Not many married couples could survive what comics Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher do.
For starters, there’s Put Your Hands Together, the weekly comedy showcase the two have co-hosted at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles since 2013. In 2016, they premiered Take My Wife, a scripted television show based on their lives that Esposito and Butcher wrote, produced, and starred in for NBC’s comedy-streaming platform Seeso.
Now they’re testing the bounds of their relationship by embarking on a bus tour to perform stand-up across the country.
“I think I’m ready for bus life,” Butcher says. “I hope the bus driver has a soundproof booth though, because we’re really good at fighting.”
“Damn, are we good at fighting,” Esposito agrees.
Bus arguments aside, Esposito and Butcher have accomplished a lot in the last several years. In addition to Put Your Hands Together, which is also released as a podcast, the two individually released stand-up specials in 2016 to critical acclaim. Esposito’s Marriage Material was taped for Seeso just days before her wedding to Butcher, while Butcher’s album Butcher debuted at No. 1 on iTunes.
However, it is likely that Take My Wife stands as their biggest success. When news came out in early August that Seeso would shutter after launching in January 2016, it left Esposito and Butcher without a home for their as-yet-unreleased second season.
Taking to Twitter, Esposito made a post that quickly went viral, laying out what made the show so special, including having two seasons of an all-female writer’s room, having LGBTQ actors play 22 of 47 roles, licensing eight songs from queer musicians, and partnering with queer-friendly clothing companies for costuming.
“For me, it was just really important to include as many folks as possible, because that’s what my life is like,” Butcher says. “I don’t only know straight, white people. I know a lot of straight, white people, but my life that I live — and specifically, the life that I live in comedy — is with a lot of different people, and so it was really important to me to have a show that reflected that both on-screen but also behind the camera.”
In hiring, they also emphasized embracing diversity in order to prove its value.
“So often, when we talk about diversity, it can be framed badly as some sort of ‘scholarship’ program for ‘undeserving’ folks who have been plucked out of nowhere,” Esposito says. “What we tried to do is look for folks with experience and passion, and be the link between what they had done prior and their next job that could level them up. There were actors and writers and crew members who were able to join their guild because of credits earned on Take My Wife. I want to be somebody who’s holding the door open.”
Seemingly unable to embrace the concept of free time, Esposito has recently launched a second podcast. Queery features a one-on-one conversation between Esposito and a queer guest. Butcher was the natural choice to be first, and subsequent installments have featured the likes of Transparent creator Jill Soloway and HIV-positive comedian Casey Ley.
She says part of the onus for creating the show was the rapidly changing nature of the LGBTQ civil-rights movement.
“It’s such a fast-moving system. There are micro-generations for queer people,” Esposito says. “Like, someone who is two years younger than me or two years older than me has almost lived a completely different life. I just don’t want to lose that moment.”
Esposito also sees Queery as a platform to move beyond coming out stories and to dig into the real lives of queer folks in all their facets.
“I’ve done enough interviews. I know the questions that are usually asked, and that’s not our whole lives. Just like in Take My Wife, we get new couches — and we talk about having kids or not. I don’t see those stories being told.”
For now, both comics are focused on their upcoming tour, and the chance it will offer them to leave L.A. and visit fans across the country.
“I’m really looking forward to getting out and meeting people and seeing places and seeing what’s up with everybody and seeing what everybody needs and what they’re into and what we’re going to do, as people,” Butcher says.
To celebrate their bus tour, Esposito has finally done away with her iconic side mullet, a look she jokingly calls “the gayest hair in show business.” Required to keep it while taping Take My Wife, she is jubilant to once again be able to see her right ear.
“I am so excited to have a new look,” she says. “Man, it’s time to hit the road. I’ve got a new haircut. I’ve got some new jeans. I’m a whole new guy.”
Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher, Saturday, Sept. 23 at 8 p.m. at the Regency Ballroom. $35; axs.com.