Cameron Esposito’s career has exploded since we last talked to her in 2014. The release of her second album “Same Sex Symbol” catapulted her to the top of the comedy scene, and her wildly successful “Ask a Lesbian” video series for BuzzFeed made her a household name — and a super recognizable face — to more than just comedy fans.
Now, with the release of her third album “Marriage Material,” and an accompanying special on Seeso (both out now), Cameron spilled to us just how much her life has changed in less than two years. Amid a whirlwind schedule packed with writing a book, filming movies and headlining shows, she found time to marry her longtime girlfriend, fellow comedian Rhea Butcher, just months after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. Her new special takes a deeper dive into social issues beyond the LGBT material she’s known for: Gun control, marijuana, and even periods are all fair game. The comic opened up to us about the road (literally) to her new special, becoming her own role model, and just how different married life is — especially when you work with your spouse.
The IBang: You got married a few months ago! Congratulations
Cameron Esposito: Thank you!
The IBang: How is married life, does it feel any different?
Cameron Esposito: It does feel different. Besides stand up comedy, I have never committed myself fully to any one thing before, or person. I’m very close to my family and I love my hometown of Chicago, and there were a lot of things I loved and had to leave, career-wise. Becoming an adult, you make a bunch of decisions, and it leads you away from something you care about. And this is the first person and the first thing that will always come with me in the future.That is a wild experience, having somebody that is that incorporated into your life and that you are now going to make decisions with.
The IBang: I’m getting married in November. Any advice as someone who is recently married?
Cameron Esposito: We toured up until the week of our wedding, which was a crazy choice. We were on the road together for years. In between that, I was shooting a bunch of movies, and writing a book, so all of the things that I think I would have thought [happened when you get married] like you slow down, you go on a trip together, you look into eachothers eyes, all of those things kind of fell away. The only thing that ended up mattering was that we threw a big party. That was our intention, to have the wedding be a party. And that was really fun. We had a friend of ours get ordained and marry us, and we served pizza and hot dogs, we had a DJ who played great music, and everybody danced.
The IBang: I was listening to your conversation with Chris Hardwick on the Nerdist podcast, which was recorded on June 26, 2015; the same day that the Supreme Court ruling came back in favor of same-sex marriage. It was such a lovely conversation, and you were the perfect person to be on that day.
Cameron Esposito: It was amazing that that happened! It was so wild. We got up, and cried for a couple of hours, and then I just got in the car, and I was like ‘thank God I have some sort of outlet today.’
The IBang: That was a few months before you got married. How did that impact your wedding, now that the decision made same-sex marriage the law of the land.
Cameron Esposito: We got engaged a week or two after [the Supreme Court ruling]. It impacted everything. I came out when I was 20, and at that time I was at a Catholic college that did not include sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policy, so I could have gotten kicked out of school for being gay. Just two years later, I still lived [at Boston College], and Massachusetts became the first state to allow marriage equality, and I was there on the State House steps watching the first couples get married. Then I started my professional comedy career the day after I graduated, which was within two weeks of marriage equality coming to Massachusetts, I auditioned for a comedy theater and got hired and was a professional comedian. All of that happened within two weeks. So for my entire career, this has been a major issue. Not just because I came out in this place where it was difficult to come out, but then because this was such a huge part of our national conversation for a decade, and that happened to include my entire career.
Such a big part of my career has been about making a safe space for other queer people, but also for myself. I just realized that if I was going to tour the country and do jokes and make people happy and make people laugh, I also had a responsibility to try and get those people to vote for my rights, and elect officials that would vote, so I could be a real, whole person in the eyes of our government. It was so tangled up in the mission of my life as a stand up. If you go to sleep one night and your marriage will still be illegal in half of the states, and then to wake up the next morning, and it’s suddenly legal nationwide, that is such a bizarre experience. I do not feel like things were fixed overnight, but that major struggle…the government is there to defend us. If you don’t believe in same sex marriage personally, then please don’t marry a person of the same sex.
The IBang: You would think it would just be as simple as that.
Cameron Esposito: For me personally, that’s how I’m taking it now. Because, whatever somebody says, legally they cannot block [same sex marriage]. Again, there are other places that this is not true, such as job discriminations, housing discriminations, bathroom discriminations for trans people, there are so many places this is not true, but [marriage equality] is the one place that I’m not going to take anybody seriously who is fighting this because the law is on our side. So when people say things like “does [marriage] even matter?” I think the answer is, whether or not the law is always enforced, it’s built into the country, when your country supports you, it’s such a different feeling in terms of safety.
The IBang: You said a lot of your act has been focused on creating a safe space for queer people. Do you think that was at all influenced by growing up and not having a lot of examples of happy, successful, gay and lesbian people in entertainment?
