By Trish Bendix, Special to PQ Monthly
Comedian Cameron Esposito has been to Portland a handful of times, but her show on May 30 at Mississippi Studios will be special, as she’s recording her new live comedy album to be released on Kill Rock Stars. Originally from Boston, the now L.A.-based Esposito is thrilled to be working with the legendary local indie music label that has released the work of bands like Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill, and the Gossip.
“I’m realizing I’m actually like the first female comic that they’re going to release something with, which for Kill Rock Stars is very cool,” Esposito tells PQ Monthly. “It’s the third comic album [they’ve put out]. I’m their first gal so I’m really excited about that, with the history of the label, they’ve done for women in music and also the fact that it’s run by a woman, you know Portia Sabin who is the head of the label. It’s very unusual for there to be a female-run label. So it’s very cool.”
Esposito hosts two podcasts: Wham Bam Pow, a sci-fi film focused-show with her fiance (also a comic) Rhea Butcher, and Put Your Hands Together, a live weekly show recorded at the Upright Citizens Brigade. Both podcasts have aided the out comedian in making a name for herself after moving to LA from a handful of years spent on the Chicago circuit, where she pulled multiple hosting gigs and stand-up events. This past year alone she’s appeared on the Chelsea Lately roundtable and has been called the big thing in comedy by Jay Leno after they appeared on the same episode of The Late Late Show. Needless to say, the timing is right for the release of a live comedy album.
“I wanted to do something to mark where I was and just to be able to send stuff out to people because people are so interested in consuming content right now. If you’re a comic, if you can give anybody anything, they’ll listen to it, you know what I mean?” Esposito said. “But I knew that I needed to have a bigger release under my belt and gearing up for that, I’m getting a lot of great national exposure which I’m really excited about and I wanted to give people something to listen to.”
Having recently coming off a large national tour with Comedy Central’s Anthony Jeselnik, Esposito feels like she’s ready to deliver a tight set at Mississippi Studios, where the venue will be intimate enough for her to riff with the audience, something she’s especially good at.
“I’m going to try and do a little bit of that because I feel like otherwise it would be not indicative of who I am,” Esposito said of audience interaction. “With this album I hope I have some time to be in the moment, but I also think I might plow through and be a little more driven in terms of getting to the punchline.”
Being an out lesbian has proven to be an interesting challenge that Esposito is happy to take on while touring. As someone who is very out in her act (“I am a gay person so everything I talk about is from the perspective of this. I don’t even think about it, like I’m not pandering to anybody, I’m not not pandering to anybody”), it’s inevitable she will receive feedback from her audiences, and that tends to be an interesting balance of the positive and negative.
“When I talk about getting engaged on stage, it really is oftentimes the first time that audiences have heard somebody talking about that and that just makes it more important to be personally, to feel like I should discuss it,” Esposito said. “Also it’s still surprising to me, that’s the world where we are. I can tell, people come up to me afterward, from their comments—that this is still a very new thing for people. Not necessarily a new thing in my life. I feel like ‘Oh we’ve come so far!’ and then you go places and –I do get some backlash but I feel like just as much as I get people who are interested and shocked. That’s still wild to me to realize that.”
However Portland proves to be a different kind of audience than Esposito is used to, as the city’s oft-discussed open-mindedness might force her to change up part of her act.
“I love doing comedy in Portland because the second I walk off the plane it’s like, ah! It’s my people. 90 percent of the men in Portland look like me,” she said. “I mean Portland is like just a homebase sensibility wise for what I’m doing. I’m almost worried that I won’t have enough of a struggle. My material right now is ‘Fuck you!’ I feel like people in Portland will be like ‘Uh yeah, we’re already here. You don’t have to convince us equal marriage is important.’”
Having sold out the last dates she’s had in Portland over the last year, the Mississippi Studio recording will likely follow suit, as it should. Esposito’s insightful brand of queer-tinged comedy isn’t lazy with gay cliches or typical lesbian joke fodder. Instead of making herself or her lesbianism the joke, it’s just a facet of her life that is discussed without explanation, just like her obsession with the Terminator movies.
“I’m just really excited about this album,” Esposito said. “I think it’s going to be kind of a big deal—not like I’m some important thing but more just…It’s an important time for us, for people like us. It’s a very important time and things are changing so much nationally but there’s still so much important work to do, I just feel like—I know that in the future we’ll look back at this time and say ‘I can’t believe how much everything was changing.’ It’s a moment in time album. I’m very happy about that. I know when I’m getting on stage and saying things like, ‘Nationally we have so much work to do,’ I know that in 20 years, that won’t be true. We’re going to keep moving forward. It’s a great time to be working right now because we’re still in this movement. It’s a huge and exciting time.”