Episode 129: Cameron Esposito
Published January 26, 2018.
Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend. Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere. Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow. Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman. Ugh, I'm so froggy. And I'm Ann Friedman. Aminatou: [Laughs] Hi Ann Friedman. Ann: Hey, how's it going? Aminatou: You know, just battling colds left and right. We're both sounding like crap but it's okay. Ann: Okay, well I have a treat for both of us today and the treat is this wonderful conversation with Cameron Esposito. Aminatou: Yes! Okay now thank you. I'm back. You've pulled me back in. [Theme Song] (2:33) Ann: Okay, so Cameron for those who are unfamiliar is an incredible stand-up comedian who's been doing this for like ten-years plus. She has a podcast called Queery that is relatively new and amazing, another podcast called Put Your Hands Together which is also a live show that she produces and does with her wife Rhea Butcher, and she and Rhea also had a show on Seeso called Take My Wife which last year when Seeso ceased to exist was not rehomed which resulted in fan outcry because many other shows on the network were picked up elsewhere. So that is not a commentary on the quality of the show which was really, really wonderful. So yeah, there are a few things that I didn't talk to Cameron about that I definitely want to bring up with you. One of them is I forgot to tell her how -- maybe you remember this -- in a really early episode of the podcast we were talking about women comedians making explicit jokes about their periods. Do you remember this? Aminatou: Yes, yes, yes. [Laughs] Ann: Yes, yes, yes. And I think it was a listener who wrote in and was like "You need to listen to this Cameron Esposito bit." Aminatou: You're right! That's literally what it was, it was so long ago. Ann: Yeah, and I mean maybe Gina can play a little clip of it here but I truly think about it every time I'm like day-two menstrual and my body is turning itself inside out. I think of this bit of hers. (4:00) [Clip Starts] Cameron: My body is bleeding out of body. My body is smashing my body out of my body using my body. [Laughter] [Clip Ends] Aminatou: She's been with us all along. That's such an early CYG LOL. Ann: Totally. So I did not fan out. I did not say to her "I think of you every time I menstruate." Aminatou: Good job, Ann. Ann: Thank you. I played it so cool, yeah. The other thing that I sort of wanted to bring up with her but didn't really come up in the context of our conversation is because she said "Definitely ask me about queer stuff." That's an explicit request that she had which I thought was cool but also I did not use her invitation to talk about my own feelings/maybe some regrets about the title of this podcast, especially when I think about our queer listeners. Aminatou: I know. Our like -- our secret biggest annoyance at ourselves was because when we named the show Call Your Girlfriend we literally were not thinking about anything except for how much we loved Robyn. It's like every way that you're supposed to be thoughtful about something we were not thoughtful about at all. We were just like "Oh, we'll just make a podcast and see what happens." Ann: "Oh, the URL's available? Sure, let's go for it." Aminatou: Yeah, the URL's available. Don't examine feelings about queerness and hetero-normative speak and all of this other stuff. Yes, that's exactly what we did. And we've never talked about this publicly I don't think. Ann: Well someone asked us about it at our D.C. live show actually and we didn't have a lot to say except just like you're right, it's pretty hetero-normative. Oops. We did not have a good, thoughtful . . . Aminatou: I know. Ann: I just don't remember having a thoughtful response. Aminatou: No, like if we had had a thoughtful response we probably would not have named the show this. [Laughs] I think that that's fair. But it's definitely something that we both think about and I still have very unresolved feelings about, you know? Because clearly I think, you know, if there was some huge outcry about "Oh my god, this is super-offensive and you're harming somebody actively" then of course change the name of the show, like Call whatever. I don't care. Ann: Call Your Person. [Laughs] (6:20) Aminatou: I know. And I think the reason probably that it keeps me awake at night is because I wonder if more people are offended by it than say anything to us because they just assume that our politics are good, you know? Ugh. Ann: Or the opposite. Aminatou: I'm like have I turned into a monster and nobody -- and somebody's afraid to confront me about it? Ann: I was thinking about the opposite which is how many amazing listeners have we lost because they realized we were not using this term in a way that the modern context generally accepts it which is to say girlfriend, a person you are in a romantic relationship with, not a platonic relationship with. Aminatou: Yeah, true. And the thing that's funny is we never call each other girlfriends. [Laughs] Ann: Right? Like never once have we been like "Hey girlfriend." Aminatou: Yeah, no. And that's really funny because before we started recording you were telling me that you know -- like I've always associated that with maybe slightly older ladies do that, you know? And not in the way that we have reclaimed lady which I know really annoys some of our older listeners. Ann: And some contemporaneous listeners for sure who . . . Aminatou: Yeah, but I care more about the older listeners is what I'm saying. [Laughter] Yeah, but you know, the thoughtlessness of it is really . . . it's like looking back on it this many years. Now I'm just like wow, I just can't believe we didn't think about that but also I can 100% believe we didn't think about that because that's how careless people are. (7:55) Ann: Yeah. I mean the list of things that we did not think about while starting this podcast is like a scroll that is unfurling for miles. So, you know, add it to that list but also it's one of those things where unlike a lot of stuff we didn't think about which is like hey, is this a business? How are we growing and evolving it? How do we feel about having an audience? All that stuff you can kind of work out in real-time whereas the name is pretty fixed. Like our thoughtless choice from early on is fixed. So all of that is to say I did not discuss this with Cameron because I couldn't think of a way to . . . Aminatou: Call her back right now. Call right now because now that's all I care about. [Laughs] Ann: I know. I mean I also didn't want to do that thing where I make a queer-identified guest on the show -- like put her in a position where she'd have to be like "It's fine!" Aminatou: Totally. Ann: You know, I don't need that. I think it's totally fine to be a listener of the show who likes the substance of what we say but still thinks it's