Akron native Rhea Butcher’s career has finally started to take off. This month, the comedian is set to release her first TV series, Take My Wife
, and will also release her debut comedy album Butcher
Butcher, who now lives in Los Angeles, possesses a distinctively “blue collar brand of cool” that has served her well on television shows such as Comedy Central's @midnight
and Amy Poehler's Smart Girls web series She Said
She returns to town to perform at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 24, at Hilarities. In advance of the show, she answered a few of our questions via email.
You grew up skateboarding the mean streets of Akron. Talk about what that experience was like.
Akron has a pretty big skate scene, or at least it did when I was skating. The Cleveland skaters would come down to Akron and skate all our spots, like Central Hower. I think it was at least 100 core people getting out there and skating every day. I spent my early days skating the parking lot of Kenmore High School and basically ended my skate career at the Vans Triple Crown in Cleveland in 2003. I met a lot of really cool people and definitely grew that feeling of wandering and travel that I had at a young age. I drove ALL OVER OHIO just to go skate.
How did living in Northeast Ohio inform your sense of humor?
I think being from NEO, you HAVE to have a sense of humor. I mean, up until June of 2016, we always lost. We were losers! Were being the big word there. We were never losers, losers because NEO is good people I just mean, we always lost. That’s how people knew of us: The Mistake on The Lake, The Drought. But I guess this is the upshot: losers always have a good sense of humor. And eventually, they win.
Akron’s produced some famous people recently. There’s been LeBron James and the Black Keys. Any predictions for who will become the next big thing from there?
Me, of course!
Were you funny as a kid?
I think so. I’m an only child so OF COURSE I think I was hilarious. Being an only child really does make you the center of attention whether you want to be or not, and I think I really liked it. I was also raised in a house with my grandparents and they were wayyyy older than me and I really loved making them laugh.
At what point did you adopt that funky hairstyle?
It’s less “funky” than it is “super cool.” In all honesty, it’s been a project since birth. I got my hair cut super short in like 3rd grade when I went to The Elms and I got mistaken for a boy all the time and I was so thrilled by that but it also scared me, because society/homophobia/transphobia, so I grew it back out. I cut it short when I graduated high school (Akron Hoban HS) and started going to Akron U (sorry, that’s what I call it UAkron), and dyed it black not long after that. I have a really awesome barber in Los Angeles named Pony and he helped me get my haircut to where it is now. He deserves 49% of the credit.
How’d you develop your narrative style of telling jokes?
I started doing standup in Chicago and started at a very famous open mic called “Cole’s” which my then future wife (Cameron Esposito) hosted. She was very influential on that part of my style. She told stories every week at Cole’s and always found the funny. It was also the first time I saw an out comic talk about their life in an open and fierce way that I was like, “Oh, I can talk about ALL of my life.” I was also inspired to get into standup by Paul F Tompkins and Maria Bamford and both those amazing comics are such wonderful storytellers.
Your first TV series, Take My Wife, just premiered. How’d you come up with the concept for the premise?
The show is co-created with my actual wife, Cameron Esposito, and we wanted to make something as soon as we met each other. Originally we were going to make a podcast and call it “Relatable Lesbians” where we are just cool and funny and friendly and therefore totally relatable. Seeso approached us to make a stand up show like the one we host together in L.A. at UCB (Put Your Hands Together) and we said, “sure but can we do interstitial sketches?” And Seeso was like, “Yes.” So then when we got into the writers room we really liked the sketches of our domestic life stuff and we sorta re-pitched them the idea of our lives but with our standup mixed in and Seeso was like, “Yes.” So the show is basically us being relatable lesbians.
*You can get two months of free Seeso with the promo code TAKEMYWIFE
You’re a recurring performer on the TruTv series Adam Ruins Everything. What’s been your favorite appearance so far and why?
Number one, Adam and the whole crew and cast and everyone is so great. They are really making a serious thing over there. It’s like shooting 5 movies! My favorite part is playing a sister, because I am an only child and it is a challenge.
What can you tell us about the upcoming episodes? Does Adam really ruin Hollywood in one episode and football in another?
I can only tell you this: Adam Ruins Everything.
You also co-host the popular web series She Said on Amy Poehler's Smart Girls Network and LA's weekly live stand-up show and podcast Put Your Hands Together. Talk about what you like about both of those gigs.
I love She Said because Smart Girls is such a great organization. They are making content for, ultimately, little girls. That’s very cool! And they trusted us to talk about things like tampons in a way that 13 year olds would get it. I love that. Put Your Hands Together
is fun because I really like doing standup as a duo and as a solo (is that a thing?), so it’s fun to get up there and riff on Cameron’s stories or whatever happened to us that week. It’s just generally a good time. If you’re in L.A., come see us, or in NEO you can download it — IT’S A PODCAST!
In “7-11 and Lighters,” you joke about the first time you ever drank. Talk about when and where that was?
I am from a part of Akron and that part is Kenmore. It’s a rough neighborhood and been that way for quite some time. The last time I was in Akron I had to get a rental car and they picked me up, the guy who picked me up physically reacted when I told him I was from Kenmore. He said “guh-what?!” and jumped in the seat. He was young. And let me be clear: I am super proud to be from Kenmore - that place made me who I am. Go Cards! Anyways, the beer was totally bought from Fuel Mart and I definitely drank it in some area of “the woods.”
What do you like best about coming back to Northeast Ohio to perform?
This year, I am really excited to see how happy everyone is after LeBron ended the championship drought. Can’t wait to drive down King James Way. Also just fun to see Ohioans. We’re a fun bunch. But if I’m being real, it’s Luigi’s pizza.