Cameron Esposito’s live comedy will give you life


A few days before Cameron Esposito recorded her comedy album for Kill Rock Stars in Portland, Oregon, I got a text from my friend Kelly telling me she was bringing her parents to the first of Cameron’s two shows on Friday night. Her mom is a fan, having seen Esposito as a Chelsea Lately panelist, and Kelly expressed hope that Esposito would “turn up the gay” to match Portland’s well-known open-mindedness. As she tends to do, Cameron delivered. She killed it, in fact, being outspokenly herself, weaving together stand-up and activism with her dynamic and very personal brand of storytelling. It was her aggressively energetic delivery, optimism and vulnerability that made for a solidly hilarious show, all while still being someone you’d be proud to take home to mom. Or vice versa.

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If you’re unfamiliar with Cameron or her comedy, she’s more than proven herself incomparable over the last few years, landing on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson where guest Jay Leno called her the future of comedy. If one needed further proof of that statement, Friday’s two shows with hour-long sets were an accumulation of her best work over the last few years, effortlessly matched with the off the cuff crowd work that she’s known for. Cameron jumped between stories of being raised Catholic, mastering whiskey and loving a woman in crisis, to equal rights, the male gaze and self-identification.

What was most noteworthy was her growing confidence as a performer. Seems the opportunity to record an album came at exactly the right time, just as she’s hit her stride in being an unstoppable force of comedy. As she said, “The reason I feel so strong about this, is that I feel great. I’ve never felt better. My look has come together, reflecting my gender, my gender of course being fighter pilot.” She’s been working hard, for a very long time and it shows. “It really took a long time for this to come together, this whole beautiful package you see before you.”

There isn’t a lot that hasn’t already been said about Cameron. With the most solidly lesbian-tinged set seen this side of Ellen, performed in the lesbian mecca, she showcased the brains, comedic brawn and beauty. When asking audience members and friends what they thought of the show, it was hard to get anything but a resounding “she’s so hot.” That’s not to say the crowd was completely gay. “Are there any straight people here?” Cameron asked. “You don’t have to feel weird, this is a safe space. Just keep it out of my face.”

Her Portland jokes were the hands down favorite, especially in regards to her iconic side-mullet. “I’ll address a few things, as you can tell by my hair cut, I am a Thundercat. And also a giant lesbian! Of course, I am. I have a side mullet. Of course I am, you get it, Portland. The men look like me.”

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Her childhood stories about growing up in the suburbs of Chicago were also crowd pleasers as one review was simply, “OMG. Coonskin cap. Eyepatch Quiver with arrows!” Representing another part of the crowd were fans of Cameron’s weekly podcast, Put Your Hands Together. Having felt she had already heard a lot of the material before, super-fan Harley still spent the entire show buckled over in laughter, especially when Cameron noted that the strongest argument against same sex equality is, ”gross.”

Discerning comedy fans Kate and Nicole felt Cameron had an engaging delivery that was complimented by her cool demeanor saying, “You would never guess that she was an eye-patch, coonskin cap wearing kid.” Overall they thought it was, “a solid, polished routine.” The best and most candid review came from Kelly. “My parents loved it. They both commented on Cameron’s ‘elegant fingers.’ I have to agree though; her fingers were an important part of her presentation.”

Mom was pleased that Cameron didn’t want to talk about Voodoo Donuts and “would have loved to be in her group at the strip club.” Dad was at Costco, and took some time before noting that, “Her eye contact was remarkable and we could have just as easily been sitting in her living room, listening to her hilarious stories.” He was also “impressed with her body language and gesticulations. She painted pictures with her long, pre-Raphaelite fingers as she described each scene.”

Don’t think I didn’t have to Google half of that review, but afterward, I most certainly agreed. The most memorable moments in Cameron’s set were those in which she felt most passionately about, whether it was her touring the nation giving TED Talks about what not to glean from lesbian porn, training herself to drink whiskey because it implies Gina Gershon on a motorcycle or not having to explain who she is, ever. “I’m sick of it. I feel like we’re at the point where I don’t want to defend my sexuality. I don’t give a shit, I don’t give a shit what you think.”

The Alliance For Children's Rights 5th Annual Right To Laugh Comedy Benefit

She ended her set just as powerfully as she started. “I feel very strongly about getting on stage right now and talking about the person I am and the moment that is right now in our nations history,” she admitted. “I feel a need to speak on my own behalf, because people are talking about this this is a part of the national conversation.” Her goal as a performer, what she wants people to take away from her comedy, is that gay is OK. “I want that little kid to know that. That little kid who’s listening to a pretty inappropriate album.”

Waiting is the hardest part, but we’ve all become accustomed to waiting because Orange is the New Black. Until the album is released in 2015, you can catch Cameron on the episode of LiveWire she also recorded while in Portland, or on one of her two podcasts, the sci-fi-focused Wham Bam Pow, and Put Your Hands Together, a live weekly show recorded at the Upright Citizens Brigade.

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