If you’re at all familiar with record label Kill Rock Stars and comedian Cameron Esposito, then you know a marriage of the two would be something that dreams are made of. As luck would have it, KRS announced this week that they will be releasing Esposito’s second stand-up album, bringing her to Portland to record in May. That gives you plenty of time to pack all your denim, get tickets and hit the Oregon Trail. If you still need convincing, or if you’re at all unfamiliar with either the legendary record label or Cameron “The Future of Comedy” Esposito, then strap in for a trip down memory lane. Seems the Pacific Northwest is about to make some more queer entertainment landmarks.
Kill Rock Stars, founded in 1991, is one of the most influential independent record labels of it’s kind, which is to say, one that never identified itself as any one genre. Instead, they represented a variety of underground music movements, and are arguably most notorious for their influence within the Riot Grrrl scene. The label’s first release, KRS-101, was a spoken-word record that featured Kathleen Hanna and KRS founder, Slim Moon followed by their first major release, a compilation of Olympia-area bands simply titled Kill Rock Stars that featured Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, The Melvins and Nirvana.
In 1997, releases by Sleater-Kinney (Dig Me Out) and Elliott Smith officially put them on the map and established them as an influential, commercially successful label and 2001 saw them signing Gossip. Other notable releases by KRS include work from Heavens to Betsy, Nikki McClure, Team Dresch, Third Sex, Linda Perry, The Need, Erase Errata and Bitch.
Founder Slim Moon started simply wanting a place to showcase his friends. “I think they’re all sort of outsiders,” Moon once said. “Some people were very politically active and had a political message, but others were more sort of like rule breakers and outsiders in doing things differently.”
Words that could very much be used to describe one hilariously talented, witty and unstoppable force of comedy, Cameron Esposito. If you’re unfamiliar with the side-mullet enthusiast, you’ve obviously never read anything I’ve written because just short of donning puffy paint T-shirts and standing outside the now defunct TRL offices, I am what one would call a superfan. And with good reason.
As comedy fans, there are countless things that can tickle our funny bone- the unexpected, stereotypes, irony or sarcastic deadpan deliveries. We can be drawn to the darker side or the fluffy stuff, but when someone can tap into an entire, often unheard, population, well then you just have brilliance.
What KRS did in representing political sensibilities and showing a commitment to female driven punk bands, helping to bring national attention to third-wave feminism, is exactly what Cameron Esposito is doing for queer millennials on national television.
What Esposito is doing is bigger than just being an amazing comedian. She’s become a new face for those who are young and funny but also female and queer. She turned the outdated lesbian stereotype on its head, offering in its place a fresh and more accurate representation. And most importantly, she didn’t avoid being gay for the sake of privacy. Instead, she is 100% proud to be herself. After years of hard work, Esposito made her television debut on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and ended up being crowned the “future of comedy.”
What gave me chills and made me laugh while fighting the urge to sob openly was the overwhelming feeling that I was watching history being made. In an industry that is so ripe with talent, it is rare to be afforded an opportunity on a late night show. Even more rare is completely nailing a completely lesbian-driven set, and what’s unheard of is Jay Leno himself saying, “White men are on their way out! Lesbians rule!”
It could be the first time someone made such a successfully open splash on network TV since, well, Ellen.
Seems Kill Rock Stars has still got it, choosing again to avoid any one artistic mission, and delving further into the thriving world of comedy. Seeing that Portland’s comedy scene is quietly creeping on its more well-known counterparts in Chicago, LA and New York, KRS may just have found themselves on the pulse of a next great movement. Stay tuned.
Cameron will be recording her album on May 30 at Mississippi Studios in Portland, Oregon. Tickets are available now. Until then, you can find her every Tuesday at UCB Theater in LA hosting Put Your Hands Together. She has a new column on AV Club, Who in the World is Cameron Esposito, and is probably writing funny things on Twitter (@CameronEsposito) as we speak. She might even be on tour somewhere near you. Go find her!