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Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher talk marriage on the road, making LGBTQ rights funny

Written by
Grace Perry

Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher spend more time together than possibly any other two people on the planet. The married couple doubles as a creative pair, and are taking matrimony on the road with their Back To Back tour this fall. The two met and came up in the Chicago comedy scene—Esposito is a Chicago-area native herself, and a Lincoln Lodge alumna. Performing at the Vic, where they’ll be on Saturday, October 14 at 8pm, has been a longtime dream of the duo. We caught up with this pair of aces about married life, making LGBTQ issues funny and their favorite Chicago haunts.

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What can we can expect from the Back To Back tour?

Cameron Esposito: We love Chicago. I’m from Chicago. Rhea and I met in Chicago. Expect wives touring the country, being political and hilarious. But I think Chicago will be our best performance.

You’ve toured together before, yes?

Rhea Butcher: We toured together for like, three years.

What stressors come up when touring with your spouse that wouldn’t come up touring with a friend or a comedy peer?

RB: [laughs] Um. Everything?

CE: No one should have to spend as much time with their spouse as Rhea and I choose to spend together. It is an absolute choice and we are so lucky that we’re getting to do what we love. But holy shit.

The thing is, I trust Rhea as an artist and as a human being more than anyone else on the planet. It’s a great thing to feel about your partner, and your business partner. But man, it’s so unfortunate-slash-great that those people happen to be the same person.

LGBTQ rights have evolved so much over the span of your stand-up careers. How is way you discuss sexuality is different now from when you started out?

RB: When I first started out I was making jokes about being gay for a “mainstream audience,” or an audience that wasn’t necessarily queer. And now, I’m trying to make jokes that are for a queer audience, and if you’re “mainstream” you’re going to find it funny too. Or you’re not. I want to speak to my community and who I am, as opposed to trying to fit into someone else’s idea of universal. My experience is universal because every experience can be universal.

CE: Do you hear how smart my wife is?

I do.

CE: When marriage equality wasn’t legal nationwide, I thought of every time I went on stage as an opportunity to get the people to vote for us to be equal. That was a big part of what touring was like: Being the face of queerness. If people had preconceived notions of what it meant to be gay, I could be like, “Well, you know me. I’m gay.”

I think at this moment, right now, it really feels like the biggest service we can do is speak to our community, who are scared out of our minds. Before, it was speak outside our community so our community could be safer; now, it’s speak to our community to our community can be safer.

Are there any spots that you absolutely need to visit when you’re back in town?

RB: I have two hands-down favorite places to eat in Chicago. 

CE: Can I guess one of them?

RB: Sure.

CE: Chicago Diner.

RB: Yup.

Logan or Boystown?

RB: I like to go to the original.

CE: Really? Cause I’ll go to the Logan one.

RB: All right, well I’ll see you afterwards.

CE: Afterwards, can we pop around the corner to Boiler Room? Well, you can go around the corner to Sidetrack.

RB: I’ll go to Sidetrack, you go to Boiler Room.

A condensed version of this interview appears in our Fall 2017 print magazine.

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