Cameron Esposito: Yeah absolutely. Without sounding too arrogant, when I was coming out, and I was looking for role models, I just didn’t have them. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t exist, but I just didn’t have access to those people. So I think I kind of created my own, which was that I could get on stage, and I could say that I was OK with myself, and I could say that I was OK with my life, almost so that I could hear myself say that. I was my own role model, and that’s how I created a safety for myself.
But I really think that this doesn’t just impact queer people. Any time a person who is on a margin speaks about their life as if it is positive, and speaks about themselves as if they deserve to be taken seriously and as if they deserve to be respected, I think it helps everyone. We are all living in this brave new world, and if you happen to be a straight person, that doesn’t mean that you still live like a 1950s relationship. You might not be married, and you might not have a partner, or you might have a partner and you guys have two kids and you don’t ever plan to get married. There are just so many relationship models now. And not just relationships models; there are so many different types of people who deserve to be included, and I think breaking down doors helps everyone.
The IBang: A lot of your previous material before discussed your sexuality and personal relationships. How has this societal shift affected your new material, now that marriage equality is a nationwide law?
Cameron Esposito: I’ve always just written about what’s happening in my life in my head in that moment. So the awesome part about that is you constantly regenerate material, because you keep living. I think that for the six months to a year that I was touring, and then that material became “Marriage Material,” the special, it was just on my mind. I just talked about the things that were on my mind. So that’s why there’s a portion of the special about better gun laws, because that’s a huge thing that we’ve been dealing with. I don’t know what I’ll write about next, or what will happen next. I’m curious to see what the world will bring us.
The IBang: What can people expect from “Marriage Material” compared to your other stand up?
Cameron Esposito: What I’m really proud of about the special is that I really do feel like it turned out like one sentence. It’s just an hour with good flow, and it makes sense as a special. To me, stand up is like any sporting activity; it’s all about reps. It’s really just the number of hours you put into it. This [special] compared to my earlier stuff is just a continuing evolution of the work of a stand up. You can see the couple of years that I spent on the road doing an hour a night in the zillion places and staying in a thousand hotel rooms, you can really see it compared to the 2014 release. So I hope that that’s everybody else’s experience too. I can’t wait to get back out there and get even better!
The IBang: Your wife Rhea Butcher is so funny too, and you both complement each other, but you two have these really separate careers on your own. It’s really cool to see that you are your own individual people, with your own unique voices, but then you can come together for projects, and it’s just as great. So how do you decide on when you want to work together?
Cameron Esposito: It’s been a little organic up until this point, on a project-by-project basis. It was either something that either of us were taking on, or we had an idea that we talked about that we wanted to pitch together in a more collaborative way. But yeah that stuff was already happening before we were even dating. I always wanted to work with Rhea when I first saw her doing stand up.
The IBang: Is it hard to strike a balance between work and your working relationship, and then your personal relationship, or does it bleed together?
Cameron Esposito: It’s hard! I think of us like a family business. We’re a small business, and it just so happens that our business is stand up. I think anybody that works with their partner, their husband, their wife, or anybody they are involved with personally, even a sibling, when family and business are mixed, it’s the best. You can be honest with that person and you want so much more for that person than some random business partner, but it’s also so much pressure to put on any relationship. So yeah, it’s hard every day.
The IBang: As trite as it sounds, I’ve heard a lot of single comics say, “I wish I could get married and have kids because it would give me so many more hours of material.” Have you felt like being married has given you this plethora of new material?
Cameron Esposito: I’m in an unusual position because I’m married to another comic, so I think it does give new material because it shifts perspective and any time you shift perspective, you have new material. I also don’t think my marriage will be the well that I always pull from because the person that I’m married to is somebody that I keep some parts of our life a little private. And then other parts of our life are very public. We are super public about who are are, posting pictures of each other and all that. But when it comes to writing about each other, I don’t think that has finally settled yet.
The IBang: You had the really successful “Ask a Lesbian” video series on BuzzFeed, and the “She Said’ videos for Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. Do people still come up to you and ask really personal questions, or ask you on social media?
Cameron Esposito: The internet is a great place for that, because anonymity tends to make people extra bold. I don’t know that I expected that the “She Said” videos, or the “Ask a Lesbian” videos would be that impactful. Because to me, in my life, those are the things I talk about on a daily basis and have always talked about, but they really do seem to strike a chord with people. People recognize us from those BuzzFeed videos. They were a huge, massive hit, but it’s funny because they happened like a year ago, and I thought people’s attention spans for internet stuff were shorter than that. We’ve traveled to universities this year. I was at Yale, and Princeton, and Stanford, and at all of those places, I heard from faculty or students that people were teaching the “Ask a Lesbian” or “She Said” videos in gender studies classes. How is it that I am the best resource for this? I don’t know. But I guess they continue to have a lasting impact.