fucked up that this is what the name is or whatever. Like I think that's a totally acceptable position to take on our podcast. Aminatou: Yeah, it's a shame I need to be reminded of daily and every time I hear the name I'm reminded of it. So, you know, it's like constant vigilance. It's my own feeling. Ann: Ugh. So yeah, here's me and Cameron on queer stuff, on the term wife, on growing up super-Catholic -- oh my god, we talked about so much Catholic baggage. Aminatou: Oh my god, white Catholic ladies. I can't wait to hear this. [Laughs] Ann: White Catholic Midwest ladies getting so real. She blew my mind with some deep thoughts about Catholicism that I never registered despite decades of feminism. Here's Cameron. [Interview Starts] Cameron: Ann, this is so nice to be at your house for having me. Oh, should I say we're at your house? We're at your house! Ann: Oh my god. Well you have not given the exact address so I think it's fine. Cameron: No, I'm not going to say the exact address but I know what it is. Ann: Great. I love this comes on the heels -- we were just talking about your podcast. Cameron: Hmm, yes. Ann: And how you strive to create a safe space for people who are on the podcast. Welcome to my home. This is the safest space I have. [Laughs] (9:52) Cameron: Yeah! I mean if I was hosting I would prefer to be in a studio. This is going to sound weird coming from a stand-up comic but I like controlled environments. Ann: That's very surprising to me. Cameron: Is it? Ann: Kind of. Cameron: Oh, stand-up comedy is like the most controlled environment you could ever have. Ann: Maybe to outsiders because it's like we see hecklers or things like that. Cameron: True, yes. Ann: Then it seems like oh my god, you're -- because to me I think any podcast is a controlled environment. I'm on the phone with my bestie or with someone whose work we love and it's not like anything could happen. Cameron: Sure, okay. So I will say I don't personally . . . I've never had stage fright and I usually like talking to people in the audience. So like a really . . . a heckler with terrible intentions is going to be impossible for anybody to feel great about. Ann: Sure. Cameron: Because even if you win you're like ugh, I had to stoop to a level, like "I am an artist!" And that's not what I . . . Ann: And there's always a winner? Cameron: Uh yeah. Ann: There's always a winner? Cameron: Yeah, and it should be the comic. Like you're kind of bad if it's not you. Ann: I feel stressed already just thinking about that. Cameron: [Laughs] But that doesn't mean you're destroying the person; it usually means you're just trying to have them be quiet so the rest of the audience can have a good time. Ann: Right. Cameron: You know, I think if you're the kind of person that feels really comfortable onstage talking to hundreds or thousands of people as one unit that might mean that you have a need to sort of control interactions. Ann: Yeah. [Laughs] Cameron: That's a very . . . you're literally on a stage. You're lit. They're not lit. Different thing. Ann: Well and also you spent a bunch of time -- I mean you spend a lot of time on the road, right? Cameron: Yes. Ann: Like it's not like you're just down the street from your house in Los Angeles. You and Rhea are out and about. You're out and about on your own, right? Cameron: Yeah, I've been touring. I mean I started doing comedy professionally the day after I graduated from college, I got my first job. And then I did improv and so that was like at improv theaters, then I started doing stand-up, and that has led to ten years of touring. The last two years I've been in L.A. a lot but yeah, Rhea and I -- Rhea, my wife, Rhea Butcher -- we just went on a bus tour for the first time so you know those big buses? Ann: What? Did it have your faces on the side or like a logo? Cameron: It didn't because that's very expensive. Ann: Aww. (12:10) Cameron: And we lost our . . . so initially we were going to have our TV show on the side of the bus but we lost our TV show because our network folded and so we didn't have our faces on the bus which I think actually ended up being fine because I didn't think that you're in there. Ann: [Laughs] Cameron: Like if your face is on a bus you are in that bus. You live in that bus. Ann: Yeah. Cameron: So I'm not going to say your home address. Ann: Sure. Cameron: And also for safety reasons it's great that you haven't printed out your face and wrapped your house in an image of your face because that does help to keep you sort of hidden. [Laughs] Ann: Wow. So yeah, it had not occurred to me that you would be advertising your presence. And also, okay, this is what I was originally getting at when I started to ask this question is you have been out on the road at a time when the news is devastating and difficult for everybody. Definitely everybody who's a woman, definitely everyone who's a queer person, and you are literally out there. You are on stages in places where I don't know, the prevailing sentiment may not be super awesomely inclined towards you and how you live your life and the choices you make and the people you love and your whole world. So I'm curious about if you've had any experiences on the road, maybe positive because you're also probably making a space for a lot of people who want to hear from you, but also maybe what's been difficult about that in the past year? (13:40) Cameron: Yeah, so my life is now very . . . my life as a performer is now very different than it used to be because when I first started touring I was never . . . you know, you don't start as a name draw and so people are just wandering into generic comedy and it would be super -- and also if you think about . . . so I've been working professionally in comedy for 15 years. If you think about the changes in this country for queer folks. Ann: Right. Cameron: And the trajectory of the LGBT civil rights movement, it has been 15 years . . . Ann: Right. Cameron: . . . that it has gone in this hyper drive. I mean obviously we've always been here. Queer folks have always been here. Ann: Sure. Cameron: We have been erased from history but we've always been here, but the last 15 years have been particularly significant. I actually graduated from college, got my first job, and Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage the same week. Ann: Whoa. Cameron: So my career has been totally entwined with changes in the way I was treated in every room I walked into. I initially started doing stand-up literally to create safety for myself where I could come out to a bunch of people at once which felt safer than coming out individually because there's other witnesses to sort of protect you. Ann: Right. Cameron: And it felt like a way to not always have some big secret. At the time I really didn't present as queer as I do now. Either I wore clothes you might find in a woman's section and I had longer hair so . . . Ann: That was before you went