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Chicago comic Cameron Esposito, founder of Side Mullet Nation

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Cameron Esposito keeps busy. Besides performing stand-up several nights a week, she serves as ringmaster for the Aloft Loft's El Circo Cheapo Cabaret, cohosts the comedy open mike at Cole's Bar, and created and teaches the Feminine Comique, "the world's only all-female" stand-up course. Her hour-long solo show, Side Mullet Nation, went over so well at this year's Just for Laughs Chicago fest that she's reviving it for a three-week run at the Playground Theater starting Friday.

What more can you tell me about Side Mullet Nation?

Folks can expect a jokestorm of epic proportions—summertime story jokes of love, bicycle accidents, and asymmetrical haircuts.

The line is literally dozens deep for a turn at the open mike on any given Wednesday night at Cole's. Who are some of the local comics you see as really starting to come into their own?

I tapped two Cole's regulars, Andrew Halter and Caitlin Bergh, to open Side Mullet Nation. Both are newer comics and both rock my socks. Andrew is smart as hell and so charming that his insulting a roomful of people only makes you love him more. Caitlin opens the door to her brain with idiosyncratic true stories and a great, laid-back confidence.

You perform at bars, theaters, comedy clubs, and roller derbies in Chicago, the suburbs, and around the midwest and the rest of the country. What do you see as the similarities and differences among your audiences?

Every audience is different. Even the same venue can bring in a different crowd over the course of multiple shows. There's a general rowdiness scale that goes, in my estimation: street festival, gay bar, sports bar, rock club, comedy club, circus, theater space, NPR, church. Of all those crowds, I think the circus and NPR folks are my favorites, though I've really enjoyed the challenge of holding a crowd's attention at Steamworks [men's bathhouse]—boys were nude in there—or keeping my brain on track when my third grade teacher, a nun, was in an audience of mine.

You've been performing several nights a week. Are you finding the time to enjoy the summer, or do you spend all your free time developing new material?

Since I'm routinely crushed beneath the weight of my own expectations and overwork myself into nothing but a spot of sweat, I'm trying to act like a human by booking a few less shows this summer. I fear the ruse isn't working, for just now I'm doing an interview instead of watching The Golden Girls with my girlfriend. What a travesty!

Growing up, was there a moment when you knew this is what you wanted to do with your life? Were you the proverbial class clown?

I wasn't the class clown. I wore an eye patch for eight years of my youth to correct a lazy eye, so I was more like the class pirate.

What do you think is the biggest misperception about stand-up and stand-up comedians?

That we're naturally social creatures instead of a pile of weirdos. Happily, for a comic, I'm wildly functional. I talk to my family! And cook!

What've you got in the works?

Professionally, I'm heading to Seattle for circus gigs in October and bringing Side Mullet Nation with me to Portland and Seattle while I'm out there. Hoping to put the show up in New York and LA before year's end. Personally, I'm about to eat a burger at Dunlays in Logan Square, with shoestring fries 'cause that's their best side. Also, I'm conducting a summer experiment about whether one can retain the respect of the public whilst wearing short shorts. The answer seems to be no.

What's something you always find funny?

A small-town parade. This year I saw the Indiana Jones Fan Club marching in the Fourth of July parade in the town where I grew up. These were adults. They all had different roles and a strong connection to their characters. I was utterly inspired and rather jealous. If you can dream it, you can achieve it! Also, muscle dudes lifting at the gym. Relax a bit, sirs, or you'll destroy us all with your necks. v

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