Mark your calendars accordingly, because 2016 will be the year of Cameron Esposito. The 34-year-old comic came out swinging in 2013 when she made her television debut on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and since then, she’s appeared on many other late night talk shows, variety programs like @midnight, and podcasts. Her first comedy album, Same Sex Symbol, was released to critical acclaim in 2014.
But that was then, and this is now, a “now” that includes two films at Sundance (Sleight and First Girl I Loved), a third at SXSW (Operator), and a fourth featuring a who’s who of acting talent and directed by Garry Marshall, Mother’s Day. If that’s not enough, Esposito is also working on a new sitcom with her wife and fellow comedian, Rhea Butcher, for NBC’s new streaming comedy channel, Seeso. The same platform that will soon debut her first hour stand-up special, Marriage Material, which was filmed just two days before her and Butcher’s wedding last December.
It’s three months late, but congratulations on getting married.
Oh gosh, I will take it! You can tell me that for a while.
You had two films at Sundance and a third, Mother’s Day, due in April. 2016 is becoming the year of Cameron.
2016 is a really big year. Yes, that’s true. I was also in a movie at South By Southwest, I’m making my own original show right now for Seeso with my wife, I sold a show to FX, I’m writing a book… shit’s crazy right now! Shit is crazy.
Do you even have any free time?
I haven’t had free time for years. That’s the truth. If you do this job, it’s a night job. And it’s a day job. It’s an all-the-time job. I think that most people who commit to being a stand-up… all of your other stuff kind of goes away. It’s a real lifestyle. What’s happening now is there are more eyeballs on the stuff that’s happening, as opposed to just me getting on planes and performing for one hundred or a thousand people at a time. It’s starting to actually make things that lots of people are going to see, so that’s a huge change.
Was Marriage Material already in the mix, or was that something that came about after you met with Seeso?
The special was already going to be produced by a production company called New Wave, and then Seeso came in and asked to buy it. They already had the show that we were working on and they wanted to special to go with it.
A lot of comics are releasing their specials on streaming services now, especially because they have more control. Was this the case with Marriage Material?
Yes, I think. I mean I think… I don’t know. Obviously this is my first special so I don’t know what it was like before, but I will say across the board, doing comedy right now is a really exciting and bizarre experience. We have a ton of control over our lives and our products. Also, there’s a huge demand to make stuff. As fast as you can churn things out, you can figure out something to do with it. I don’t just mean that it’s going to go on Comedy Central or Seeso or anywhere you even know. I mean you can tweet every hour, on the hour, and you can record a video and put it directly up. It’s just a very different time. Every comic is sort of their own network right now. You don’t want to flood people, but as much content as you can create, there’s a place for it. It’s a wild time to be working.
There’s definitely a lot of wild crossover these days thanks to social media. Is that how you met Bobcat Goldthwait, Marriage Material‘s director?
Actually Bob and I met the traditional way, via stand-up comedy. A couple of years ago, when I still lived in Chicago, Rhea and I had been touring together as comics. Then we stared dating, and the first place we went together was Peoria, Illinois. Bob was headlining a club there. I was booked to feature for him and Rhea did some guest work. The three of us all got along really well. When we moved to Los Angeles, Bob was one of the first people who really welcomed us to the city and would have us over to his house.
So when I had the opportunity to make a special, I asked him to direct it because he’s important to me as a person and a friend, but he’s also such a great filmmaker. I would specifically recommend World’s Greatest Dad to any readers of yours who might not have seen it. It’s such a beautiful movie. He’s extremely accomplished, so it was awesome to have him there. And then he of course came to our wedding, which was two days later.
Many comics will joke about how their partners, spouses or family members do or do not mind being a part of the act. But both you and Rhea are comedians…
Well I think it’s both, but we decided years ago that neither of us got to own anything. Like we can both talk about everything. What I mean is, there’s no calling who gets what topic because I think that would be exhausting. I don’t know that I’m the kind of comic who would… Not that other people are doing this like mad, but it certainly happens sometimes. I probably wouldn’t be the person that would throw my partner under the bus.