asymmetrical. Yeah. [Laughs] Cameron: Yeah, free-side mullet. I just had long, one-length hair. Ann: Uh-huh. Cameron: And so people never assumed I was gay. I mean you're at a bagel store getting like a bagel and somebody's like "Ooh, are you getting this extra bagel for your boyfriend?" And I'm like am I coming out to the bagel employee? Ann: [Laughs] Cameron: You know, every day is this tiny . . . it's just little decisions, you know? So it was just how can I tell everybody all the time? And the answer is to become famously gay. Ann: So that was the plan. The plan was a 15-year trajectory to coincide with gaining more rights for LGBT people. Cameron: [Laughs] It just happened that that was the moment where . . . this is such a long answer to your question but I swear it is . . . Ann: That's what we're here for. Cameron: Fucking cool and interesting. Ann: [Laughs] (16:05) Cameron: Like a couple years ago when Rhea and I were engaged and we started touring together when we were engaged because we hadn't always, we were going to plan this whole trip where we went to all these states that banned marriage equality. But we kept waking up in the morning. As we were trying to book this tour we kept waking up and being like "God damn it, you can get married in Kentucky now." Ann: [Laughs] Cameron: Then we'd be sad. It was this terrible emotion of "We have to cancel a date because our stupid tour . . ." Anyway. Ann: We can get married anywhere. Aww. Cameron: Aww. The worst. But now when I go places our audience knows who we are and they come to see us so it's not coming out to the audience. It is much more -- you know, what I have found in the last year is the same thing I've found for my entire career which is we are lied to by the people that want to maintain power about what the real demographics are of this country and who lives where and who knows who and what the distribution of people is in this country. Like I am from the Midwest. I live on the west coast now but the term coastal elite has popped into -- when are we not hearing about how people in middle America are versus people in big cities and people on the coast? And what I find is that we are all dealing with the same issues, economic security being a huge one of those issues that everybody's worried about. But it turns out if the political system undervalues you or criminalizes you that economic security is impossible to achieve. So it's like yeah, we should talk to the white working class. We should also talk to the white working class who are gay folks. We should also talk to trans folks who are people of color who can't get housing because they present in a different way than somebody else who's applying for the same apartment. (18:00) Ann: Right. And all those people live everywhere. Cameron: Everywhere. Ann: I'm also from the Midwest, yeah. [Laughs] Cameron: Everywhere, man. Ann: I know, I know! 100%. And I feel like we've seen . . . like we've not been touring for nearly as long as you have with the podcast, but it's always nice to -- even if this is a thing that you understand intellectually, not least because you grew up in Illinois -- but it's so great. And Rhea's from Ohio, right? Cameron: Yeah. And you're from Iowa. Ann: I'm from Iowa. So all the vowels, yeah. Cameron: Yeah, all the same. Yeah, we've got them. Yes. Ann: Yeah, all the central standard time vowels although most of them -- Ohio might be eastern time. I don't know. Anyway, whatever. Cameron: It is. Ann: Oof. Ugh, tough one for me in the Midwest. Yeah. Anyway, so we know these things intellectually but I think that being in person and seeing oh, this community that we have politically, intellectually, over the waves of the podcast, whatever, actually exists in some physical spaces too. It must be really cool to see that. Cameron: Absolutely. Ann: Yeah. Cameron: And I'm sure you have so many women that listen to the show that then come to see -- I'm sure that's a huge part of your demographic in terms of ticket sales. It's literally . . . I mean number one, we talk about it as if women don't exist in this country at all but then we also especially talk about it as if women kind of only live in New York or Manhattan or whatever, do you know what I mean? Ann: Right, right. Cameron: It's like the island of Manhattan where there are a few strong, loud women. Ann: And a couple in L.A. too. A couple. Cameron: A couple in L.A. But we're 51% of the population. Ann: Right. Cameron: So we're everywhere. Ann: I'm very excited to talk to you also about just working with your significant other so closely. I know that your latest album which is doing very, very well, that you and Rhea have a joint album that is tearing up the iTunes charts. Is that fair to say? Cameron: Oh, we're excited about it because we've had separate number ones. In fact this is my fourth album and two of them were number ones and then this is one together. Ann: First joint number one. (20:00) Cameron: I literally don't know if there's a couple that's done this, had number ones individually and together. And if they have it's not when iTunes existed. Ann: Yeah. Cameron: I'm talking about some old Vaudeville shit or like . . . so anyway, it's cool. And especially queer people. Anyway. Ann: No, no, it's so good. It's so great. Cameron: I'm stoked about it. Ann: In the sort of -- the first little part of the album you talk about the fact that you spend a lot of time together, you work together, and I like a lot of people I know have had relationships with people who kind of do exactly what I do. Not currently but in the past. And I have friends who are in relationships with people who do very close to the thing that they do. And I'm curious about not so much the time you spend together because obviously you choose to do it, you want to work together, but what are some of the things that you've had to work through that have to do with your own ego or your own, I don't know, how you're conceiving of your work or how good you're feeling about it because that's happening in such close proximity to this person who you love and share your life with? Cameron: Yeah, that's such a good way of phrasing this question. Well the hardest thing is ever stopping working because our work is our home and my co-worker is always there so you kind of just work forever which is a really good way to kill just sort of any romance or sexuality that might have previously been part of your relationship. Ann: [Laughs] Cameron: It's just sort of like always going through HR paperwork together, you know? [Laughs] Ann: Oh my god. Cameron: It's just a really great way to keep it fresh. But in a million ways Rhea's got a whole thing going on where our genders are different and some people really prefer what Rhea's doing and yeah, that sucks. Sometimes it'll be like a photo of the two of us and people will be telling me Rhea's hot. I'm like "I know, but also don't you realize I posted this photo specifically