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Michelle Buteau Balances Screwball Comedy and Painful Honesty in “Survival of the Thickest”

by BUST Magazine

Standup comedian and Netflix queen Michelle Buteau (from The Circle and Welcome to Buteaupia) delivers a debut essay collection with Survival of the Thickest that’ll have readers cackling devilishly one minute, then ugly-crying the next. Her off-the-cuff, pop-culture-laced humor translates seamlessly from the stage onto the page. While reading, one almost feels like she’s sitting right there, sharing how she unknowingly got roped into emceeing a janky-ass amateur male stripper night in a dive bar in Rochester. Yep, that happened. And while there are so many other hilarious WTF?! events like that sad strip show among these chapters, there are plenty of vulnerable moments, too, that bring gravity to the book. Buteau’s frank discussion of her years-long struggle with IVF is raw and heartbreaking. And the racial microaggressions she’s battled as a Black woman, the relentless body policing she’s endured, and her sometimes-strained relationship with her mom are not shied away from, either. That Buteau so deftly moves from painful honesty to screwball comedy in her narrative is impressive, and readers would do well not to write Survival of the Thickest off as just another heavily padded comedy tome. Like Buteau herself, it’s a real one. –Brandy Barber

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2021 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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