Butlers are a variety of male manservant which, in popular culture, are signifiers of wealth, prestige, and grand traditions, usually with an English accent. The term derives from the French work bouteillier, as the traditional primary duty of the butler was to oversee the purchasing and serving of wines and liquors. Through time, however, the butler has more typically become the chief male servant of a household. Such duties include overseeing the other servants, and directing the serving of meals.
In stereotypical portrayals, however, butlers function primarily to announce guests, carry silver platters, and remain dignified in the face of comic disasters or riff raff. In classic mystery and detective fiction particularly, the butler is a ubiquitous figure, escorting stranded travelers to their rooms in Gothic mansions, treading suspiciously down the hallways, or overhearing conversations. Though often a suspect, as far back as the Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902), the butler was seldom the actual murderer (though sometimes guilty of a lesser offense, such as blackmail). Yet by the 1930s, the butler's role in mysteries was so well-established that the phrase "the butler did it" had entered the lexicon; this preconception was spoofed by Damon Runyon in his 1933 short story "What, No Butler?"
As a point of clarification, butlers are not the same as valets, manservants who serve as personal attendants to an individual, though in popular culture the two are often conflated. Indeed, the name of P. G. Wodehouse's fictional valet Jeeves has since been used as a generic label for a butler by many, including Gonzo and Miss Piggy.
- In the "Return to Beneath the Planet of the Pigs" sketch from The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence, a human astronaut impersonates a pig butler, and is addressed as "Hudson." This is a reference to Mr. Hudson, the dignified butler played by Gordon Jackson on Upstairs Downstairs. Jackson later made a cameo appearance, in Hudson's butler garb, in the celebrity version of "Put Down the Duckie."
- In The Muppet Show episode 103 sketch "Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Disappearing Clues," Gorgon Heap portrays Fielding the butler. In this case, the butler really *did* do it, murdering Lord Bottomley and then consuming all evidence and witnesses (from the corpse to Baskerville as Dr. Watson).
- In The Great Muppet Caper, Dorcas informs her husband Neville that the butler's been discharged, thus posing a quandary when Kermit the Frog rings the bell. As Miss Piggy gives Kermit a whirlwind tour of No. 17 Highbrow Street in order to maintain her Lady Holiday masquerade, she dismisses Neville as "a servant of some sort" and later addresses him as "Jeeves."
- In the video compilation Gonzo Presents Muppet Weird Stuff, Gonzo asks Camilla to "ring for Jeeves," the imaginary butler. At one point, Shakey Sanchez wanders in, and Gonzo tries to convince his lady love that it's the missing Jeeves.
- Baxter (Leslie Nielsen), butler to Mr. Willowby in Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree
- Carter, butler to Howard Tubman
- Dish Brush Butler, servant to the royal household of kitchen instrument rod puppets depicted in The Muppets Make Puppets.
- Faversham, butler to Miss Piggy,
- A giant monster butler appears in the 1985 book The House of Seven Colors; since the bridge is broken, the Sesame Street gang have to spend the night in the titular home, with the monster showing them to their rooms.
- Joe Hundred Guy's Butler
- Squire Trelawney's butler in Muppet Treasure Island.
- Wodehouse, butler to Lady Agatha