because you're supposed to say I am hot? Do you not know how moderate celebrity works?" Ann: [Laughs] (22:14) Cameron: But I think the benefits are that I agree with what people think about Rhea which is rad. Ann: Do you feel affirmed when people are like "Your wife is super-hot?" [Laughs] Cameron: I mean not just that but funny. Rhea is so funny, thank god, because I think we do put too much pressure on our relationship for most relationships to be able to withstand and it just so happens that she's also extremely funny and as you know I'm also extremely funny. Ann: [Laughs] Cameron: So that helps. You know, comedy's a great pressure release from any situation. But then to also work in a field where we're not in the majority. We're not Jerry Seinfeld walking out in front of a brick wall. Like we always . . . Ann: Thank god. [Laughs] Cameron: We always look weird onstage. We will always be outside of context for what people think a normative comic is and we share that. So it's a real gamble. We'll see if it pays off. I mean I'm in right now but good god, to try to do all this together, it's wild. Ann: And I'm curious about this for you but I'm sure it must be something that the two of you talk about too, thinking about how a joke is received by someone who shares your identity or is a member of your community versus someone who's outside it, that whole Dave Chappelle thing of "Oh, I felt like I was being laughed at in the wrong way" or "The jokes were being taken in the wrong way." Is that a thing you think about, like oh, for this crowd not this joke? Or are you just like take it, you're going to get it? How does that go? (23:48) Cameron: I mean I have . . . one thing I've made a conscious effort to do is to never throw myself under the bus because that is something women and queer comics have a history of doing because it's easier to sort of dance around and make yourself farcicals so that people are comfortable with you. Ann: And is that what you mean by throw yourself under the bus? Kind of make a joke of your identity or . . . Cameron: "Boo, I'm disgusting!" Ann: Oh yeah, yeah. Cameron: So therefore let's all laugh at me together and that will make me safe. Uh, I have just chosen to not do that. And so I speak positively about myself which is weird for a comic. Self-deprecating humor is like a huge part of stand-up comedy. Unless everyone else also shits on you then I don't think you need to add to that. Ann: Right. Cameron: I think you can be the one that's like "I'm cool" or whatever it is. Ann: Everyone's like "Oh, she did . . ." [Laughs] Cameron: Exactly. And it's not like I'm always smart or always doing the right thing but I try really hard not to make fun of how I look or my body type. Ann: Right. Cameron: Because that's something that is often done. And it's just like oh, man, other people are really taking care of that for me. I don't need to also carry that mantle. Ann: [Laughs] Cameron: But have I tailored my . . . I started trying to change people's minds, so that means people outside the community. I don't need to change . . . well that's not true, some queer people need to love queer people. Much more for the people outside the community. And then that was trial by fire. I used to open for this comic who's like an insult comic and very specifically crass and one linery stuff and when I would go out with this comic we'd be playing several thousand seat theaters and people were so angry that I was being positive and being a tiny lesbian. Ann: Oh my god. Cameron: That he had to intro me offstage using like a god mic. The whole audience had to hear his voice so he would be the one saying my name. Ann: Wow. (25:55) Cameron: Not like a different person. Then I would have to come out and I would have to reference something we had done that day as friends so people would not literally shout me offstage. Ann: Wow. Sorry, I'm still processing that one. Cameron: [Laughs] Yeah, that's what we figured out worked. Ann: Wow. Cameron: But yeah, now Trump's America? I cut my hair and I've just decided I'm going to get gayer and madder and louder and like more overtly feminist and I'm going to try really hard to include race. Yeah. Because it's like it didn't work I guess. Ann: Yeah. Cameron: Like it worked but it didn't work, so no more gentle. Ann: Yeah, like the collective experience. You know, if you take that experience of being introduced by this male comic and having sort of his imprimatur of creating a slightly safer space for you to tell jokes, it's like oh yeah, that didn't work for us collectively either, like the kind of tip-toe version. Cameron: Exactly. Ann: Yeah, yeah. Cameron: Exactly. Naivety and age, just never having . . . I guess I thought the tip-toeing was working. It was. I mean it did in some ways work but I'm just much more pissed now. [Laughs] Ann: Yeah, and I think that I definitely feel that when it comes to living my personal truth, if we can steal that from Oprah. But I think that where it's trickier for me is the question of -- especially as a white person -- the question of can I just shut down or shut off the people who I think are ungettable or part of the problem? Because part of how I'm thinking about this era is okay, well you know, straight people have to come get the straight people and white people have to come and get the white people. People who are participating in ancient systems of oppression need to work on getting free together, right? But that can feel a lot like kind of hand-holding or tiptoeing or maybe not something people have always earned. And so, I don't know, that's not really a question but . . . (28:10) Cameron: My . . . but I also have always gotten that I'm like brash and loud and that I -- I mean I'm a woman who talks so it's a real problem. Ann: Yeah, you seem to have opinions and stuff. Yeah. [Laughs] Cameron: I have opinions and I back them up with thought and experiences and this is a real problem. Ann: Right. Cameron: I say them in a loud voice that's also amplified through a microphone. Ann: Right. Cameron: So it's just a real issue. And for instance something like Twitter, I used to like wrack my mind trying to think of jokes to put -- because I'm just . . . Ann: That's like part of your job, right? Yeah. Cameron: It's part of my job. But I really have . . . it's mostly political statements. Yeah, I feel like I fucking tried. If you think I'm loud and annoying and I'm censoring myself then I guess maybe I should stop censoring myself. If I'm already loud and annoying. Ann: Right. Cameron: What are you going to say, she got louder and more annoying? Ann: Maybe. Cameron: Maybe. The same criticism. Ann: Everyone else is like "She got louder and more annoying! Yes!" Cameron: Exactly. Yeah, yeah. Ann: We need a million of you. Yeah. Cameron: I have found that people are very grateful for the loudness this year, and also I just . . . my stand-up has never really . . . something like