This week, XRAY In The Morning had the pleasure of sitting down with comedic powerhouses Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher to discuss the important things: baseball, mullets, love and comedy. They’ll be at Revolution Hall tonight, Friday September 22nd with their new show “Back to Back.”
Jefferson: We’re joined by Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher, partners in comedy as well as marriage. Their “Back to Back” standup comedy tour is coming to Revolution Hall this Friday, September 22nd. This is a real treat. Good morning Cameron. Good morning Rhea.
Cameron: Hey there!
Rhea: Good morning!
Jefferson: How long have you been making comedy together? How long have you been together in other ways?
Cameron: We have been working together for six years and we have been dating for five. So, we started working together before we were an item. Now we are also married people. Married to each other.
Jefferson: Congratulations and best wishes. What do you want to talk about first? How many cities you doing this tour on? What’s the hardest part? What’s the most fun part? What are you trying to get to? Say good things. You guys are better at this than I am.
Cameron: Oh sure. This is Cameron and what I’ll do is say a full paragraph and then Rhea will come in with like a one sentence joke. That’s kind of how our Dynamic works.
Rhea: We’re doing 23 cities this fall, which is really exciting because we haven’t been on the road for a couple years. We’ve been here in LA making a television show and Portland is our second stop. We are in a bus for the first time.
Cameron: We’re at rockstar status. Rhea totally agrees.
Rhea: Yeah, I completely agree. We’re at rockstar status in that maybe we’ll be playing the video game Rockstar on the bus.
Jefferson: What’s the worst city you’re going to?
Cameron: It doesn’t really work like that. Honestly, we like playing all sorts of different cities.
Jefferson: Okay, what’s the second worst? You don’t want to call it the worst, cause they get mad. But, what about the second worst?
Cameron: No, I mean I don’t think there is a worst city to play.
Rhea: Literally the worst place to play is Los Angeles, where we live, because people here have seen everything, everybody’s in the entertainment industry, and people are impossible to impress. That being said, we do it every week. Every Tuesday we perform here in LA and it’s super fun because it’s a challenge, but I’m so excited to get to cities where there’s maybe a little less access to standup comedy. This is like an industry town. It’s the same as DC. There’s nothing new you can do in entertainment.
Jefferson: I clerked for a federal judge in Southern California. I went to a comedy show there and it was a benefit for the Society for the Saving of Small Dogs. You can take it from there. That is your profession to take it from there. My only disappointment was they did not find the humor in the title of their event, but comedy is a thing it happens all the time where you are. We are just happy we have comedy here, but we are happy for you to grace us with your presence. Cameron Esposito, I enjoy you very much on Twitter. Rhea, why are you not as active in my Twitter feed as Cameron.
Rhea: I don’t know. Do you have like some muted phrases like baseball? Maybe that’s why I’m not showing up on your Twitter feed because I feel like I 100% tweet way more often than my wife.
Jefferson: Well, I blame myself. Are you a Dodger fan?
Rhea: I am a baseball fan. I don’t know. I’m in between so many teams right now.
Cameron: She says that, but we’ve gone to … how many Dodger games have you gone to this season?
Rhea: I’ve gone to 12 games this season.
Jefferson: That’s a lot of games.
Cameron: It’s right there.
Rhea: It’s really fun, and we go together and I’m into it now. I had to learn all of the things about it, but now I like it.
Jefferson: Cameron, are you a Dodger fan, or are you noncommittal so as not to offend any of the 23 cities you’re visiting? 19 of which probably have teams.
Cameron: I am a Dodger’s fan, but I am also from Chicago, and this last week I got to go take my dad to a Cub’s game for the first time since they won the world series. I flew into town, and I bought like pretty sweet seats. I got to take my dad and sit next to him. We were right near the on deck circle. It was actually one of the cutest moments. Thank god I got to do that. I was just like jazzed out of my mind. He was smiling. I bought him some hot dogs. It’s fun to take your parents sometimes.
Jefferson: We got a text in, “Just heard Cameron on “Homophilia.” She was amazing. I love her on Comedy Bang! Bang!. She’s a comedy hero.” That last part was in all caps. I should have emphasized that in my voice. When people are effusive in their praise … Rhea, let’s ask you. What do they mostly focus on? What are the best traits about you and Cameron?
Rhea: Oh man, the best traits about me and Cameron is definitely our hair. That is what people really emphasize, really go all caps on, or all caps off, you know because it’s hair. They just really love our hair. I think we have the most iconic hair in comedy.
Cameron: Oh, wow Rhea. Throwing a gauntlet to all other standup comics.
Jefferson: You weren’t going to criticize cities, but you will go after the coifs of all of the other comics. Cameron, what do you think are the traits that people should be most effusive about?
