Ellen DeGeneres is the queen of daytime TV, beloved by the LGBTQ community as well as moms and grandparents everywhere. Alt-comic Tig Notaro turned her pain and suffering into cathartic comedy gold, winning acclaim with her heroic cancer stand-up. Kate McKinnon is practically the MVP of Saturday Night Live, killing it with her dead-on impersonations (including Ellen!) and crazy characters she comes up with.
But even though comedians who identify as lesbians are making impressive moves, Cameron Esposito finds that, when it comes to comedy, it's still a man's world. "There's a stereotype that there are a lot of lesbians in comedy, but there's, like, five of us," says Esposito, 33, laughing on the phone from her home in Los Angeles. "I'm not overly bummed about that. I knew that when I started. But I don't know that I have noticed a change."
Nevertheless, Esposito has been moving on up herself. Just a few years ago, the former improv comic was back in her Chicago hometown, doing anecdotal bits at open-mikes, wearing her trademark side mullet. Now, thanks to appearances on podcasts and talk shows (she was good-naturedly heckled by both Craig Ferguson and Jay Leno when she did a set on The Late Late Show), she's still telling funny stories about everyday life and rocking the mullet. She's also headlining all over the country, making a stop at the Pinhook courtesy of DSI Comedy Theater Friday.
Joining her is opener Rhea Butcher, who is also her fiancée. They've been touring together for three years, and have been engaged for two. "I was working my way up to becoming a headliner," Esposito says. "When you first start, you can't necessarily bring anybody. Now, it's at a place where I bring whoever I want, and I'm lucky enough to work with her."
Esposito writes a biweekly column for the Onion A.V. Club titled "Who in the World is Cameron Esposito?" "It's kind of a stand-up-as-it-relates-to-life-in-general column," she says. While it finds her riffing on everything from making it as a comedian in L.A. to that awesome time she met the gorgeous villainess from the third Terminator movie, she writes it mainly for her brothers and sisters in the comedic trenches.
"It is really important to me that other stand-ups are reading it," she says, "especially newer or younger comics. Comedy, stand-up specifically, has always been something you learned by doing. The Internet allows us to share the experience of what it's like to actually do it in a way that, in the past, we couldn't. So it's been really great to know that people are being affected by it as they're beginning their comedy careers."
Thanks to her column, she will also pen a book, which is scheduled to drop sometime next year. Until then, she'll be out doing stand-up, looking to make people of all types laugh.
"It is interesting because now that I am a bigger name, there are more lesbians at my shows than there used to be," she says. "It used to kind of be comedy fans. So it's a mixed crowd, in terms of sexuality, age and how people find out about me. But that's cool, because I like a lot of different ingredients."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Comedy camaraderie."