Stand-up comedian Cameron Esposito, 34, was raised in Chicago and went to Boston College. She honed her comedy chops with Improv Boston and Improv Asylum and will return to Boston to perform at Brighton Music Hall on Nov. 19. She has appeared on late-night programs such as Chelsea Lately, Conan and The Late Late Show, and she will film her first hourlong stand-up special in December. She is the host of the weekly podcast Put Your Hands Together and has branched out into acting, having recently completed work on three indie movies as well as the Garry Marshall-helmed Mother’s Day opposite Kate Hudson, Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts. Esposito is currently developing a project with NBC Universal, and her first book will be published in 2016. She lives in LA with her fiancee, fellow comedian Rhea Butcher.
Cameron Esposito: My girlfriend, Rhea Butcher, who will be appearing with me in Boston, so that’s a great treat for you guys.
Well, at this point in my career, being so huge and such a household name and all, a lot of people would want to be with me for my tens and hundreds of dollars, but she actually likes me. Besides, I started doing comedy in college. She started a bit later. So now she’s nippin’ at my heels, and I can’t let her catch me, so it spurs me on to be better.
Have you met any comedians? You don’t want to piss anybody off. This is a small universe. You don’t shit where you joke.
So first of all, I always wanted to be a priest, which I know is crazy, because that’s not even a thing. But I was like, “I’ll be the one. The pope will change the rules for me.” But seriously, people’s cardinal beliefs about what we are doing here is the most interesting thing in the world to me. And that’s also what stand-up comedy is about. Even if you believe in nothing, if you’re an atheist, it has such bearing on the way you live your daily life. It’s like being inside the clock, seeing how the machine works. It’s like figuring out why we’re on this planet. Faith is the oldest and most primal way of dealing with that. Science came along much later.
It was a terrible accident. I was riding my bike, went through a window face first and tore off the whole left side of my hair. It’s not funny. Stop laughing at that.
Star Wars Pez collection. I have the whole set. It’s the only thing I moved to Los Angeles with. I got here with no furniture, nothing to sit on, and my Pez collection. I thought, “Perhaps this was miscalculated.”
Nothing. But the thing is that you have to have a reason to talk about it, and a thesis that makes sense, and the joke has to prove that thesis. So that’s the problem with some comics. They don’t really have a reason for talking about a taboo subject. They’re just milking the shock value. That, in my mind, is useless garbage. But I do believe comedy is one of the best ways to talk about things that are difficult and painful. Nothing is offensive if the joke makes sense.
Well, my experience being a male comic is extremely limited, so I don’t really know.
Yes, we are 50 percent of the population, and we’re treated like some sort of fringe group. We’re still fighting to just be in other rooms in the house other than the kitchen, and that extends to every field.
If you saw me perform within the first five years of my stand-up career, you could probably pick any of them. The point is that you start bad. It’s just the way it is. Sorry about that, Boston.
I got my start at Improv Boston. I was hired there right after I graduated from college. Then about a year later, I got hired by Improv Asylum, and I worked there for a short time. There are a lot of comics who know how to write jokes but then have to learn how to take up space on a stage and interact with an audience, and doing improv taught me that. I started doing improv at BC. I was in My Mother’s Fleabag, which is the longest-running college improv troupe in the country. Amy Poehler was in it 10 years before me. Boston is where I received all my training. LA is where I learned how to wear makeup on my face and look good on camera.
My home space, the place that I right now feel most comfortable, is the Upright Citizens Brigade theater in Los Angeles. It’s a super small, maybe 70 seats, black box theater. Rhea and I host a Tuesday night show there.
I think it can be. I think something clearly happened to everyone who does stand-up, at some point in their lives, where they felt unheard. So one way to deal with that is to talk into a microphone to groups of people for the rest of your life. I also think that comics are often introverts, and doing stand-up is sort of a way to have control over a social situation. And finally, yes, of course we’re angry. Isn’t that part of being alive?
I talk to them directly, ask them how they are, what they did with their day. While I don’t encourage or like heckling—it’s not fair to the rest of the audience—I do enjoy having something unexpected come up during a performance.
The travel is brutal. It’s also great, because you get to meet lots of people and see different places, which is wonderful, but it’s pretty grueling. Just thinking about getting on an airplane gives me the dry heaves.
Kumail Nanjiani. He has figured out how to translate his opinions and thoughts into the broader world. He’s someone that I saw when I was starting out in Chicago. I watched how he came up, and it’s really exciting to see someone figure out how to lay out their career in a way that’s more than just stand-up. Stand-up is exhausting. I don’t want to work every night for the rest of my life. Only sometimes.
Most of my scenes were with Kate, and there were a lot of other people on that film who have been doing this for decades. Garry Marshall was directing. And acting is very new for me, but I realized that it’s all about responding to your partner, and I’m good at that because that’s what stand-up and improv are. But thank God those people were all very kind and patient while I was learning that. I got to make Kate Hudson laugh a lot, which was great.
I don’t do street jokes. Let me school you: Street jokes are jokes anyone can tell. I am a professional. I don’t tell even tell jokes for free in life. I’m very serious all the time. [Laughs.]