In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
An off-kilter comic with a haircut to match, Cameron Esposito has risen fairly quickly through the ranks of the comedy elite. That’s not to say she hasn’t worked hard, because she has: She toiled at Chicago open mics and stand-up nights for years before she moved to L.A., where she rapidly became host of her own night at UCB, racked up a bunch of national tour dates, and got her first role in a major motion picture. Now, she’s co-starring in a new Seeso show, Take My Wife, with her actual wife, fellow comic Rhea Butcher. The show, which premieres August 11, is a candid but fictional look at their lives together and on stage, and features appearances from fellow comedy luminaries like Paul F. Tompkins and Maria Bamford.
Cameron Esposito: Oh my God. Do we have to do these in order? Can I skip that one and come back?
CE: A white tiger.
Are those extinct? Is that a really sad thing to say? I don’t know.
The A.V. Club: They’re endangered, but we’re talking about a fake giant animal here, so it probably doesn’t matter.
CE: What about a mythical white tiger? Just not a real white tiger.
I feel like that lines up perfectly for me. Also, I’m a vegetarian, so a vegetarian white tiger. No real white tigers were harmed in the answering of this question.
Oh! Robot white tiger!
AVC: Didn’t He-Man ride a giant tiger?
CE: Was it a white tiger? If so, that makes perfect sense for me.
AVC: [Looks it up.] It was green, and its name was Battle Cat.
CE: I literally just looked up “What did He-Man ride?”
AVC: That lines up for you, then.
CE: Green tiger? Green He-Man tiger? Also, it had a saddle, which is really a matter of convenience, you know? I’ve got great inner-thigh strength but not that much. My tiger will be nice and have a saddle.
CE: It’s a tie. First, Dazed And Confused, because in high school, I felt very spoken-to by that movie even though I did not drink or do drugs at all. I’m not sure what my access point was, but I was like, “This is me.”
The other one would probably be The Devil Wears Prada, because I travel so much and that movie is on all the time. That is a movie that I will always watch.
AVC: It’s a good movie.
CE: It’s a great movie!
AVC: And it’s always on TNT or TBS.
CE: It is always on. There is never a moment when that movie is not on. And I love it, so great job.
CE: Well, this is for The A.V. Club, so I will say, “that I was straight.” And that is bait for your commenters. It turns out: They get it. I’m gay.
CE: I get a lot of credit for having succeeded as a Latina in this world, and I am not that. I appreciate it, but I’m Italian. And that does happen a lot.
CE: Before I was a vegetarian, I traveled to South Africa and hung out there for a little bit. And they had different animals—did you know different parts of the world have different animals? Because I didn’t until I got there! This is what being an American is like. You’re like, “Every place has these animals.”
Anyway, that’s not true, and so I ate a bunch of weird game animals. Not weird—I didn’t mean to say that! African, not “weird.” African! Like kudu and wildebeest. And also some wild boar and all this other stuff.
Anyway, those are real animals. They live in other countries.
We need to do a better job of understanding what the world is.
CE: I went to the Allstate Arena and I saw Neil Diamond, but this is also when I was 16, so that same year I saw a really nice cross-section of music. I saw Neil Diamond, Destiny’s Child—that’s right, Destiny’s Child—then I saw Counting Crows, then I saw Metallica, and then I saw Ben Harper. I was really just getting a cross-section of America.
AVC: How was Neil Diamond? Was it everything you expected it to be?
CE: Neil Diamond was great. He sang all of his hits, none of which I knew because I was like, 15.
AVC: You didn’t know “Coming To America”?
CE: “Forever In Blue Jeans”? Do you know that song? It’s like all of his songs include an element of nostalgia that is very funny to relate to at 15. [Sings.] “Forever In Blue Jeans… ” “Neil, you speak it! I’m never going to not wear blue jeans!”
CE: About a month ago I got to host the Planned Parenthood national gala. That was amazing because they give some awards to people that are in the entertainment industry who have supported Planned Parenthood’s work. So Kesha was there and did a performance, and Rachel Bloom, who is the star and co-creator of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, got an award. People that I think do great work. But mostly, though, it’s Planned Parenthood awarding the work that people who work for Planned Parenthood do, and I support that organization so much. They have had the most difficult year the last year. More bills challenging abortion rights came through congress than ever in any year previous. So it was unbelievably inspiring to see the people that do this work. They put their lives on the line to protect health care for women and also health care for everyone. It was amazing and inspiring because I love my job and I think my job is hard, but also, my job is such a privilege. I’d like to believe I’m helping people, but God, you know who’s really helping people? The people that work at Planned Parenthood.
