Tuesday’s Playhouse Square Show Represents a Homecoming for Northeast Ohio Native Rhea Butcher

An Ohio native, comedian Rhea Butcher returns to her home state with her wife and fellow comedian Cameron Esposito on Oct. 10 for a show at the Ohio Theatre, part of their multi-city Back To Back standup tour.

The two are the creators and stars of the hit TV comedy series Take My Wife, the first TV show co-created and co-starring a gay married couple. Expect "edgy and human takes on love, identity and pop culture" when they take the stage both individually and together.

In a recent phone interview from a North Carolina tour stop, the two spoke about the concept for the tour.

Talk about what it’s been like to take this show on the road during this political climate.

I would say it felt really good because this is a time that we’re all feeling isolated. I’m speaking for myself. I’ve been stuck behind a screen and connecting with people via social media so it’s been great to go to some many cities and see how people are doing. Also personally, to feel like there’s something I can do. It’s hard to feel useful as a person when there’s so much going on.

I have enjoyed being out and seeing people’s actual faces. And not just the people coming to the shows but the people in the areas we’ve gotten to visit. It’s been great to see the people in all these communities. We’ve been in South and it’s been great to see people and see how everyone is still making it through days and making each other smile and laugh. It’s a reminder that we’re all still here.

How did you first meet?

We met at an open mic in Chicago that I used to host. It was 60 comics who would go up every week at a bar my buddy used to own. Rhea went up and did standup there for the first time, and we started working together shortly after that. We began dating about a year after that.

Rhea: I started going just as an audience member for a year. I had seen and heard of Cameron before I went. She hosted this open mic every week and she would do a new 20-minute every week. Every week! She would get a full audience at an open mic. It was the best open mic in the city. I just remember thinking I never saw anyone doing this before. She was so strong and powerful but also super kind. She ran this room that was really inclusive. I was impressed right away.

Talk about how doing standup helped you become comfortable with talking about being gay.

I started doing comedy in college at a time when I was not comfortable with myself and not in a safe environment to be out. I started doing improv first. It’s about losing yourself. That was appealing. When I switched to standup in my early twenties, it was a lot about wanting to come out to large groups of people in a way I could control as a safety issue. It made me feel safe and comfortable in the world. That worked. It’s a real thing. That can also create safety for other people. Our audience is like a sanctuary — not to overblow a comedy show. Standup can be cruel or blue or “gotcha.” That’s an art, but I think our stuff is much more about solving something together.

Butcher: I also started out in improv and gravitated toward standup because I wanted to be more in control of what I was talking about. I wanted to just stand on stage and talk about my own life and that’s the best thing. It’s just about telling the truth, basically.

How’d you come up with the concept for Take My Wife?

The show originally was going to be a standup showcase, and we pitched the idea of having interstitial sketches between the standup about us at home. We had a small writers’ group to do that. After about a day, we realized that would be the show. We wanted to make a sitcom that was like “Lucy Loves Lucy.”

Talk about the concept for the current tour.

We host a show in Los Angeles every Tuesday night at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre that is the two of us on stage. Whenever we tour, we have done standup separately. We start the night as a duo and then do separate tours. We have never done that nationally. And we have never done in these types of venues. It feels like a real stage show. We’re doing something together. I don’t know another duo that’s married that performs together. Certainly not a same-sex couple. I think we might be the first.

You guys spend so much time together. Did you think about getting separate busses for the tour?

I have now. It’s very tight quarters, and we’re looking into each other’s faces every single moment of every single day. At the same time, there is no one I would rather do this with. We love to travel and check things out in cities. It’s also really fun. We always have the same things in mind when we’re doing things.

The show touches on “love, identity and pop culture.” Talk about how those issues come up in your sets?

Relationships as a topic for comics is nothing new. I think what we’re doing is both old and new. It’s the married couple on stage talking about both sides of the relationship. It’s like [George] Burns and [Gracie] Allen, but it’s updated. I really love that. When you listen to a comic, you hear one side of the story. What we do that, I’m excited about is that the other person in the relationship is telling you their side at the same time. How do we weave in pop culture and politics? How do you not? That’s the kind of comedy we do. It’s really personal stuff, and the personal is political.

Given that Rhea is a Northeast Ohio native, will she get more time on the mic for the show here?

No, she gets less.
Butcher: That’s not true. We just get the same amount of time.

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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