America caught a glimpse of the deep-voiced, sharp-talking Southerner Brett Butler when she made her first appearance on The Tonight Show in 1987. Her career really took off when TV producers saw her act and cast her in a new sitcom, Grace Under Fire, which premiered in 1993. After the show went off the air in 1998, Butler wrestled with personal demons and appeared in a few small TV roles.
Actress, comedienne. Born Brett Ashley Anderson on January 30, 1958, in Montgomery, Alabama. A talented stand-up comedienne, Brett Butler found fame on television as Grace Kelly, a divorced, working-class mother of three on the hit comedy Grace Under Fire. Her early days were filled with strife. Her mother left her father after reportedly suffering years of abuse. She later remarried and Brett took her stepfather’s last name, Butler. That union wasn’t a happy one; her mother divorced her second husband and raised her five children on her own.
At the age of 20, Brett Butler married Charles Wilson. But there was no happily ever after for her. Like her mother, she found herself in an abusive relationship. After a few years, Butler found the strength to leave. She moved in with her mother in Houston and worked as a waitress. Sassy and smart, Butler soon became known for her sharp remarks to her customers. With some encouragement, she tried stand-up comedy. It wasn’t long before Butler was performing in clubs around the South.
Grace Under Fire
With a bit of success under her belt, Brett Butler moved to New York City, hoping to make it as a comedienne. America caught a glimpse of the deep-voiced, sharp-talking southern when she made her first appearance on The Tonight Show in 1987. Butler’s career really took off in 1992 when producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner watch her act and wanted to cast her in a new television sitcom. Grace Under Fire, which premiered in 1993, mirrored Butler’s life in many ways. Her character, Grace Kelly, was divorced from an abusive, alcoholic husband, and had a working-class background. Unlike Butler, Grace Kelly had three children, but she still convincing played the role of a nurturing yet funny mother. The show became popular with television viewers quickly; they were drawn in by its humor and genuine, believable characters.
Grace Under Fire also became admired for its deft handling of the issue of domestic violence. Brett Butler knew personally the importance of the subject matter. She began to develop a reputation for being difficult, but she has said that most of the time she was fighting to improve the quality of the show. Butler was sometimes compared to Roseanne, another female stand-up comic who had a successful blue-collar sitcom and was heavily involved in many aspects of her show.
But toward the end of the series’ run, it became clear that Brett Butler was wrestling with some personal demons. She sought treatment for an addiction to painkillers in 1996 and again in 1997. Production on the show was halted indefinitely in 1998 to give Butler time to address some personal issues. There were reports that she lashed out at one of the show’s producers during a show taping.
Since the show’s end, Brett Butler was out of the public eye for a while. She re-emerged and returned to performing stand-up, including her 2003 Gravel Throated Harpy Tour. Over the years, Butler has also made a few television appearances, guesting on My Name Is Earl in 2006 and having a supporting role in the action thriller Vampire Bats (2005) and a small part in the drama Mrs. Harris (2005).
Brett Butler was married to Ken Ziegler from 1987 to 1999.
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