When the 2 Dope Queens, Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson introduced the first comedian to perform in the first of their four HBO specials, Michelle Buteau sauntered onto the stage. General audiences might not have known who Buteau was, but 2 Dope Queens podcast listeners immediately recognized her as the “3rd Dope Queen,” as officially declared by Robinson. She has long been a part of the popular podcast’s regular rotation of guest comedians, and thanks to WNYC Studios, the same production company behind 2 Dope Queens, she now has her own weekly show.
Late Night Whenever with Michelle Buteau is billed as a late night-style show that, much like The Tonight Show and The Late Show, will feature monologues, musical accompaniment, and interviews with celebrity guests. Unlike its televised inspiration, however, its podcast format means that listeners won’t be limited by time. That is, they won’t have to watch new episodes at a certain time, and they won’t have to keep up with what’s happened in a particular moment. For as Buteau explains to us, she wants Late Night Whenever to be as evergreen as possible. She also wants it to bring everyone together, just “like Thanksgiving.”
How did Late Night Whenever come about?
I had this homemade sex tape that I made that was circulating… just kidding. God, I feel like if there is any sort of Emmys for podcasts, I’d be like, “I need to thank the 2 Dope Queens,” because I did their show and some producers from WNYC Studios thought I was great. They asked me, “Have you ever thought about doing a podcast?” I’m like, “No honey, I think about making money.” So yeah, they approached me and I was kind of in from the beginning. I do stand-up and I host and I act and I was doing a lot of co-hosting stuff on VH1 and around town for morning shows at the time. But hosting my own show? I was like, “I would love to do my own thing! Oh, I don’t have to fit into the brand of a TV station? Yes, even better!” So that’s how it all came about.
It seems like they’ve given you free rein to make this your own thing.
They have, which is great. I love that WNYC Studios really lets the artists they work with lean into their own voices. They’re like, “Let’s dig deep and rip it apart. What else do you wanna say?” And I’m like, “Oh my God, this feels like group therapy that’s actually covered by insurance!” It’s been great so far.
Was the late night concept something you pitched them?
Oh yeah, I thought that if I ever had an opportunity to do my own show — and I could actually somehow pull it off — it would be something like a late night show. I’ve always wanted to host a late night-style thing instead of something for the daytime. I’m too sassy for daytime television, but I have too many feelings for late night. Late Night Whenever feels like a perfect combination of all of that.
Thanks to social media, it seems late night programs have to struggle to keep up with what’s happening. Is Late Night Whenever going to do the same?
No. I can barely keep up with paying my taxes and find something that fits, honey. Life is too crazy. That’s one thing I miss with both daytime and late night talk shows — the fun personal stories hosts and guests would tell each other. The stuff that wasn’t, or didn’t feel like it was, too scripted or prepared. I don’t want to hear about how Ryan Seacrest didn’t know that New Yorkers sell Christmas trees on the street. It’s like, “Calm down, bitch!” I would rather hear about the worst Christmas someone has ever had or heard of, you know? In that way, I really appreciate having an evergreen show, because you can listen to it today or two years from now, and you’re still going to think, “I didn’t know that about her and I feel the same way!”
That makes perfect sense. I’m still catching up with podcasts I only discovered recently that have been posting episodes for years.
I know, right? I mean, it just kind of all worked out, which is weird. I think that with a lot of stuff I’ve done, I’ve tried to force it because I wanted that paycheck. But this? I don’t know. This just feels really fun and natural.