whiteness, my stand-up has never included that because in the trajectory of my career we were moving in a positive direction. We had our first black president. I felt like booking comics of color to talk in a first-person way about their experience was the thing to do to open doors. Ann: Right. (29:45) Cameron: And now I'm just like oh, no, it's . . . Ann: A little both and . . . yeah. Cameron: Right, it's both and. Yes. I have to tweet the words "White people" and then get beyond the bubble of my retweets. Do you ever have that happen? Ann: Oh yeah. Cameron: You get so far beyond the bubble of your retweets and people start saying racist things to me because my last name is Esposito. Ann: And my last name is Friedman and I'm not Jewish and I get antisemitic tweets. We have a lot of commonality there. Cameron: Yes. [Laughs] And you're like "I am a white people. Deal with that. I'm just mad at white people and I'm a white people." So I don't even want to tell you how angry people of color are if you can't deal with this white person's anger at white people. Ann: Oh my god, completely. Yeah. And also those people can't Google. That's the other thing. Cameron: [Laughs] Ann: It's like wow, you should Google me and get the full picture of everything that can be brought against me in the court of racial justice, you know? Cameron: But friend . . . it is so beyond. This is a tiny story that I think will have a payoff that might make sense. In my neighborhood is a neighbor of mine, this older male couple, and they put a nativity in front of their house and it has two Josephs in it. And I took a picture of it last year -- Rhea took a picture of it last year -- and we posted it. It made me happy. Ann: Lots of likes on that one. Yeah. Cameron: Lots of likes. This year, took a picture, posted it. Many likes but also literally a statement from the Catholic church. Ann: [Laughs] Cameron: I grew up Catholic. Ann: I did too. I'm so jealous that you got a statement from the Catholic church. Cameron: A statement from the archdiocese, from the bishop of Providence, Rhode Island. Ann: Wow. Cameron: Multiple write-ups on this photograph in conservative publications. I mean I'm sure you can even imagine what they are. Ann: Yeah. Cameron: It was mentioned in the Washington Post with a photo -- with my photo -- in a round-up of offensive nativities that included zombie nativities. [Laughter] And has now gotten to the point where I don't know what happened this week but somehow it got to Italy. Ann: Ooh. (31:55) Cameron: Because now I'm getting death threats that I have to translate to realize whether or not they're death threats. Ann: Wow. Cameron: On my Facebook page, because I posted that I was happy. I just posted a picture of plastic white men. Ann: Also the crazy thing about this is the Christmas story would totally work with two Josephs. It's an immaculate conception. Cameron: Thank you, Ann. Absolutely true. Ann: Are they missing the broader point here? Yeah. Cameron: The other part of it, because it got a lot of love, but all of the hate that I heard was in the same category of historical inaccuracy. Ann: [Laughs] Cameron: And I will just tell you that if you have a white people nativity . . . Ann: Oh my god. Cameron: That you are also having a really historically inaccurate nativity. Ann: Yeah. Like if you've got one of those white bohunk Jesuses framed and hanging in your house, yeah. Cameron: Exactly. Nobody was like -- actually I am most offended these are two white-skinned Josephs when they should be two brown-skinned Josephs. Ann: Why are people not enraged about the right things? [Laughs] Cameron: I just don't know. Like systems of oppression I guess. [Ads] (36:06) Ann: I think you also tweeted recently something about being culturally Catholic or Catholic being your dominant . . . Cameron: Oh yeah. Yeah. Ann: This is also something that I share. Other than sort of generalized white person identity, Catholic is a strong cultural upbringing touchstone. And I have some family questions related to that like when it comes to your job and your identity and your jokes. I mean I feel -- I don't know, so I'm curious. Cameron: Oh yeah. Well I mean it was terrible when I came out. I was 19 or 20 and, you know, awful. It was really awful. The first person I came out to was a roommate and that was my best friend at the time and she didn't talk to me for a month. That was my roommate. Ann: While you're living together? Cameron: And we were at a college where I couldn't come out because you could be kicked out of school. And then when my parents found out they cried a lot. They cried for literally years and took me to therapy which I think they thought was going to be positive talk therapy but I thought was conversion therapy. Ann: Oh my god. Cameron: And I say all of this because I think . . . so I'm 36 and I think it's really easy to forget that this is something a lot of people are living now and that this is -- I mean I still consider 36 a moderately young person. This is recent history. This was in the 2000s. Ann: Right. Cameron: And this still happens and I think as we talk about progress and as we talk about the current administration as like "Oh my god, we can't believe we're back here," it's like for a lot of people it also never changed and I think it's important to acknowledge that. But then in terms of where are they now it's just a completely different story. Like my dad sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow which he asked if he could sing at my wedding because it was important to him. Ann: Aww. (38:05) Cameron: And that doesn't mean that that's not my culture. Like it's totally bizarre and I'm sure you can relate to this. Like everything I think is because I went to Catholic school my whole life and I'm from this super telling Catholic family. I played mass when I was growing up. That was my favorite game to play. Ann: Wow, yeah. We played that too. We used potato chips as like hosts. Cameron: Better Cheddars. That's what we used, or sliced bananas. Ann: Better Cheddars, yeah, mm-hmm. Totally. Totally. Uh-huh. Cameron: So I mean it's just a huge part of how I live my life because I feel like the . . . what we could do if we wanted to was take the messages that people in the past were writing down or passing along through oral tradition about loving each other. We could take those messages and use them as philosophy if we wanted to. Ann: Say hypothetically if we were to want that. Yeah. [Laughs] Cameron: If we want it. Ann: I guess it's also like I had -- I don't . . . in some ways don't even identify as lapsed because it's like my family is Catholic. I never was into it. Like I stopped going to communion in third grade or whatever. I was not into it. It's given me a lot of like that rebellious phase of "Oh, I hate all things Catholic." It made it hard for me to realize how deep a lot of that stuff had gotten in there, you know? I was like oh yeah, I