The cool thing is, Rhea actually gets to talk back. We have a show together at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles. We tell a story from both sides, often. It’s like a of Rashomon sort of experience, and it’s also available on the podcast, Put Your Hands Together. It’s really fun to do that with her, but there’s also a little bit of separation in terms of what we will actually talk about onstage. Just because both of us want to respect each other’s privacy and the privacy of our relationship.
What about your sleepwalking story?
I think that piece of material is probably as personal as things ever will get. It’s also a balancing act. I don’t want to take anything from Rhea and I don’t want people to laugh at her, but there’s also the political angle that puts us in a relationship together. Experiencing life together. The number of times gay people have actually talked about their lives that way, in stand-up and in other places… Our depictions and the things that we share about our lives, the things that pop up about same-sex couples or queer people in the media — television, film, book, everything — are usually moments based on crisis. It’s like, somebody comes out and then they die. Somebody kisses a woman for the first time and then they die. Two women marry each other and then one of them cheats on the other with a man. Two men get married and then immediately they’re both pregnant and all the babies are miscarried and then new babies happen. It’s all very high-octane stuff, and I think the small things are never talked about. They just don’t see the light of day very much.
Sounds like you’re describing Oscar-bait…
The person has to cry so much and so hard. Everything is terrible. I think coming out stories are really valid and that we should share them, but we live our lives afterword. Things to happen to us on a daily basis. We just get a couch or we move to a new apartment, and I think those things… It doesn’t feel like we have those moments.
True, though getting a couch from somewhere like Craigslist can be far from normal.
[Laughs.] Yes it can! Absolutely. Well straight characters or non-queer characters have every experience in television or film. They have everything happen to them. They have gross sex and sweet sex and awful sex. Their range of emotions is everything. But when it’s two women on screen, it’s a light peck of a kiss or it’s unclear where their hands are going or what’s happening. It’s just wrong! Stuff is so often just wrong! Just factually incorrect.
Hence why you focus on the everyday in Marriage Material. Things like that — sleepwalking, planning a wedding and so on — can be just as funny, if not funnier than the crazier stuff comics talk about on stage.
The door’s already been kicked down, and I spent 10 years of my career trying to help that door get kicked down. My last album, Same Sex Symbol, is a lot more like, “Give us our rights!” And then our rights just happened. Not everything was fixed. There’s still so much work to do for so many people who live their lives on the margins, but it was… I did just wake up one day in a totally different America. We went to sleep one night and half the states in our country did not allow for same-sex marriage. The next morning, all of them allowed it. So I think it’s important to acknowledge that we live in this new time.
I had an interview yesterday, and the gentleman I was talking to asked me, “Why wasn’t there more in Marriage Material defending same-sex marriage?” Well first of all, maybe just because I already burnt through all that material on the 2014 album. But also, we don’t have to defend it anymore. We have a lot more work to do, but it’s legal. It happened and I’m not going to spend the rest of my life defending something that now our government defends. It took the pressure of that thing off, so now I think it’s about showing the small things.
It’s freeing, too.
We get to be people now. Not everywhere, not everybody, but now we get to operate as people. I think it affects everyone. The traditional man and woman — dude makes decision and goes to work, woman has babies — that has broken down for so many people. That model is different. This actually isn’t the ’50s, Donald Trump, and there’s no reason to make America great again. We’re great now, and we’re getting better. Marriage equality allows for more space so that everybody can breathe. Do people have to get married? Absolutely not! But I think it’s allowed for a conversation about what is expected based on your sex and gender roles, who’s going to earn what, how you’re going to have children, if you want to have children… I think it’s exploded that conversation in a positive way for everyone.
You and Rhea are working on a show for Seeso. Is that going to be a sitcom?
Yes! I believe it will be coming out in the summer. Right now we’re in the writing process. It’s so intense. We’ve got two weeks left of writing and then we start shooting, so we’re in the thick of it right now. It’s pretty awesome, I’ll say that much. I’ve never done this before. This is my first experience with this and I kind of love it.
And then you’ll give yourself a break at some point, right?
Never! No, terrible idea. I am the worst at protecting my own time and living like a person. Rhea is way better at that, thank God for her. I have to just do it. I have to get out of here. Maybe have dinner.
Cameron Esposito: Marriage Material premieres Thursday, March 24 on Seeso. Until then, here’s a preview…