Cameron Esposito is poised for world domination. The Chicago-born comedian (est. 1981) recently released a critically acclaimed CD, Same Sex Symbol, on the extra-extra-cool Kill Rock Stars label, and she's also grabbed eyeballs with Buzzfeed's hilarious Ask a Lesbian series. (As a theology major in college, she's kind of an expert).
Over the weekend she performed at the Outside Lands festival's comedy tent with Pete Holmes, Nate Bargatze and DJ Real, which she crammed into a summer that also included working on a new comedy album, acting in a few movies, writing a book, and watching action movies. (Phew.) If you missed her set at Outside Lands, she's also appearing Oct. 25 at the Independent in San Francisco. She somehow made time for some of our questions.
[jump] Have you had any memorable experiences performing at past music festivals?
At the Sasquatch Festival, you're right up against this gorge. You know, a hole in the earth. You're trying to be captivating in front of one of the most beautiful details you could possibly be standing in front of.
Is that kinda unnerving, trying to perform comedy in front of a giant hole?
It's a very well-constructed venue, so I don't think anybody has ever fallen into the hole. [Laughs] But who knows? Maybe you're really into your punchline.
Does performing at a music festival change the way you do your act?
If there's a hip-hop show going on at an adjacent stage, then people can hear that. But it's fun to figure out how big or small you have to be to remain interesting. [Once I ended up] standing on a speaker, walking out into the audience and screaming my punchlines.
What comedians do you like to check out when you're not working?
When it's my off-time, I do not watch comedy, because I watch comedy like 100 hours a week! [Laughs] So when it's my off-time, I watch action movies.
Oooh, like which ones?
Against everybody else's recommendation, I actually liked Terminator: Genysis. … I love an aging Arnold Schwarzenegger. When you do this for a living, you watch jokes and it's like when a mechanic looks at a car. You're figuring out how it all works, you're looking at the choices people are making. … It's not something where I can turn my brain off.
You discussed your deep religious background on Marc Maron's podcast WTF.
I was a theology major in college, and I thought maybe I wanted to be a priest. And after that, it kind of evolved into wanting to be a social worker or therapist, because I lost my faith. I no longer subscribe to anything specific. … I think what drew me to Catholicism was that it was a place where I felt comfortable communicating to people about what was most important to us as human beings. Like, why are we here, and what are we supposed to do with the time we have while we're here, and how should we treat each other? Those are the same questions that I feel like I deal with as a comic.
Your Buzzfeed video series, Ask a Lesbian, was absolutely hilarious.
I'm happy that those questions have been answered. I don't feel that everybody should have to speak for the minority group that they are a part of. Like, you don't need to ask your black friend about what it's like to have black hair. [Laughs] But I think that when you're in a minority group … it's really important to answer some of those questions on my own behalf.
Were there any really objectionable questions?
Just like, “Who's the man?” Where it's just like, “No one. That's the point.” I get that that person comes from a worldview where they can't possibly imagine a relationship where there's no man. But I can tell you, most lesbian relationships do not include a man. By definition!
Did the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage have any impact on your act?
The moment that we found out, my fiancee [comedian Rhea Butcher] and I both burst into tears and talked to our families, and hugged each other. And then we both had this moment where we looked at each other and said, “What are we gonna talk about onstage?” Because so much of my standup has had an element of activism in it. Queer issues have not been resolved overnight, but to have that one major focus … flipped in just a decade, completely on its head, is wild. There is a certain element of fighting that's taken away now. [Laughs] The good news is I am still a woman, so I will still get to be marginalized, probably for the rest of my life!
What's it like being engaged to another comedian?
It's amazing. We can talk about anything, we completely get where each other is coming from. And then also, it's stressful, because we are in the same field and there's some natural competition there.
Do you ever find yourselves writing jokes about the same situations, or the same arguments?
We just decided that avoiding that would be impossible and kind of crippling. As long as we're not making the same joke. Rhea and I often tour together, and I think it's kind of like the most interesting next evolution of comedy. In the past, two comics couldn't talk about the same thing in the same show. Otherwise it would seem like … repetitious. But while we're women, we're lesbians, we should seemingly have the same viewpoint … we don't. We're not from the same area, we haven't lived the same life. We have different takes on the same issues, also involving each other. I'm all for that. I think it's kind of interesting for the audience, too. Like a she said-she said-she said.