Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher, the comedy power couple from the breakout SeeSo streaming series Take My Wife, have hit the big time — they’re tour-bus comics. “This is the first time we’re in a bus,” says Cameron, the 35-year-old Angeleno, laughing. “The bus is definitely a status symbol for a rock star, but really, it’s about how the tour is timed out, to give you the nerdy answer. Cool answer is yes, totally, we’re killing it. Nerdy answer – you travel at night to do more cities quicker.”
The couple’s 19-city cavalcade began in Seattle, and ends in Madison, Wisconsin, with a stop at Houston’s Warehouse Live on September 30. And the charitable kicker is — the show is now free to the public. As the women noted in a joint public statement, “We know that the Houston community has been greatly affected by Hurricane Harvey, and we want you to know that we are here for you.”
The first-come, first-serve tickets can be claimed online for a show styled on the duo's chart-topping stand-up podcast Put Your Hands Together. Esposito explains: “We do half an hour together, side by side with two microphones. Then we do two separate half-hours, back to back.”
Butcher, the Akron, Ohio, native and sports enthusiast, clarifies the joint appearance: “The stuff up top is always the experience we’ve had together, what we’ve done throughout the week. On tour, it’ll probably be crazy stories from the bus, which we just found out only has a full-size bed. That’ll be interesting.” Their charter bus doesn’t yet have an official moniker, but Butcher is adamant it will by this Saturday. “We didn’t think about giving the bus a name, but thanks for putting that into our world.”
With so many projects done in tandem – the couple records weekly podcasts and has co-starred in, co-written and co-managed their SeeSo series for two seasons — the more interesting question may be, are the two ever apart? Esposito smiles at the notion. “That is a really funny question; I love it.” After doing some mental math, the Adventure Time voice actor estimates that between Rhea's weekly baseball practices (“I’m on an organized team,” she relays) and Esposito’s weekly LGBT-focused interview series Queerly, the dynamic duo are likely separated only four hours a week, a fact that seems to suit them fine.
For fans of the writer-performers, this pit stop in the Bayou City offers fans an opportunity to continue asking about the strange situation going on with the second season of their sitcom. “It’s a unique situation,” says Butcher. “For the network to be canceled, as opposed to the show. Because we didn’t get canceled, the platform did.” While NBC Universal owns the series outright, the second season has been completed and is simply in search of a new home.
“I’m very grateful I got to make a thing and that people liked it," she continues. "Not only did fans [of] our comedy like the show; we were reviewed in The New York Times five times in four weeks. Esquire said our show ‘captured human relationships better than any other show on TV.’ That’s like a dream. We got to do that, and I’m pretty proud of that.”
Also of note, Take My Wife made an active effort to “change the demographics of Hollywood,” by employing as many people of color, openly LGBT people and non-binary artists as possible. “That did not organically happen,” explains Esposito, who makes a point of mentioning that she was a Circus Ringmaster in her mid-twenties. “We made the choice to write characters of color into the show. We have a largely female cast because partially, the show is about being a woman in comedy. We have a 54-percent out LGBT cast because we know queer people in our real life.
And the feedback we got was overwhelming – people thought our show felt real," she adds. "That’s because it is based in a real shared relationship, a shared environment and a real community. On camera, and behind it — we hired people who had [the] skills, but maybe not the credits, to join their respective guilds. That’s really important; when you set up lights or hold a boom, you need to be part of a union for job security. We wanted to specifically try to use the show to create whatever small ripple effect we could, giving people jobs so they can get their next jobs.”
As the comedians make strides on the television landscape, both also aim to correct a bit of old-fashioned language in print — lobbying for the retirement of the term comedienne in favor of a simpler and more gender-neutral expression. “I use the term comic, because it's more specific. But I just don’t know that it needs to be [a] gendered word," says Esposito. "I have never seen that word in an article or headline when it didn’t feel infantilizing in some way. I don’t need my sex determined — it's my job title.”
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
To which Butcher adds, coyly: “I say we look to the word director. You look at the up-and-coming directors on one hand, and on the other — here’s a direct-ette.”
This gets a laugh out of Cameron, who offers her alternative. “Direct-ress!”
Butcher agrees. “You’re setting that person outside the group; that’s what 'comedienne' has always been," she says. "Comedians can be women, men and non-binary people. All kinds. People have a different connotation when they read the word 'comedienne,' which also feels like an outdated, sort of '70s term. ‘You woman libbers want to be part of the conversation? Get a different word!’ It’s like softball, to me — which, by the way, I have a whole bit about how baseball and softball are [needlessly] gendered. But people really should just come to the show to hear it!”
Rhea Butcher and Cameron Esposito are scheduled to perform 8 to 10 p.m. Saturday, September 30, at Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel. For information, call 713-225-5483 or visit warehouselive.com. Free, with reservation.