Cameron Esposito is an LA-based stand-up comedian, actor, and writer who has been named “A Comic to Watch” by The New York Times and Cosmopolitan. Jay Leno referred to her as “the future of comedy” after her late night debut in 2013, and her 2014 comedy album, “Same Sex Symbol,” was named Best of 2014 by the AV Club after debuting at #1 on the iTunes comedy charts.
Esposito has recently released a stand-up special, which was taped two days before marrying her wife and fellow comedian, Rhea Butcher. The special is called “Marriage Material,” and covers everything from her struggle to identify as a gay woman while growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, to trying not to kill her sleepwalking wife at night.
We caught up with Esposito shortly after the release of the special and talked about her being a voice in the LGBT community, why it’s important to create opportunities for yourself, and her recent inspirations.
You’re a very open person in your stand-up routines. What does it mean to you to have that platform to utilize?
I think as a woman and as a career person, when I first started in stand-up, that was really what it was about for me. I feel like — well, definitely as a gay person in this country, but also as a woman — I think things have gotten a little better, and I think we’re a little more used to hearing viewpoints that are outside the majority. I really felt like — it’s like tearing a band-aid off — the opposite is listening to other people’s perspectives. It really is the ultimate way to get your voice out there, and it was really just — I was becoming a young woman. I was becoming an adult, and I realized I didn’t hear people who sounded like me, so I wanted to create my own space by being really open about what my life is like. I mean, there’s a certain selfishness in that, in wanting to make the world safer for myself, and I mean it has gotten better. We’ve had so much change in the 15 years since I’ve been doing comedy. We still have so much work to do, but luckily for me, my job won’t be over immediately ‘cause it’s still, like, really hard to be a woman.
You cover things that are female specific, such as periods and puberty, so it’s like a show that welcomes the guys but is very female friendly.
Number one, I love that vibe. I love women being honest with other women, and also, my audiences are — I mean, some people will assume that my audiences are specifically women, but it’s awesome because I really think we underestimate a dude’s ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Like, for some reason we just think men can’t do it; it would be too hard for them, and we have to protect them from that opportunity because to ask them to do it would be too much. Dudes come to shows all the time, and to comedy podcasts, or if I’ve been on “Adventure Time” on Cartoon Network — that’s such a broad base of viewers, so a ton of people would come in. I think it’s a female safe space, but it’s also a great place for dudes to hang out. If you’re a straight woman, and you come to see Cameron Esposito perform, and you leave with another dude, then that guy is a good dude. So, come to my shows to pick up dudes is what I’m trying to say.
Blind dates with Cameron Esposito.
Yes, exactly. If you can make it out after laughing together, then you’re going to be a great couple.
Also in your routine, you talk about being young and gay and going to a Catholic school, and just not being understood by those around you. What would you tell someone going through that now?
Well, I think also, I didn’t understand myself, which is a huge part of it. I think that was actually the most difficult part because I really listened to a lot of what other people said about what I was learning that I was. It was sad, and I didn’t know there would be a future for me, and I didn’t know that I could have a job, or live in a community, or have a wife, so it all came as a surprise to me because I didn’t have role models that I connected to. I didn’t know what it was like to be a gay adult, so what I would say to anybody going through any transition where they’re figuring out who they are — there’s space for you. There is space for you in this world, and you can have a great life, and you can live in a big city, and you can have friends, and you can be who you know you are.
Another thing you touch on a little in your routine is the idea that it’s maybe harder for girls who are trying to figure themselves out because society is more likely to label them as tomboys.
Yea, I do talk about that on stage. I think one of the differences — for boys, behavior it really controlled because it’s difficult for us to accept feminine men, or for society — so if there’s a man who has any traits we deem as feminine, that kid is really shamed. We have a really narrow window that we allow for men to exist within, and that’s a little bit expanded for women because women can be tomboys, and not necessarily have that have anything to do with their sexuality. I think gay men face a level of abuse that I wasn’t necessarily familiar with, but I don’t think we’re super kind to lesbians in middle school. Maybe it’s different now because I was in middle school a while ago, but it wasn’t like I was hearing great things about lesbians. It was less assumed that women who were outside of the norms in behavior were gay women.
You have a television show you’re working on with your wife. What can you tell me about that?
It’s awesome, actually. It’s called “Take My Wife.” It will be out on Seeso, which is NBC’s new streaming service. They’re doing some amazing work because they’re reaching out to people they love, and they asked those people to create shows that they wanted, which is really a different way of doing things. You go into a network and you pick a specific show, and then you have to go through different rounds of having that show approved at various levels, but because Seeso is new and the stakes are a little lower for that reason, they were able to come to Rhea and me and ask us what was a show that we would want to see, and we were like, “We would like to see a show about two married lesbian stand-up comics,” and so that is the show we are making.
You’re also developing with FX?
I’m developing a show on FX with Stephen Falk, and Stephen has a show on FX called “You’re the Worst” that is really well-reviewed, and people love it. It’s a great show. We’re creating a show together about a gay and straight sister that is loosely based on my relationship with my sisters, and takes place in Chicago, which is where I’m from.
And then there’s your book.
Yes, I’m also writing a book. That’s a collection of essays about — I used to write a column for AV Club about stand-up as a job and a way of coping with the world. It was more about mechanics and behavior, and it was from there that I got the book deal, so it will be kind of in that same vein. There will be some coming out stuff, as well.
You’re super productive.
I’m very lucky. I grew up in a house where my parents were super driven. My dad is a small business owner, and I just learned that you make your own opportunities and that has served me well.
What do you find inspiring right now?
Just this morning I woke up, and I re-watched a bunch of my friend’s, Maria Bamford’s—do you know who Maria Bamford is? She is an amazing comic. She just had an amazing show [“Lady Dynamite”] come out on Netflix, and she’s a guest star on “Take My Wife.” She’s somebody I’ve known for a while. She’s the first stand-up comedian to take me on the road with her to open for her, so that was a huge deal for me at the time. She’s always been a comedy hero of mine. If people want to be inspired, Maria has this new Netflix show that’s getting all these reviews, and people are really into it, and she’s about to have a big moment, I think, in her career. If you go online, a couple of years ago, she made this series called “Ask My Mom,” and she plays herself and her mom. They’re minute-long videos where she answers questions from the internet, and it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s one person acting full-time. It’s at her house. I think it’s just, to echo what I was just saying about creating your own opportunities, a lot of times women will ask me how you get into this business. You just start doing it. You just come up with an idea, and you make it happen. Looking at Maria’s show on Netflix, one might say, “How did that happen?” Because of the internet, we have a blueprint for how it happened.
Are there any questions you haven’t been asked in an interview that you really want to answer?
I actually love Celine Dion. Love her.