New TV Series 'Take My Wife' Dares to Suggest That Lesbians Can Be Funny (When They Don't Die Tragically)
Five minutes into the first episode of "Take My Wife," comedian Cameron Esposito sits down to record a podcast (hosted by Jonah Ray, naturally) and is asked the question that every woman in comedy is already tired of hearing: What's it like to be a woman in comedy? "Oh, it's my favorite question," she says dryly, looking down at the floor. "I think it's a lot like being a woman in any professions except less dick jokes, actually?"
Speaking with Revelist about her new comedy series, Esposito was a little more forgiving of those who ask her that question right out of the gate. “I still think people are curious about it," she admitted. "I feel like anybody who’s watched the show before talking to us is coming in with a little bit of a nervousness, which is funny.” (Guilty as charged.)
"I don’t get that question as often, I don’t think. I’m just realizing that now. What’s up with that?" Her co-star Rhea Butcher added jokingly. Instead, she gets asked what it's like to work with her spouse, as she and Esposito got married in 2015. "Which is some way is a seedling of what’s it like to be a woman in comedy, because it’s the same thing. It’s ‘What’s it like to work with this other woman in comedy,’ instead of, ‘How’s it going?’"
Obviously neither Eposito nor Butcher can speak to the entirety of the female experience. But “Take My Wife,” which mirrors their real lives as a couple living and working together in Los Angeles, certainly gives you an intimate look at their specific experiences. That in and of itself is a refreshing change of pace, especially in a television landscape where lesbian characters frequently don't get to have happy endings.
The 6-episode series arrives Wednesday (August 11) to Seeso, an NBC-owned streaming subscription service that focuses entirely on both "classic” (think "Saturday Night Live," "Faulty Towers," or "30 Rock") and original comedy. Seeso might not be as commonly known as Hulu or Netflix, but for diehard comedy fans it's certainly already making a name for itself.
“What Seeso is doing, I think, is such a natural and awesome progression of the podcast boom,” Butcher explained. “In 2009, 2010, all these podcast platforms and networks were coming out and it was creating those pockets of comics who work together—it was so awesome to take that group of people and make a TV show and a network out of it.”
If you're a big fan of the LA-based podcast networks like Earwolf or Nerdist, you'll certainly feel right at home watching "Take My Wife," which features plenty of cameos from performers like the aforementioned Jonah Ray, Maria Bamford, Paul F. Tompkins, Ron Funches, and others.
Not all of the featured performers play themselves, of course, which gives Butcher and Esposito the chance to explore more controversial aspects of being a working comedian without publicly dragging anyone in their community. For example, the second episode tackles the subject of rape jokes head on—although maybe not in the cut-and-dry way you'd expect.
"That particular topic has long been addressed as if women feel one way about it and comics feel another way, as if comics aren’t women and women aren’t comics, and as if male comics wouldn’t have some sort of complicated relationship with such a taboo topic and something that can affect people's lives," Esposito explained.
"So I think what we were trying to do is show that this is a workplace for us, and like any workplace you deal with a wide range of comfortable and uncomfortable moments, and know that you have to go back to work tomorrow."
"You can say whatever you wanna say on stage, this isn’t censoring, but hey, maybe think about what you’re talking about because there might be people in the audience or backstage working with you who’ve experienced those things," Butcher noted.
"But if that never happens, if no one ever thinks differently about this, at least there’s that perspective now in the show that it is a complicated issue, and there aren’t these two camps," Esposito added.
Of course, even if it weren't delving into the nuances of hot-button social issues like rape jokes, "Take My Wife" would be radical enough on its own for virtue of prominently featuring two women in a stable, sexually active relationship with one another that does not end with either of their deaths.
Although it's been a popular literary trope for almost a century, Dead Lesbian Syndrome (also known as "Bury Your Gays") became a huge mainstream talking point this year, especially with with fans of "The 100." But despite all the lesbians that died during this past television season, both Butcher and Esposito believe that the media landscape is stlll changing for the better.
"Oftentimes we’re dealing with straight male writers rooms, and for those writers, there’s a limited imagination as to what can happen for female characters in general. So for gay female characters, who aren’t trying to get the attention of a man, what can possibly happen besides death?" Esposito explained. "And we are living in a time right now where queer people can say, 'Oh, a ton of other stuff happens! Like, we go to the grocery store and have jobs and things!'"
"People are saying, 'There’s too much TV right now, I couldn’t possibly catch up with all this TV!' Which I understand, there’s a lot of TV right now," Butcher noted. "But the positive spin on that is that there's so many more voices and people getting to take control of their own narrative, that you’re beginning to have storylines where lesbians get to go to the grocery store, and minorities get to live their lives and tell their stories and have opinions! It’s great."
"It’s almost as if there are not just white men in the universe," Esposito added in mock confusion. "Which is shocking."
It certainly is—but watching "Take My Wife," you don't miss the white men all that much. Trust me.
The series premieres August 11 on Seeso. Check out the trailer: