Cameron Esposito, 32
When stand-up comic Cameron Esposito made her late-night television debut toward the end of last year on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson (with comedy legend Jay Leno sitting beside the host as a guest), she left nothing to the imagination. Out of the gate she told the audience she was recently engaged and instantly called attention to her signature side mullet.
“As you can tell by my haircut, general Danny Zuko attitude, I’m going to be marrying a woman,” Esposito said, holding for the raucous laughter and applause that followed.
That auspicious debut included on-stage banter with the two male titans of comedy and an invite to the desk, where she took her place beside Leno.
To that late-night audience it might have appeared that the young comic had never been closeted, that she’d been a confident, out, lesbian since middle school, but Esposito, a native of the Chicago suburbs who grew up in a very Catholic family, struggled with coming out. From the outskirts of Chicago she headed east to Boston, where she attended a Catholic university that offered no nondiscrimination policy covering sexual orientation. While she was not tossed out of her college for being gay, the threat hovered over her. “When I came out, I really felt like my life was ending,” Esposito says. But, as comics tend to do, she channeled that pain into her act and eventually embraced being out onstage.
With Esposito so unabashedly out in her act, incorporating her daily life into her material, and often performing with her fiancée, fellow comic Rhea Butcher, she says the next phase for visibility is just to offer examples of what real same-sex relationships look like.
“There are very few comics who are gay, and there are very few gay comics who are in this exact position where they're kind of moving through this new phase as it's happening,” Esposito says. “It’s an awesome time to be at the beginning of that.”
Comedy is ultimately about honesty, Esposito says, encouraging comics just starting out to extrapolate the small moments in life into the act. And surely she offers that advice by example — living openly and feeling free to riff on it.
“I don't even think I do gay material, I do material about my life,” Esposito says. “I'm a gay person.”