never really liked it. But I was thinking about talking to you today and about how I was like oh, yeah, when I think about Cameron I think about wife as a positive term, someone who uses that term in a way that doesn't mean religious subjugation to a nuclear-hetero family unit. You know, but seriously I'm curious about whether you feel like beyond the just kind of passed-down folk wisdom love everyone if there's stuff you've actively felt like yeah, I'm going to claim this from my cultural tradition and own it? Cameron: Oh yeah. I mean are you ready for this answer? Ann: I'm ready. I'm ready. (40:00) Cameron: So when you in third grade were moving away from the church I was moving towards the church. I was an Eucharistic minister. Ann: Oh wow, my mom would've died if I . . . she'd have been so happy. Cameron: Yeah, so that means you give the host out to people at mass. I was also an altar server which means you're like a priest assistant. I was a theology major in college. I went to daily mass of my own volition. Ann: Wow. Cameron: But what I liked about it, what I found in that and why I was . . . the super-leftist radical elements of the Catholic church, liberation theology, is actually a thought process and set of teachings that were used in Central and South America to overthrow oppressive governments that were killing innocent people to retain power. Ann: Yeah. Cameron: So the Catholic church . . . also I lived in Rome for a while. I mean I was in. Ann: Wow. Cameron: But what I was in for was the same stuff that I still love today. Like I was in for the liberation. I was in for standing with people on the fringes of society and being like "It's okay to fight." The darkness that's at the center which is money, which is wealth, the total corruption that wealth can cause when you value that over anything else . . . Ann: And I would argue a sprinkling of patriarchy as well. Cameron: Right? Patriarchy is one of the greatest ways to keep wealth. Ann: Yeah, yeah, I forgot about that pyramid scheme. Yeah. Cameron: Is to say that only some people deserve wealth. Ann: Yep. Cameron: I mean do you know why priests can't get married? This is one of my favorite things to talk . . . Ann: Please tell me you're setting me up for a great joke right now. [Laughs] Cameron: No, this is not . . . it depends on what you think a joke is. Ann: No, no, I know. I knew you were about to be serious. Okay. Cameron: This is something passed down throughout history to oppress women. Ann: Yeah. (41:45) Cameron: Because when priests were having kids the male children and their family were inheriting land away from the church. So the church would be built, the priest was having a child, the male child was inheriting land. So if the priest cannot get married then wealth cannot be inherited through families and it stays within the Catholic church. Holy shit. Ann: Ugh, I cannot believe I'm just learning about this now. Cameron: So that's what we're all protecting, you know what I mean? Like when you go to mass the darkness that you're protecting is that. Ann: Ugh. Cameron: And the other side of that coin is actually this totally punk rock rebellious thing that some folks have used faith to access. So I just cut off the faith. Ann: Gotcha. Cameron: And I kept the other stuff. Ann: Wow. Cameron: So I'm like an atheist. I don't believe in any of that shit. I'm totally outside of that. But I think the . . . or I'm grateful to have some training in how to be where there is conflict, although in a white people way and a patriarchy way. Ann: Sure. Oh my god, so do you still go to church? Do you keep that at all, like in a cultural way? I still go with my mom like once a year if I'm home at Christmas. Cameron: I wish I could. Ann: I respect that. Cameron: It makes me so mad. I miss it so much. I listen to Christmas carols the moment they come on the radio. It pops into my life in the weirdest ways. Like Rhea, we're driving the other day and she's like "You have to turn off these carols." I'm like "You don't understand, these are my favorite songs." Ann: Meanwhile you're three verses deep into Here Comes Santa Clause or something. Cameron: I'm singing like Oh Holy Night. Ann: Oh wow. Cameron: Hitting the high note. I'm singing We Three Kings. I'm doing the serious baritone . . . Ann: Wow, like the church-approved Christmas songs. Wow. Wow. Cameron: Yeah, the church-approved. I will never not be mad that that was taken from me, like that I had what was really a cultural identity with all of these traditions and practices. Ann: Yeah. Cameron: And then the darkness of that was revealed and I was like . . . and it just feels snatched. It just feels snatched out of my life. I think that's true for so many people. Ann: Right. (43:55) Cameron: I mean I would say the same thing for women who come too and suddenly realize that patriarchy exists or for people that can ignore something or that can be duped, to in some way realize holy shit. Ann: Right. I feel like we get emails like this to the podcast a lot where people are kind of low-key "Do you ever wish you could be less woke and enjoy some stuff that you used to enjoy?" And it's like, you know . . . I mean it's like yes I can enjoy things that I can see lots of problems with but also there's no going back. [Laughs] Cameron: No. Also men's rights activists have hijacked the matrix because they don't understand movies. Ann: Mm-hmm. I know, where's Keanu on this issue? How has he not spoken out about the collecting of this? I want to believe in Keanu so bad. Cameron: So you're saying two trans women made a movie about really understanding who you are and choosing to know yourself and live your life authentically instead of in darkness and you think that's ultimate masculinity? Dominating everything else? Ann: Yeah, that's about -- yeah. Cameron: Holy shit, man. But anyway you have to live authentically. Thank god you know things. Thank god we learn things throughout our lives. Ann: I know. Cameron: That's what aging is I actually think. Aging is really looking things in the eye. Then you die at the end. Ann: Yeah. Cameron: So it's just a pretty -- it's a hopeful story. [Laughs] Ann: Well I was going to say the other part of that is just continuing to be more you. Cameron: Oh yeah. Ann: It's like the question is oh, yeah, how can you Cameron harder in the coming year? You know what I mean? Like that's to me aging. It's like oh, the next year. Oh my god, in ten years I'm going to be ten times more me. What is that even going to be like? Holy cow. Cameron: Wow, that -- holy . . . I have a sparkle brain from the sparkle brain meme from the Internet. I don't know. Ann: Yep. Cameron: Yep. You turned it on. (46:00) Ann: And you know the other thing I was going to say too is the great thing is people are continuing to make art that is non-compromised and is inclusive and it's like yeah, I try to remind myself of that too when I'm watching something where I'm