On December 12, 2015, stand-up comedians Rhea Butcher and Cameron Esposito got married onstage at the Hideout. The pair met at an open mike at Cole’s Bar that Esposito was hosting; they moved to LA together two years later. Season one of the autobiographical show Take My Wife, airing on NBC’s comedy-streaming app Seeso, follows the couple during the time between their move and their engagement as they try to balance their relationship and careers.
What sets Take My Wife apart from recent comedian-centered TV shows like Louie and Maron is the unique set of challenges that Butcher and Esposito face as women, lesbians, and a couple working in comedy. In the first episode Esposito sits down for a podcast interview and is asked, “If you’re not in comedy for that sweet D, then why do you do it?” This portrayal of male behavior in the comedy circuit feels all too real—I wouldn’t be surprised if someone actually asked Esposito that question.
Throughout the series the pair implicitly convey their support for female comedians: all the women stand-ups are celebrated and referred to by their real names (Maria Bamford, Eliza Skinner, Sam Jay, Mary Lynn Rajskub) while most of the male performers who appear end up playing deplorable characters. Often, the male roles are setups for Butcher and Esposito to prove a point. Matt Braunger, for example, takes to the stage as a shock-and-awe comedian who tells rape jokes for the entirety of his set. What follows is a gracefully amusing exploration of why rape jokes aren’t funny, and a demonstration of how many survivors of assault could be affected by his words.
But the emotional force of Take My Wife stems from the relationship between Butcher and Esposito. Even if you didn’t know these two are a real-life couple, their chemistry is so natural you might guess that anyway. One moment captures a conversation the two have after sex about whether or not they would show themselves having sex on their hypothetical TV program about their lives; they conclude that they should so that young girls like them will see it and know it’s a normal act. In any other context, a scene like this could be considered meta, but here it feels less tongue in cheek and more like an intimate dialogue.
I’ve been a fan of these two and their stand-up show-slash-podcast Put Your Hands Together for years—it’s great to see what’s been happening behind the scenes during that time when it comes to both their personal relationship and their professional growth. The dynamic between an established comedian (Esposito) and an up-and-comer (Butcher) is a tricky one to balance, especially when you have to share a bed every night. It’s rare to see that tension on TV, and I hope we get to see more of it from Butcher and Esposito, up to the wedding on the stage of the Hideout and beyond.
Take My Wife Streaming on Seeso