Every time the Benet Academy football team scored, Cameron Esposito got out in front of the crowd — dressed in the Lisle school’s redwing mascot costume — and flapped her wings once for every point.
"I was dating the football team captain, so I had a vested interest … and being a giant red bird was the closest I ever was going to get to being a cheerleader," she said.
Word association with Cameron Esposito
We gave comedian Cameron Esposito a topic and told her to say the first thing that came into her head:
• Western Springs: The Fruit Store! (her favorite childhood store)
• Snow: Miss it. Sorry guys … I no longer own a coat.
• Songs you jammed to in high school: I did not have cool taste in music. In high school (at Benet Academy in Lisle), I loved ABBA and Neil Diamond, and I still love Neil Diamond. I’ve had to work up from there. I saw Neil Diamond in concert when I was 15. I don’t think you’re supposed to be that young when you see him. I was with a friend, and we were living our dream.
• Funny: Nothing. In this job, all of the funny is sucked out of everything. That’s something they don’t tell you. I can’t even watch comedy movies now, only action movies.
• Stand-up comedy: Live. If you’re at all interested in standup, you shouldn’t watch it on TV. Stand-up live is incomparable.
The senior class voted Esposito and the team captain "Most Likely to Live Happily Ever After," but the relationship didn’t work out. At age 20, Esposito came out as a lesbian.
Her happy, funny and confused suburban childhood laid the groundwork for a career in stand-up comedy, and today Esposito is a rising star. She now performs around the U.S., is a regular guest on E!’s "Chelsea Lately" and is cowriting a new TV show.
The 32-year-old Western Springs native was talking about her suburban upbringing on "The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson" last September when something unexpected happened.
Near the end of her set, she started a funny, off-script dialogue with Ferguson and his other guest, Jay Leno. At one point, Leno shouted to her, "You’re the future!"
"In the moment, I didn’t think it was weird. Jay and Craig were sitting, like, 10 feet from me," she said. "(Afterward), I walked into the backstage area, everyone was clapping and losing their minds. I was like, ‘How did that go?’ And they said, ‘Um, that was the best it could have gone.’ I didn’t have a sense of what a larger deal that would be."
It gave a boost to Esposito’s already-rising star, opening the door for her to make a comedy album this fall.
On stage, Esposito sports her two trademark looks: a jean jacket and a "side mullet" hairstyle (long on the right, short on the left).
"Believe it or not, there are lots of side mullets walking around the Logan Square neighborhood in Chicago," she said of the place her haircut was born. "I’m kind of sick of it, but I can’t get rid of it, because it’s my thing. Usually people are really into it. … I get high-fived on the street. No hair was even cool until (mine)! I think I’m getting as close to David Bowie as I can possibly get. Both in my personal life, and in my look. Aren’t we all trying to to do that?"
She makes fun of herself onstage, her hairstyle included.
"How many days a week do you think a suburban girl should wear a coonskin cap?" she asked an audience recently. "If you said zero, I went with seven. And I’m still sort of wearing one, technically."
As for her denim jackets, they aren’t as much a fashion choice as proof that she lacks time to shop.
"I found my look," she said. "I don’t have any time to go get new clothes. I was having jean jackets delivered to my house. I think Levi’s is nervous about what was going on. Like a jean jacket smuggling ring."
Esposito now lives in L.A., which she describes as a weird place where people "live off a diet of cigarettes and sad dreams." But it’s a happy time for her — she’s engaged to Rhea Butcher, a comedian she met while starting out in Chicago clubs.
During a recent phone interview, the conversation somehow turned to the lottery.
"I’ve never been big into owning things. If I won the lottery, I’d find some way to continue to work even more," Esposito said.
If you won the lottery, you’d work even more?
"OK, maybe a wedding. I’d buy two things. A wedding, and something for my parents, since they paid for college."
— Jamie Sotonoff
• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always interested in hearing about people from the suburbs who are now working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make a good feature, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.