Interview

Cameron Esposito Talks ‘Marriage Material’… and Dolphin Skin

Before giving our listeners some etiquette advice, the comedian turns her bachelor bash into a stand-up special and explains how the Supreme Court changed her sense of humor.

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Photo Credit: Robyn Von Swank

Cameron Esposito has been named “A Comic to Watch” by The New York Times and Jezebel — and you may, in fact, have watched her on IFC’s “Maron” or E!’s “Chelsea Lately.” Her 2014 album, “Same Sex Symbol,” was named “One of the Year’s Best” by The A.V. Club.

Now she’s just released a new album, which was also filmed as a stand-up special. It’s called “Marriage Material,” and Cameron taped it two days before marrying her wife. Here’s the trailer:

The stand-up special is now on Seeso, and the audio album version is available on iTunes, Spotify and more. Below Cameron talks about planning two major life milestones, mixing her personal life into her stand-up act, and, well, we really shouldn’t spoil the fun.

Interview Highlights:

On filming her comedy special two days before her wedding

Cameron Esposito: It was a stupid choice. My wife is also a comic. And so I was like, “Listen, sweetie…” That’s not what I said. I said, “Darling. Love of my life. May I film a stand-up comedy special two days before our wedding? Because we are gay people, and it’s so new that we get to get married, and we’ve been working for this for 10 years.” And the idea was great.  But that’s too many things, it turns out. And the special is great…

Rico Gagliano: But the behind-the-scenes was a little fraught?

Cameron Esposito: Yeah, it’s too many things. You shouldn’t do that.

On the rules of comedy when you’re married to another comedian… and what dolphins feel like

Brendan Francis Newnam: You mention your wife, Rhea Butcher. She’s also a comedian. And this question sprung to mind immediately: When you two are watching something, or you make a funny observation together… who gets to keep the joke?

Cameron Esposito: Oh, that’s a great question. We decided long ago that all bets are off! We can each write jokes, and they can both be funny. Because if we actually had to choose who gets each thing… ugh. An actual living nightmare.

Rico Gagliano: But then sometimes when you observe something in her presence that’s funny and that she maybe doesn’t notice… do you just keep it to yourself?

Cameron Esposito: Well, one thing that is great is that we host a show on Tuesday nights at the UCB Theatre in Los Angeles. It’s also a podcast. People can listen to it. It’s called “Put Your Hands Together,” where we tell stories together.

Rico Gagliano: Can you give us an example maybe of something you…?

marriage material

Cameron Esposito: So, recently we went on a cruise. We were performing on this cruise. Rhea had gone on the same cruise the year before, and we were supposed to go together, but I got booked on “Maron,” and I couldn’t go at the last minute. And we had booked all of these excursions. So, Rhea just did those things by herself.

So, like, three months later, we got, in the mail, a CD that was full of pictures of Rhea posing romantically next to a dolphin.

So, something that we have been talking about onstage — I just have Rhea describe what it’s like to touch a dolphin again and again. Because you know what I would’ve said? “Taut.” I would’ve said, “It would be, like, a real taut body. Like a hard body.”

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, like a sausage or something.

Cameron Esposito: Like a… yeah, like a sausage! I was going to say, “Like an Arnold Schwarzenegger arm.” But you’re right. A sausage is the same thing! You’re right.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I was thinking like an olive because it’s smooth.

Cameron Esposito: An olive?!

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah.

Cameron Esposito: But an olive isn’t taut!  No, I just mean, like…

Brendan Francis Newnam: But imagine a dolphin olive!

Cameron Esposito: But doesn’t it feel like a dolphin has been stuffed? Like, it feels like it’s cased. It feels like there’s a casing.

Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s shiny and clear. Sausage is all, like, mushy.

Cameron Esposito: Well, you’re making sausages wrong, first of all.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I bet you dolphins taste like sea olives. I bet you they taste like…

Cameron Esposito: No, I’m not talking about the taste! No, I’m talking about the feel of a dolphin.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh. OK.

Cameron Esposito: She said… do you know what she said? Do you want to hear the answer?

Rico Gagliano: Yes.

Cameron Esposito: “Squishy.”

Rico Gagliano: What?!?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Eww.

Cameron Esposito: Isn’t that mind-blowing? She said, they’re squishy. Like spongy.

Rico Gagliano: Was she touching it in the right place?

Cameron Esposito: Its whole body. You touch… where do you touch a dolphin?

Rico Gagliano: I would touch its back.

Cameron Esposito: Yeah, you touch it on its back or its… armpit, right? Like, what are the parts of a dolphin?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Wait, it doesn’t have an armpit! What do you mean, its armpit.

Cameron Esposito: Well, where does a fin meet the dolphin, then?

Rico Gagliano: That’s true. That’s got to be the armpit of the dolphin.

Brendan Francis Newnam: A finpit. It’s a finpit.

Rico Gagliano: I think we’re being very human-centric right now. I think we’re imposing our ideas of anatomy onto the dolphin.

Cameron Esposito: Listen, I don’t think we started that. Dolphins are the ones who are so smart, and talk and stand and stuff. Oh, and now, we’re humanizing them?! They’re coming at us with all these kind of teeth, where they look like people…

Rico Gagliano: How dare they! Freakin’ dolphins, man.

Cameron Esposito: You can hear us talk about dolphins — all this and more.

Brendan Francis Newnam: “Dolphin Hour with Cameron and Rhea.”

On infusing more of her personal life into her comedy act

Rico Gagliano: Earlier in your career, I would say that your comedy is more about this kind of stuff. Kind of absurd observations about the world. But as you’ve gone along, you’ve talked more about personal stuff. Was there a moment when that occurred?

Cameron Esposito: Well, this has been a really wild 15 years to be gay. As I was coming out, marriage equality came to Massachusetts, the first state where it happened, and I was there. I lived in Massachusetts at the time. So, like, all that was happening.

And then, there was really a time when every comic had their marriage equality bit, as more and more states started to pass marriage laws. I mean, I would say that really, it was unusual to be on a lineup where it wasn’t brought up three or four times. And it was usually by straight dude comics. Because the majority of comics are straight dudes.

And even if it was from an allied perspective, even if the dude was getting on stage and being like, “Yay! This is good.” I always found that the jokes were: “Hey, we” — me, this comic, and you, the audience — “We agree that gay people should get married, right?!?” Like, these people that aren’t here.

Brendan Francis Newnam: This “other.”

Cameron Esposito: Yeah! I mean, it was so bizarre to me because, yeah, there’s gay people in the audience. Also, there’s a gay comic on your lineup. You know, like, this is not… I think we have to talk about things, we have to humanize issues in order for them to not be issues.  In order for them to be people, you know?

So, often I just felt like, “If I don’t talk about this, then other people are deciding my fate.”

On how her comedy has evolved over the years

Brendan Francis Newnam: As society has moved a little bit closer to equality, does it change your writing or where you find jokes? Because, as you said, 15 years ago, kind of a different climate.

Cameron Esposito: You’re right. So, it didn’t solve everything. But I will say that my experience, as a gay person, was that I woke up in a totally different country. Like, I went to bed in a country where this was a contentious issue, and then I woke up the next morning and all that was gone. It’s like Sisyphus… and then, just like, “Oh! It’s a pebble. It’s in my pocket! I’m already at the top!”

It was so exciting. I mean, the first thing that I did was cried and hugged Rhea. And the second thing that I did was field a phone call from my dad, who was also crying and really excited about it.

And then the third thing that I did was turn to Rhea and say, “Now what are we going to talk about?!?”

 

Click here for Cameron’s etiquette advice.

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