like okay, this is like 10% funny but 90% garbage or whatever percentages they may be. I'm like oh, yeah, there's probably an alternative if I look a little bit harder for it of something that is 100% pleasure, you know? Cameron: Oh man. Ann, I'm smiling so much at that because I feel like that has for me just career-wise been the most interesting part of this year. The speed of evolution of 2017, it's just like everything I thought last week I'm having to improve upon this week. So it just means like for art I have no idea what is going to be possible. I know that this is a stupid clich. It does not make it good that society goes backwards. Ann: Right. Cameron: But I'm just understanding why the cycle happens which is it's because you're just busting through walls in your brain constantly, so what is going to come out of all of this? Because not only are we going to know ourselves better but also so much has been revealed. So much is going to continue to be revealed. It's like stuff that was punk rock and on the edge in 2017 in 2019 is going to seem like it was from 45 years ago. Ann: I love that idea. Cameron: It is real. That is real. Ann: Yeah. Cameron: And we are going to push so fast, and also the Internet. Thank you, the Internet, maybe if you exist still . . . Ann: Here's hoping. [Laughs] Cameron: . . . is also connecting access to those things. Ann: Right. Cameron: So like you donate some kind of -- you don't have to work through a gatekeeper. Ann: Yeah. Do you think about what . . . so you're 36. I am mere weeks away from being 36. We're basically the same age. Cameron: Get over here girl. It's good. [Laughs] Ann: I know. I can't wait. Do you -- so that means we're exactly the same age and I basically didn't have the Internet when I was a baby. Cameron: Oh yeah. (48:08) Ann: And so do you ever think about what baby Cameron would've been like with the Internet? Cameron: Oh my gosh, I . . . yes. I have to every day because I feel like this is true for so many artists. So I really make art that I needed to see when I was a kid and it's amazing how true that is. It is amazing how true that is. So my first community of queer people was a blog that existed about the L Word where I was at this school where I couldn't come out but I had Internet access and a desktop, and I couldn't even watch The L Word because it was on premium cable which you couldn't subscribe to through my dorm room. But I just could read that somebody could watch The L Word. Like it was the concept that somebody could watch The L Word. Ann: And we're back to the importance of making groundbreaking art. [Laughter] Yes. The concept of The L Word was enough for you to find a community. That's so amazing. Cameron: Yeah, yeah. I mean it was big. It was really big. I'm actually kind of a shy person too, like I'm an introvert, so that was a great access point for me. I would never have left the house and gone to . . . well I did used to go -- I used to drive across Boston to the one coffee shop that was called The Diesel Cafe where there were three queer people that worked there. Ann: Mm-hmm. Cameron: And sometimes I would just go. I wouldn't even order anything. I couldn't even make it to the counter. But I could walk through the door and just go like "Oh my god" and then leave. Ann: And were you just like getting closer? Cameron: Just getting closer. Just seeing . . . because the only person I knew who was gay was my girlfriend and she and I -- like our kiss was both of our realization that we were queer. So she had no more information for me about what this would be like. Ann: Right. (50:00) Cameron: So I had like Dan Savage's column. Ann: Yep. Cameron: I had the Diesel Cafe which I could sort of almost open the door to and maybe would eventually order from. Ann: I have this image of you like an orphan outside defogging it with a breath and rubbing the window and peering through. Cameron: [Laughs] Like so many scarves even though it's summer. Ann: Yes, exactly. Cameron: Why is she so cold? Ann: You're just shivering in 90 degree heat outside. Cameron: Yeah, yeah. Isn't that wild? Ann: It's so amazing because it's like now I'm sure that those -- that girl who just had her first kiss and realized important things about herself is like listening to you and maybe joining some online forum about take my wife. Cameron: I mean I'm basically going to burst into tears even thinking about that. You know, a really cool thing is that -- I wonder if you have this -- kids and parents. The last tour -- this has happened a little bit more over the last couple years -- but the last tour was a lot. It would be like a young queer person and then their parent making the decision to help them get to our show or to expose them to us or to support them, and the parent would always be waiting in the back. They wouldn't come up and meet us at the meet-and-greet. And I would be like please come over here and just tell them, like this is great parenting. I say thank you for what you're doing. This is awesome. And the kids would be humiliated and mortified that I was talking to their parents but somebody has to tell the parent that this is the right thing to do. Ann: Ugh, I love that. Cameron: I know, isn't that amazing? Ann: Yeah. Cameron: It's amazing. Like young teams. Ugh, god, I know. (51:44) Ann: I love hearing about good parents. Also what? Cameron: Good parents. Oh my god, going to stand-up with a parent is so risky already because probably any comic is going to talk about the existence of sex which is so humiliating. Ann: Sure. Cameron: But the idea that both that kid and the parent are getting through that hurdle. Ann: Right. Cameron: Because sexuality, identity, and gender is so much -- ugh, anyway, I understand the sacrifice that they're making to sit next to their parent. Ann: Yes. Cameron: While I may talk about the existence of sex. I get it. It's raw. Ann: Oh my god, there's so much happening in that scenario. Cameron: Yeah, it's true. Ann: I'm like really? Yeah. I'm here for it. So I have to ask you before we go because obviously we talk about friendship all the time. I'm curious about your closest friends, who they are, who are the people when you're like oh my god, I have a really hard decision to make or I just can't wrap my head around this thing or whatever it may be, who you call. And tell me about just one of them. Two of them. Cameron: Wow. I have never been asked that question ever. Ann: This is what our podcast is here for. [Laughs] Cameron: Good job, good job. Breaking ground. I have two sisters. I'm in the middle, so there's something about being Italian, Catholic, and from the suburbs in the Midwest where I was literally -- the thing that our parents taught us every day was don't leave your sisters behind. It was said with such seriousness that I felt like I had no idea what they were predicting would happen in our lives. Ann: [Laughs] Very apocalyptic actually. Cameron: Don't leave