Cameron Esposito talks new comedy special, Marriage Material
'Being a stand-up is anticipating that you will have no money and no success and no control over your environment for a lot of years'
The second week of December was a big one for Cameron Esposito: Within a span of two days, the comedian taped her first hour-long stand-up special, Marriage Material, and married fellow comic Rhea Butcher. You can probably guess how that went. “Terribly stressful, awful idea,” she tells EW, laughing. “I mean, also very deliberately done.”
Esposito decided she wanted to have the two milestones as close together as possible to commemorate the Supreme Court’s June decision to allow same-sex marriage nationwide. “We’re having such a moment where suddenly everything is different and we live in an entirely different country as a queer person,” Esposito says. “So many things still need changing, but to go to sleep and same-sex marriage is illegal in half of the states and then to wake up the next morning and it is legal nationwide, that is such a bizarre experience to live through.”
In Marriage Material, streaming on Seeso beginning March 24, Esposito talks about the obstacles of getting their marriage license days before — spoiler: vomit was involved — and what love means to her, along with topical subjects like gun violence and marriage equality. Read on to see why Esposito likes to tackle real-life issues in her stand-up and what it was like appearing in Garry Marshall’s upcoming Mother’s Day.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In the special, you talk about how your stomach was not doing well when you got your marriage license. Did the wedding go smoother than that?
CAMERON ESPOSITO: The wedding was awesome. We really just threw a party. Neither of us is specifically religious — I was raised in a super Catholic family and it definitely wasn’t going to be a Catholic wedding — so we booked one of our favorite venues to perform in Chicago, a little rock club called The Hideout. We served pizza and Chicago-style veggie dogs and just danced. It was really fun.
Then right before that, you recorded your first special. How was planning for that?
I think what is really great is that at this point I am mostly touring, so the actual process of coming out on a stage and doing an hour that had to be tight and had to be big enough to fill a room that was that size, those things I was very prepared for. It felt very everyday more than I anticipated it would. But leading up to it, just making decisions about, like, what you want to wear and how it’s supposed to be lit and all these things, it’s wild. It’s been a really long road to get here. I’ve been doing comedy for 15 years. I guess what I mean is, being a stand-up is anticipating that you will have no money and no success and no control over your environment for a lot of years. So then when you suddenly have control and you suddenly are making a living and people are coming to see you and your name is on the marquee, it’s wild. Because I really think you get used to expecting none of that.
So you have really low expectations.
I think every comic assumes that they are going to be a total success. You think about that every day. But also you realize that it’s going to be very far away. It’s this weird thing where you have to assume you’re a brilliant genius, that you’re going to be a millionaire, and you also have to simultaneously assume that none of things will happen.
You also talk about marriage equality and gun control in the special. How important is it for you to get across these big messages that are obviously important to you in your comedy?
I think we live in a time where comedy can be a lot of things. For me, I walk through the world as a gay woman, and so when you are those things, I think you have to defend yourself. Part of being woman is anticipating that you will have to defend yourself and part of being gay is anticipating that you’ll have to defend yourself. So I think it naturally makes its way into my stand-up because that’s how I live every day of my life.
And I’m fighting to make my own life better. During the last decade, when I’ve gone out on stage and talked about same-sex marriage, I’ve been talking to people that could vote in the states that I was in about how I wanted them to vote. [Laughs] I’ve been saying, “You are actually the people that will affect my life in this way. And your politicians will affect my life in this way.” It really is about improving my own life. And I think, the other thing is that when you live in that space, where you are trying to improve your life, you need to have empathy for other people that are trying to do the thing that maybe don’t share a demographic with you. Like, for instance, #BlackLivesMatter, or what I was talking about in the special about gun violence. Like, thankfully, I haven’t been in the situation where I was involved in a mass shooting or where the police attacked me. But we’re all fighting together.
On a different note, you’re in Mother’s Day.
Yes! You know these movies?
Oh, yeah. I love those. Valentine’s Day.
Tiny blips. So this is in the vein of New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day. Obviously after New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, what is the most romantic holiday? Mother’s Day, clearly. How else do you become mothers but through some sort of love happening, whether it be through adoption or whatnot. Anyway, my character in the movie, I’m a gay woman — which is like, a real stretch. I’m married to Sarah Chalke, awesome actor. She’s an amazing person. It’s like a huge cast of really talented people who’ve been acting forever and then me, who has been acting for one year. [Laughs]
Was the Garry Marshall experience everything you hoped it would be?
He’s awesome. He is in his 80s and had watched my stand-up when I got there, like pulled me aside to encourage me, was so sweet. He was wearing a Northwestern hat and sweatshirt because he went to Northwestern — that’s a huge thing for him. And his college roommates were on set watching him shoot. And he kept asking me, “Can I see you do stand-up sometime while you’re in town?” My wife, who’s also a stand-up, came down, and we did a local show, and it was open to the public, but most of the cast and crew came, and Garry came with his wonderful wife, and sat in the front row. I got to do an hour of stand-up for Garry Marshall. It was awesome
What holiday should he tackle next?
St. Patrick’s Day, maybe. But I feel like there’d be too much alcohol involved. Garry’s kind of wholesome. It has to be a non-religiously affiliated holiday, so … Presidents Day probably? Right? Hillary will be elected. We’ll have our first female president and then he’ll make a Presidents Day movie about all the different kind of president relationships and just like, vice president relationships. I think that makes perfect sense.
He’ll be like, “Oh, Cameron, you’re playing Hillary.”
I can’t wait to play Hillary! [Laughs]
Esposito’s Marriage Material is currently streaming on Seeso. Mother’s Day arrives in theaters April 29.