I didn’t anticipate getting to write about this beautiful human so soon after moving to her city of origin. I’ve been enthusiastically dabbling in stand up since August 2014 (when I regaled 300 strangers with a set that included the subtle segue, “Speaking of gas stations, I lost my virginity this summer…”). But it was stumbling upon Esposito’s reel, and then her tale of a girl’s coming of age in the aisle of an airplane, that convinced me I wanted to keep sharing my humiliations onstage after college. I revere plenty of other performers: Louis CK got me watching stand up in the first place, and I used to listen to Patton Oswalt’s My Weakness is Strong while falling asleep so I could pretend he was my husband. But Esposito’s frenzied excitement, disarming optimism, and—of course—epic side mullet made her my biggest role model. She exudes intellectual curiosity without pretention or pessimism. Her silly humor intersects seamlessly with her staunch feminist viewpoint. Her dapper sartorial choices nearly tricked me into trying vests again.
When I found out she started her career while living in Logan Square, where I’d been scoping out a sublet, I took it as a Sign. A good one.
The morning my parents moved me into my new Logan Square apartment, the minivan radio ended up tuned into a financial program that happened to be interviewing Esposito about making a living in comedy. Sign Number Two.
A few weeks later, I discovered that Esposito was performing a sold-out run at The Hideout. The location alone almost sent me into Meaningful Tears since it played a huge part in jason&julia, the incredible play I helped put up last fall with some of my favorite people in the world. A week before show, they added one last late-night run. Boom: Sign Three. I answered the call of fate.
Before introducing the opening comic, the owner of The Hideout took to the small stage and looked out at the quirkily-coiffed heads crammed together in the cabin-like space, lit from the glow of Christmas lights zigzagging across the ceiling. In the many years he’s been the proprietor of his bar/comedy club/music venue (it might also be an inn?), he attested to saying many poignant goodbyes to Chicago artists headed for bigger markets and broader careers. At first the pattern bummed him out, but then he considered how The Hideout is located within a manufacturing district and began to think about his venue as a company that helped create talented performers. Wedged into the armpits of tall strangers, dressed in business slacks tucked into snow boots and clutching a backpack bulging with my wadded-up my down parka, I momentarily shed the fear occasioned by unemployment and artistic aimlessness. Cameron had started from the same spot of hopelessly mingled passion and panic. Amy Poehler put my heart at ease when she wrote, “Great people do things before they’re ready.” And I had put myself in the exact place that would ready me.
Cameron killed, of course. I cheered at her Logan Square-specific jokes, especially because I had also been trying to come up with bits about my kitschy neighborhood’s overabundant barber shops. She pointed out her parents in the audience, who I then admired from across the room as rock stars of reproduction. In person she proved every bit as effortlessly hilarious and goofily generous as she seemed online/on podcasts/on every medium through which I cyberstalk her. I particularly savored her tale of internally fangirling upon meeting the female Terminator from T2.
After the show, I accidentally ended up being the first person in line at her merch table. I WAS NOT READY. My pent-up pit sweat from twelve hours in a parka threatened to escape from beneath three sweaters as I shook my comedy hero’s hand and tried to summarize, in a quippy yet earnest sentence, just what her work has meant to me. Then I scampered. Then realized other people were taking photos with her. Then circled back to the end of the line because hell if I wasn’t going to get a photo of my side mullet beside hers.
Moving is hard, guys, especially with the ol’ Frauenhoffer genetic cocktail of mental illness. There are moments when I forget what brought me to this Midwestern version of Winterfell. But watching my chosen role model exude so much happiness due to her family, her fiance, and her art helped me to remember.
I’ll end on this:
What do we think about me sporting a tie?
Good God, Lemon?