Interview with Rhea Butcher

Rhea performing at the Hot Tub show in LA

Rhea performing at the Hot Tub show in LA

by Tim

Rhea Butcher is a comedian from Akron, Ohio who got her start at the Second City in Chicago. She then moved to Los Angeles to continue her career in comedy. She has performed at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival, Cleveland Accidental Comedy Festival, SF Sketchfest (2014 & 2015), New York Comedy Festival, and the Atlantic Ocean Comedy & Music Festival. Rhea co-hosts the Wham Bam Pow movie podcast and the popular comedy podcast Put Your Hands Together. She can also be seen on Funny or Die and Buzzfeed as well as the current season (9) of Last Comic Standing on NBC. Rhea’s debut comedy recording will be released as a 7” split with musician Gabe Schray for the Mutual Appreciation series on Jonah Ray’s new imprint, “Literally Figurative” in 2015. Rhea is one of the comedians I’m most excited to see at the High Plains Festival and I was lucky enough to ask her some questions.

Your last name is Butcher yet you’re a vegetarian. Have you thought about changing it to Farmer? Or Esposito?
My last name has always been one of my favorite jokes. It’s a weirdly unpopular last name despite being a job. Funny that you mention farmer because my Grandpa has a bit of a farm like garden and I come from a very agricultural background. The weird part is that no one in my family has ever been a butcher.
I have thought about changing my name to Esposito, or hyphenating it but I think I’m just going to keep my own name. It’s a brave new world out there and you can *almost* do whatever you want.

How is it touring with your fiancé as opposed to another comic?
I haven’t toured with anyone else so I only have my imagination to go from in terms of other comics. There’s definitely positives and negatives to touring with my fiancée but I mostly come down on the positive side; she’s given me an amazing opportunity to become a better comic with stage time in really fantastic venues in front of her crowd, which is an absolutely amazing crowd. 

On your tumblr you said that you “came to terms” about being a woman in my mid 20′s”. What advice would you give someone who is/has been struggling with their identity or gender?
I feel sort of bad for saying that but that is my experience – I came to terms with my “gender” because to me, it really is something foisted upon me, not something that comes from the inside. I don’t think I’m in the wrong body, I just think the world is wrong about what my body means to them. As I got older though, I began to realize the power of being a woman in this world and I grew to love that. We’re the ultimate underdog! I like being a masculine woman. Butch women are almost a dying breed, so I feel like I’m one of the last of my kind. My advice to anyone struggling with identity/gender is to read as many books on it as you can, take a college course if there is one (and you’re in college) on women’s/queer/trans/identity theory, watch as many movies as you can and most importantly, find your people. You may have to wait to find them but they are most definitely out there in the world. I remember watching the movie “Go Fish” for the first time and hearing the movie’s thesis statement “The Girl Is Out There” and thinking, “Ok!”

Is there a question that you’re tired of answering (as a female comic, lesbian, or just in general)?
“What’s it like to be a female comic?” is probably my least favorite, given that it’s impossible to answer for many reasons, mainly: I don’t know what it’s like to be anything else. George Harrison was asked what it was like to be in The Beatles and he answered, “I dunno, what’s it like to NOT be in The Beatles.” Basically being a female comic is like being in The Beatles. 

What is an onion hot dog?? Also, what are some of your other favorite vegetarian dishes?
An onion hot dog is a hot dog with tons of onions on it. Vegetarian hot dog of course. My favorite vegetarian food is cheese pizza. I am from Ohio.

You’ve been known to be a fan of skating and baseball . Did you have a favorite skater and/or baseball player growing up? Do you still skate and/or play ball?
I started skateboarding when I was about 12 and skated for about ten years. There was a time where it was what I wanted to do but I got a lot of pressure from my family to go to college and get a degree. Some of my favorite skaters were/are: Marc Johnson, Mark Gonzales, Jason Lee, Ed Templeton, the Foundation guys in 2001-04, Amy Caron and Vanessa Torres. Lacey Baker rules too these days.
As for baseball, I grew up with it. My whole house watched baseball; we had TBS so we became a Braves household and I loved Sid Bream and David Justice and Otis Nixon and later Chipper Jones on the Braves and Corey Snyder on the Indians. I loved both the Braves and the Indians, so 1995 was an especially rough year for me. 

You have quite an extensive hat collection, do you have a favorite?
I like the new Cleveland hat design with the C logo; that’s my go-to and my on field hat (I play rec league baseball on Sunday’s). I just got a Rockford Peaches hat from Ideal Cap Co that I’m really digging. I’m a bit of a hat horse. I always wanted to wear hats when I was a kid because not only was I a tomboy, I was a gay kid. I also loved doing things girls weren’t “supposed” to do. My haircuts never really allowed for hats, so basically as soon as I became an adult I just started wearing tons of hats. And I got the haircut I wanted.

You were recently on Last Comic Standing. What was that experience like? How was it having Anthony Jeselnik as the host?
It was really great. Wanda Sykes and Page Hurwitz did a really great job of getting a diverse lineup of comics, not just in identity but also in style. The actual day was nerve wracking but mostly because it was my first time on TV! I’m really happy with how it turned out. Plus, Ellen DeGeneres watched the whole episode and that is just plain amazing to me. Anthony Jeselnik is a great host. I love his style and his presence as a comic. He’s a great addition to the show. 

To learn more about Rhea and see her set times for the High Plains Festival click here.

Note, the answers to the questions were emailed and were not altered in way to help give the most authentic interview possible.

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