On Monday evenings in Brooklyn, Littlefield is the place to be. That’s been true for nearly a decade. For the last five years, Wyatt Cenac hosted Night Train, a weekly showcase of rotating comics that included the likes of Marc Maron, Janeane Garofalo and Sasheer Zamata during its run. Before that, Kristin Schaal and Kurt Braunohler ran the Monday night comedy variety show Hot Tub, which they now host in L.A.
Cenac put Night Train to bed this month, but now we have another, equally compelling reason to drown out the noise of the week ahead with laughs at the Gowanus venue. The new Monday night throwdown is called Butterboy, hosted by Maeve Higgins, Aparna Nancherla and Jo Firestone, produced by Marianne Ways, the woman behind Night Train and Hot Tub, and lit to the “musical stylings” of DJ Donwill (does anyone know if he’s single?).
We caught up with the comedy power trio after Butterboy’s debut last Monday — which featured comedians Todd Barry, Anna Drezen, Matteo Lane and Michelle Buteau — to talk about women in comedy, what "Butterboy" could possibly mean, and whether Maeve’s dog will ever make a cameo at the show.
What the hell is a butterboy?
Aparna Nancherla: We surveyed thousands of focus groups of our key demographic, cis straight white men, ages 18-34, and this was the title that kept coming up over and over and over again. A butterboy is if privilege was an anytime snack.
Jo Firestone: A butterboy is actually a creature that lives in the woods and looks a little like a moose mixed with a man. I thought that's what we were going for.
As three simultaneous co-hosts, y’all are a comedy power trio. What’s the process like for planning out your opening, er, trio-logue? Do y’all discuss what you’re going to talk about or do you keep it pretty loose?
Maeve Higgins: Aparna decides what we are allowed to say and is extremely cold and controlling about it. You may notice she keeps a hand on mine and Jo's necks in what looks like a fun bit of camaraderie, but she pinches hard if one of us goes off script or asks for water. Hopefully as the show goes on, each week, she will grow to trust us a little more and permit us to discuss things other than her outfit and her boyfriend.
Who would be your dream guests to have on the show?
MH: Maria Bamford because she's the greatest of all time, and Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braunohler because they are hilarious and originally hosted the Monday night show [Hot Tub] at Littlefield and I loved that show too. Us three could be all like 'Look at us now Pops, look at us go!' and they could be cool and LA about it, just quietly vaping down the back.
JF: Everyone Maeve said would be heaven. I'd also love to have Maeve's puppy on the show at some point. In terms of humans, Martha Kelly would also be a dream, and so would Bridget Everette and Kumail Nanjiani.
AN: Brent Weinbach, Tig Notaro, Wanda Sykes, DJ Douggpound, Maeve's dog, any dog.
Last week there was that great Vulture article about how we should “tear down the boys’ club” that protects male comics and abusers like Louis C.K. Having three female comedians host their own show seems like a pretty good start. What’s been your experience as women in comedy and how can projects like Butterboy help take down the toxic culture of the industry?
MH: I like being a woman in comedy, although it's been sad and scary to see all of these creeps and the danger they pose down through the years. I'm proud of the women who spoke out. There's a tendency for people to worship some men in comedy, just to gaze at them adoringly and never question what that amplified voice is telling them, and that is actually really bad for those comedy men and their lives. By being a woman, who people do not tend to worship, I feel lucky to escape that encouragement of narcissism.
JF: I also like a being a woman in comedy, but there are definitely ups and downs. I feel optimistic that the creeps are steadily being outed. I love so many New York female comedians, and if we can foster a show environment where other women in comedy feel good doing it, that's a great thing.
AN: Representation matters, visibility matters, if you can't get a seat at the table, say you have a standing desk and so you will stand, but then pratfall on the bagel platter and get cream cheese all over your neck. That's a power move in comedy.
Maeve, tell us more about your pupper and if she will be making a cameo on Butterboy.
MH: I really want to bring my puppy Shadow to meet everyone and get passed around as our official Butterboy mascot. Soon she will be way too big (not in a show biz way, in an actual physical way) so I'm thinking her time is now. She is hilarious. Again, in a physical way. So far, she is non-verbal.
AN: Maeve, as your mother, I command this.
When we’re not watching y’all at Butterboy, where can we see you? Any upcoming projects to shout out?
MH: I'm finishing work on an essay collection for Penguin published August 2018 so please clear that month now.
JF: I do a podcast with Manolo Moreno called Dr. Gameshow that comes out every Wednesday on Earwolf.
AN: I have a part on my very funny friends Jake Weisman & Matt Ingebretson's show “Corporate” premiering January 2018 on Comedy Central and a Netflix half-hour special coming out some time next year as well. On a more regular basis, I can be found waiting in line at my local pharmacy.