfunny issues. “I don’t know how to answer this question without sounding like AOC,” she jokes. “But between women’s bodies and [anti-]trans and non-binary laws, everybody’s under attack. So especially when history is being erased, it’s like, ‘What do we have? The arts.’ Comedy makes everything better, and thank God we still have that. When it comes to comedy, there is a place for everybody, and the more conversations we have about it, the better we are and the more healing it is.”

In diving into the role of Dawn, there were areas where Buteau didn’t need to look far for inspiration. She has been married to photographer Gijs van der Most since 2010 and welcomed twins Hazel and Otis in 2019. “It was a fascinating experience playing a tired mom of two with a really supportive husband. I’m like, ‘yeah, yeah, I get it.’” One aspect of the part that was a bit different, however, was the scenes that involved her character’s pregnancy. “I did IVF for five years. My body couldn’t carry my kids, so we ended up going down the surrogacy route ... And so it was interesting preparing to give birth, but it was also an honor.”

While the baby days are behind her, Buteau is looking forward to another big milestone in the fall: her children are headed to kindergarten. The question is, truly, if kindergarten can handle Miss Hazel and Mr. Otis.

“Their vibe... they’re little adults,” she says. “Hazel definitely has the energy of a 53-year-old Black woman that works at the DMV. And baby boy Otis has the energy of a tired husband holding his wife’s purse at Macy’s.” And, like elders, Buteau says they’re always teaching her things, especially since she’s an only child who now has a front-row seat to sibling dynamics.

“I’m just like, ‘Why are you fighting? Wait, you made up? You’re over it?’ They’re like, ‘Yeah, what’s your deal, Mom? Calm down.’”

Ironically, she says that having children has allowed her to calm down in some ways. The things or, more specifically, the people, who used to get under her skin have more of her compassion these days.

“I can almost see everyone’s inner child,” she says. “It sounds very hokey, but it’s helped me in a lot of ways. Even having road rage, I’m like, ‘I don’t need to have this feeling. This is a feeling that won’t serve me and I don’t know what their day has been like.’ And so any time someone has met me with that energy, and this is a big deal because I am a Jersey girl, and I will pop off, I’m like, ‘I don’t have to any more.’ I just simply say, ‘I hope you have a better rest of your day,’ or ‘I don’t think this is the job for you. I think you should do something else. I don’t have to take you on because children are already emotional osteoporosis.’”

“I love that,” I tell her sincerely. “It's the perfect balance of ‘Namaste’ and ‘F-ck it. I'm done.’”

“Well,” she sighs, “if we had to really sum up my brand.”