your sisters behind. It's like dark. But my siblings are the closest people to me in the world. They are both the straightest women you've ever met in your entire life. [Laughs] They are both unbelievably interesting and doing really cool things that have nothing to do with my job. They live very far away from me. My little sister lives in South America. My older sister lives on the other side of the country. And just rad people and I'm very lucky because because of them I just was raised in this family where women can really achieve anything. I mean between my siblings and I, and there was a time in our 20s when we all lived on the same block prior to me moving to Los Angeles. We all lived on the same block. We like moved out of my parents' house, moved to different cities, and then moved back to Chicago and lived on the same block. And we're all the same size. Well my little sister is two inches shorter. Other than that you would think we were triplets. We all looked exactly the same. And yeah, just having women like that around me I've never been scared to try to do something because I'm a woman even though people tell me literally every day to stop doing my job because women aren't funny. Ann: [Laughs] (54:32) Cameron: I have never believed that for one second because I have very strong women in my life. Ann: I'm laughing even when you say that. That's how funny you are. That's how wrong they are. Cameron: [Laughs] Ann: I'm like oh, isn't that funny? I mean it is though. At this point it's more like the whole we're laughing at you thing if someone says that. Cameron: Yes, you should laugh at them. Ann: Because like really, in what world? In what world, you know? It's like grandpa's ranting in the corner again. Cameron: I know. But it is also the weirdness of that I will never get over. Ann: Yeah. Cameron: Also going to someone's job and telling them that they can't do their job while they're doing their job is so weird. [Laughs] Ann: It is very weird. Cameron: It was just like if it was anything else that would be . . . it's just completely bizarre. But yes, anyway, I have siblings that we are nothing alike. We have completely different interests but they're powerful, powerful women. Ann: I love that. Ugh. Sometimes a sister is a bestie. I love that. You know, it's like lifelong. Yeah. Cameron: I have sister besties. Ann: Yeah. Cameron: They've been there through the whole thing. It is real. I don't know if anybody listening has sister besties but oh my god, when you have that overlap it's so much. Ann: Everyone without a sister bestie is seething with jealousy right now. Seething. [Laughs] Cameron: I don't know. Sometimes it is the worst. Ann: Yeah. (55:48) Cameron: You know, you don't want people to know you that well. Ann: I mean it's very dangerous to be known. Yeah. Cameron: It's really dangerous to be known. If I wanted to be known. Ann: Yeah. Tell me about the rest of your 2018 that you have coming up that we can all look forward to. Cameron: So the big news is the thing that I am working on right now I can't talk about. Ann: Of course. You can never talk about the big stuff. Cameron: But it's a TV project. Ann: Ooh. Cameron: And one thing that people could do is put their -- you know, put their hearts and minds that it goes forward. I've been working on it for a long time and it has a lot of momentum right now so I'm real excited. Ann: Ooh. Cameron: Cross all of our fingers and toes. Ann: Okay. Cameron: The album Back-to-Back which I released with Rhea is still out and I will have new episodes of my podcast Queery. I will either have just or I will be about to be releasing an episode with Lena Waithe that I recorded yesterday that was really great. Ann: Ooh. Cameron: So what's up? Ann: I'm excited. Cameron: I know. I had an Emmy winner at my house. Ann: It's also been so exciting to hear you as an interviewer. You are really good at not just being the one telling the jokes but drawing people out. Cameron: Thanks. I'm giving it a go. Ann: Yeah. Yeah, it's hard. [Laughs] Cameron: It is really hard. Ann: So I'm just recognizing that you're doing a great job. Cameron: Oh, thanks. Ann: And I'm so excited to hear about this possible, maybe, probably going to happen TV thing. Cameron: But then obviously it'll just go away in a puff of smoke. You know how everything -- we'll see. We'll see. Ann: I don't know. Cameron: I want to say on-record that I am very grateful for Call Your Girlfriend and for you and the work that you do. Ann: Thanks. Cameron: This has been a really hard year. I know a lot of people would agree that it's important to have people that travel with you in your ears that are telling you that you're not seeing things that aren't there. Ann: I wanted to say being seen but it's like being heard? Being recognized? The podcast makes it hard with seeing metaphors. Cameron: Honestly sometimes relaxing and letting somebody else drive for a minute. Ann: Ooh, ranting on your behalf. [Laughs] (57:54) Cameron: Yes, seriously. You know what it's like to do this job where you have to create . . . I mean I love my job but also when you are creating thoughts for a living I don't want to be the only one that thinks this thing. Ann: Totally. Cameron: And I'm not and you're not and that's what's great about right now. I've been trying to give people props and reach out and just say like "I see what you're doing because we're creating this wall of truth." Ann: [Laughs] Cameron: And it's not just a single sign post, you know? Ann: Right. Cameron: We're all together lining up and it really matters. It really matters. Ann: Man, wall of truth. Name of your new production company. [Laughs] Cameron: Wall of truth. Ann: Not at all serious. Cameron, thanks for being on the podcast. Cameron: Yeah, this is great. Thank you for having me. Ann: Ugh, our plesh. [Interview Ends] Ann: Okay, thanks to Cameron, the best, and see you person I never refer to as my girlfriend on the Internet. Aminatou: [Laughs] See you platonic woman who is my friend. You know, maybe we can -- that's what we'll re-brand the show as, Call Your Platonic Girlfriend. Ann: Call Your Platonic Woman Friend. Aminatou: I know. Let's call Robyn and have her change the lyrics of the song too so nobody's confused. Ann: Please. Aminatou: You can find us many places on the Internet, on our website callyourgirlfriend.com. You can download it anywhere you listen to your favorite podcasts or on Apple Podcasts where we would love it if you left us a review. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at callyrgf. You can subscribe to our monthly newsletter The Bleed on the Call Your Girlfriend website. You can even leave us a short and sweet voicemail at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. Our theme song is by Robyn, all original music is composed by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs, our logos are by Kenesha Sneed, and this podcast is produced by Gina Delvac.