Hugs For Hecklers: Cameron Esposito On Life As A Lesbian Comedian
Like a lot of people, comedian Cameron Esposito didn't have the easiest time growing up. On her new comedy album, Same Sex Symbol, Esposito recalls, "I had crossed eyes when I was a kid. I wore an eye patch for eight years of my childhood! So there's probably no reason I'm funny at all."
The eye patch wasn't her only hurdle growing up. Today, Esposito is an advocate of equal rights and much of her material deals with her sexuality. But, Esposito explains on her new album, "I didn't know I was gay until I was 20. For me, where I grew up, I honestly think it would have been as difficult for me to realize I was a lesbian as it would have been for me to realize I was a leprechaun. Like, gays and leprechauns, I thought they were mythical creatures for parades."
Esposito joined NPR's Arun Rath to talk about her life, her career and her hecklers.
On growing up in the Chicago suburbs and not realizing she was gay
I grew up in a very homogeneous city — zero gay people that I knew. So it was really difficult figuring out that that's what was going on with me. ... I moved to Boston and I was 20 and I was in college and I kissed a woman for a first time and that's really when I figured it out. I mean, 'cause I had had boyfriends ... sometimes people ask, like, "How could you not have known?" And I really think it's that I just didn't realize some people enjoyed kissing their boyfriends. Does that make any sense? It's true! ...
I never thought of my own pleasure or my own attractions. It just didn't come up for me at all. I didn't think about it. And then I kissed a woman and I was like, "Oh, I understand now. Yeah, that's how that's supposed to feel!"
On how she got her start in comedy
I started in improv when I was in college. And strangely, I was in the same improv group as Amy Poehler was in, like, 10 years prior. So when I started in improv, she was on SNL. So it was the first time that I ever imagined a possible future in comedy because again, where I was raised ... an arts career wasn't really something I ever thought of. It was like, there's 3 jobs: you are an accountant, you are a miscellaneous businessman ... But it was my first taste. ... And the day after I graduated from college, I got my first professional job doing improv at a theater in Boston.
On the potential limitations of being labeled as a lesbian comic
I don't worry about it, I just more think like, I'm ready to get to the next point. I think all of us, as a country, are ready and as a comic, I'm also ready. ... I want to talk about being gay in a way that it's included in all of my jokes because ... I'm a gay person. Like, if I'm ordering a bagel, I'm still a gay person ordering a bagel.
I'm a gay person. Like, if I'm ordering a bagel, I'm still a gay person ordering a bagel. ... And so, I think, I talk about it so much because I want it to become invisible.
And straight people do the same things. You know, when a dude is on stage and he's talking about his girlfriend, he's talking as a straight guy. And so, I think, I talk about it so much because I want it to become invisible.
On getting heckled during performances, even in 2014
This happens all the time. It does seem like some people think that this is a conversation that's over. You know, because some states have accepted equal marriage or because some comics are advocates and allies now, well then maybe this is over as a conversation. And I can tell you — I mean, I was in Las Vegas and I was telling a joke about being engaged and somebody in the audience yelled, "You are the devil!"
... If you care about gay people in a way where you would want them to not be what they are, I just wonder, what's up with your life? How are you doing? Are you OK? I just felt like I wanted to give that guy like a really big hug. Followed by a punch. Just a punch and a hug. Hug and a punch.
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