Cameron: I’m very yelly. People seem to like that I yell a lot. Maybe that’s not what people are into, but it is what I hear the most. I don’t know.
Jefferson: Rhea, your hair more resembles what I … although I had too much of just a tangled mess, but what I aspired to as a young person was your hairstyle. I will say Cameron that I never imagined I could aspire to your amazing hairstyle.
Cameron: You know what else? I recently got a haircut and I have all new hair. That’s going to take an adjustment.
Rhea: Folks are going to have to our show to see this brand new hair. It’s a big deal. No more side mullet.
Jefferson: Do you want to describe it, or do you just want to tease it leave it … I don’t mean tease the hair, but tease the idea of the hair and-
Cameron: And let people see it? You know, you can see it on my Instagram and stuff so it’s not like it’s totally brand new, but I am going to get it cut again. The last time I was in Portland it really felt like everybody sort of had my haircut. That’s part of the emphasis for changing. You can’t catch me Portland. I’m just out of reach.
Jefferson: When I watch your comedy, when I listen to others I am interested … I don’t yet have a question well crafted, I couldn’t even say those words … about changing cultural norms in comedy that if we think of humor that touched on love and relationships, that touched on gay love and LGBTQ relationships 30 years ago, heck there weren’t as many letters, and there would be a Twitter just for the notion of talking about it. Now it is closer to the baseline. How have you in your own comedy seen the change of what we embrace in the social norms? How is it still frustrating and/or how is it still inspiring?
Cameron: You know we are so lucky because some people did the really hard work before us. When Ellen came out she lost her entire future. She was blacklisted in Hollywood. She didn’t work for a bunch of years. Because that happened I have always been able to be out on stage. In my career, I started doing standup about 15 years ago. Really I got my first job working professionally in comedy the same week that marriage equality came to Massachusetts, the state that I lived in at the time. What I have seen is that people, queer folks, are speaking on our own behalf, and so you actually know queer people. When you see queer people on TV or when you go see them do standup or music or whatever it is, you can’t have this idea about a concept that you’re scared of because it’s a human being that you know.
Rhea: I will say that it’s been wonderful and a real honor to kind of represent the queer community and tour around the country and talk to people. I love meeting audience members who are not queer, who are cool and allies and on our side and just want to laugh about things. I also love meeting our audience members who are queer and often line up to tell us how long they drove to come to the show. That’s what we hear all the time. People saying, “I drove six hours. I drove eight hours. I live in a smaller town where I don’t have a big queer community and it means a lot to me to come to this show.” We’re really lucky.
Jefferson: Is it annoying to be interviewed by a white male host who still think that that topic is novel?
Cameron: I don’t think so because I’m glad that you think that it is because one thing … not only are we sort of like doing comedy to spite what’s happening in the political arena now because all across the country laws are being passed at the local level against specifically our trans siblings and LGBTQIA people in general passing discriminatory laws. We’re also trying to fight lethargy of feeling as though the fight is over or it’s done because there’s more visibility, or because this movie and this TV show. People kind of feel like, “oh yeah, well there is nothing, why are you still angry about this?” I’m glad that people still find it novel because that means that it is and that it isn’t over.
Rhea: I think the only thing that you could do, that anyone could do. The thing that I do get that like actually does offend me is when people ask if we have audience members who are not lesbians. We do get that question-
Cameron: The answer is definitely yes.
Rhea: Yeah, I mean the reason that that upsets me … that sucks as a question is because you do not ask straight dude comics if people that are not straight dude comics come see them.
Jefferson: Should I start? I could totally ask that question.
Cameron: You should start. You should absolutely start. What I love about doing this job is that we are hoping to change how the world is approached. Straight white dudes … that is a lens. It’s just because it’s the most normative lens. We forget that it’s somebody’s viewpoint. I love representing something that we hear a little bit less about. I love showing everybody what that viewpoint is like.
Jefferson: We’ve got 30 seconds. We’re supposed to wrap. There was other stuff we were supposed to do, but we are honored to have you on the show and didn’t want to cut you off. The political discussion is a good segway to the last question I guess we will have time for, which is era of Trump and rise of Republicans, more fodder for comedy, or harder to emotionally overcome it to be funny, or both?
Cameron: I think it’s harder to be funny, but I also think that people need it more so we are trying really hard.
Rhea: I would say it is decidedly both for me.
Cameron: Yeah so we are going to bring it as hard as we can, and we know that you are bummed and stressed out.
Jefferson: So are we.
Cameron: Let’s go be together.
Jefferson: Cameron Esposito, Rita Butcher, we are fans. You’re going to be at Revolution Hall September 22nd with “Back to Back.” Thank you so much for being on at XRAY.
Cameron: Yeah thank you.
Rhea: Have a good day.
Jefferson: Thank you everybody and thank you to democracy.