Comedy couple Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher make jokes the family business

by NxtGen Nexus | Oct 10, 2017 | Family Business Women

(by Rudi Greenberg as originally appeared at

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Stand-up comedians Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher spend more time together than the average married couple. For the past two years, they’ve worked side by side on “Take My Wife,” the Seeso series they co-created and star in. On Tuesdays, they co-host “Put Your Hands Together,” a stand-up showcase and podcast at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles. And when they perform live, it’s often as a package deal. Right now, they’re spending even more time together, sharing a bus for their first co-headlining stand-up tour, “Back to Back.” Just before they headed out (with their dog Murph in tow), (The Washington Post) asked the pair about the secret to their success, comedy in the time of Trump and the future of their sitcom.

Have you ever done a trip like this before together?
Rhea Butcher: We’ve driven basically all over this country together in rental cars but this is kicking it up a notch.

You work together so much. How do you not get sick of each other?
Cameron Esposito: There is no cheat code for that. My life is awesome because the person that I trust the most in the world, that I think is the funniest comic, I get to spend a ton of time with and have a family business with. It’s awesome. But it’s also bulls—. It’s so hard — it’s too much pressure to put on a relationship. I met Rhea, I knew I had to work with her, and on a daily basis we just figure out how to do that. Rhea plays baseball on the weekends, so she has time away from me. We try to work out a lot so we’re not stressed out. We try to sometimes do friends separately, but what’s the way to do this? I don’t know.

Normally, at “Put Your Hands Together” shows, you perform together. For the tour, are you starting as a duo and then doing separate sets?
Butcher: That is exactly what we’re going to do. Some nights it will be Cameron first, some nights me first. We haven’t done that on the road before.

Will this be all-new material, different from your albums and the podcast?
Esposito: It feels like it has to be new, right? Since every day is like the dawning of a brand-new world.

So, then, how much of your sets are Trump-related?
Esposito: I don’t know that we have specific jokes that are Trump jokes, but he’s in the water. I’m 35. In my life, I have only known forward progress. Anybody up to maybe 45 has only seen things going in one direction and so I feel like what I’m trying to process, and what a lot of people are trying to process, is this backslide. … It’s not that I thought things were perfect, it’s that I thought they were always getting a little better, and I think right now, as a comic, that’s a pretty heavy atmosphere. And you can’t get away from it.

In D.C., you’re returning to the 9:30 Club, where you both performed after the Women’s March. How do you feel about that day in retrospect?
Esposito: Walking through the march that day, I saw all the things that people talked about it: I saw how exciting it was, how it would have been great if there were more people of color there. … And I also saw how powerful it was that full families were there and people in wheelchairs and the effort that people made to be there, so that was huge.

Has life under Trump been as bad as you expected?
Butcher: I’m from Ohio; I spent 25 years there. I had been privy to this side of things my whole life, just the people I was around, and so it is exactly what I expected. He said he was going to do all of this, so there’s no reason for anybody to think it’s going to be anything different.
Esposito: It’s really hard when you’re a comedian and you’re trying to be taken seriously about a thing. I think a lot of comics are dealing with this right now. What I’m trying to figure out is if there’s anything I could have done differently. I tried to stay vocal. I guess I could have personally stopped Russia from buying Facebook ads.

“Take My Wife” is currently ending with an unaired Season 2 because Seeso is shutting down. Is there still hope that the show may come back?
Esposito: We don’t know the answer yet. I will say fan engagement on this has been great, so we really are appreciative of this.

You accomplished a lot with that show, particularly by hiring so many women, LGBT people and people of color to roles both on-screen and off. What are you most proud of about the series?
Butcher: That we got it done. We wrote and developed that show in four weeks. It’s crazy to write six episodes of a television show in four weeks, but to add developing it on top of it is bonkers.
Esposito: I am most proud that we got some folks into their respective guilds. Because the way that the show will have a lasting effect is giving people jobs. I hope is that with our small show on the smaller steaming service we were able to at least create a ripple effect and get people more work down the line, because that really is how we will change the demographics in our industry.

Rudi Greenberg is the features managing editor at Express and writes about comedy, music, beer and D.C. life.

 Follow @rudigreenberg