AVC: It seems like they could be walking into danger on any given day.
CE: It actually is dangerous to go into work every day. This year, they lost providers in Colorado because of a gunman. It’s so hard to remember everything that happened this past year because it’s been such a violent year, but that happened within the last year. The people that work at those—“clinics” isn’t the right word—health care centers that were most affected by that were there and strong and proud, and it was amazing. It was amazing to see people that have given their lives to making sure everyone has the support and health care that they need.
CE: “What embarrassing phase did you go through”? I mean, “Am I still in it?” is the first question.
I actually love little baby Cammy Esposito now, but it was hard at the time. Still, there’s not a phase where I look back and think, “I now know that was embarrassing.”
When I was in sixth grade, I had glasses, braces, a bowl cut, and I wore an eye patch because I’d get cross-eyed. I also was really obsessed with this oversized William Wegman T-shirt. He’s the guy who takes pictures of roller-skating dogs. I remember it was my sixth-grade birthday party and a bunch of people were going to come over for a sleepover. I had red jeans on, a giant roller-skating dog T-shirt, my red glasses, a bowl cut, and I was like, “I am embarrassed to exist. This is the best I can do!” Now, I look back on that and I love that person. I think if I knew that little girl, I’d want to hug her every minute because she seems adorable.
I feel like every phase of my life has been “Is any of this working?!” And then my voice cracks in the middle of it.
CE: What have I stolen? Probably money as a kid.
AVC: From your parents?
CE: As a kid, from my parents, for sure. I also have a memory of being at my best friend’s house when I was a child and seeing a dollar bill on her nightstand. She went to the bathroom and I was like, “Ha, now’s the moment! I can use this to get a candy bar!”
I feel like little kids should and do steal money. That is a major part of being a young child. Also, stealing money from your parents—I feel like I did that a lot and I now know as an adult that your parents knew how much money they had. Nobody was being fooled. Also, if you came home with a toy and they hadn’t given you money, there was no part of my parents that was like, “I wonder if she got a job?” That was a very obvious fact.
I mean, if you have one dollar on your nightstand, and you go to the bathroom and you come back and that dollar is gone, it’s pretty obvious where it went. I don’t think she ever said anything, though. I’m sorry! I’ll say that now.
AVC: Was it on the set of Mother’s Day?
CE: Yeah, I was in the movie with her and Kate Hudson. Well, I don’t mean to put them on levels, so let’s just say both of them: Jennifer and Kate.
I actually didn’t get to meet Julia [Roberts]. She’s in the movie as well, but I never met her. She is awesome. I think she’s very funny. But yeah, meeting those two people—I mean, I worked with Kate for like a month. And that was a very interesting experience because, of course, she’s just a person.
AVC: Let’s go back to question one. What’s a question you wish an interviewer would ask you?
CE: Ugh, this is a long answer, but can I just do ones that I wish they wouldn’t ask?
AVC: That’s fine.
CE: Here’s what I wish people wouldn’t ask me: “Who are your influences?” That’s a boring question. It’s not even like, “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy?” That question also happens often in interviews, but I at least understand where it’s coming from. “Who are your influences”—I wonder if people ask that of male comics? Maybe they do.
CE: To me, there’s a lot of “How did you even think you could do this?” in there. And the thing is, who are my influences? Everybody. We’re all working together. I know that sounds really weird, but comedy is this very interwoven community. Everybody that you can think of that does comedy, I have met or worked with almost all of them. It’s amazing. It’s an organism. And it’s hard to narrow down your influences in comedy.
That being said: Maria Bamford and Sarah Silverman.
Bonus 12th question from Hari Kondabolu: Australia or New Zealand, and why?
CE: Oh, New Zealand. I think it’s more achievable as a place to visit. Australia’s massive. I don’t have a lot of downtime. If I’m going one place, I want to feel like I can really get the whole vibe.
AVC: Have you been to either one?
CE: No, but I know more Australian people than I know New Zealand persons. I feel like there’s a real gap in my education.
AVC: What do you want to ask the next person, not knowing who you’re asking?
CE: Is this feature for comics only?
AVC: Not necessarily. The next person is from public radio, for instance.
CE: Perfect. “Knowing that you work in public radio and only that, what sports did you play as a child? And please talk about how that went.”