I have cut together audio from the first episode and the final two episodes of Cameron Esposito and River Butcher's podcast Put Your Hands Together (2013-2019), the first live stand-up show produced from its inception to be released in podcast form. As Esposito told LA Weekly in 2012, "There are a billion podcasts out there, but they are interview or chat shows, sketch shows, game shows...there has yet to be a consistently produced stand-up podcast where the comics actually tell jokes.” Esposito pitched the show to the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theater as a way to give up-and-coming comics a platform to reach a national audience and to give “comedy nerds in Omaha” a chance to experience LA's exciting alternative comedy scene.
While the first episode featured an entirely male line-up, as the podcast gained noteriety and Esposito gained clout in the comedy world, she used the platform to bring more attention to women, people-of-color, and queer folx, featuring increasingly diverse up-and-coming comics in addition to the more famous guests. Eventually she added (her then-partner, and now ex-spouse) River Butcher as a second host. As hosts and producers, the two fostered a rare space for live stand-up comedy that wasn’t just tolerant of marginalized voices, but created as an explicit arena in which they could find work. You can hear Butcher and Esposito addressing this legacy in the show’s final two episodes.
I see Cameron Esposito as emblematic of a cohort of queer feminist comedians that don’t just seek to upend socal hierarchies and identity binaries through jokes and laughter, but also materially through their labor as agents within the comedic industries. From her early comedy days in Chicago, Esposito has used whatever clout she has to elevate the voices of other marginalized comics. From starting PYHT, to penning an A.V. Club column about women in comedy, to starting a stand-up class for women (that's still going strong), Esposito's career illustrates the importance of marginalized comics not just succeeding, but also pulling up other comics behind them.
Some questions I hope this raises for discussion include: how do comics advocate for social justice within the comedic industries beyond just telling jokes? What historical precedents for this exist, and how can we study it as comedy scholars? What methods can we use to critically analyze the labor of comics both on and offstage throughout their careers?