Rhea Butcher didn’t have a name for their fall stand-up tour yet. And then we talked to them.
“I like to try to make people happy for an hour,” Butcher mused, before taking a moment to wax philosophical about their career.
“That doesn't mean I'm not going to talk about things that might be political or whatever. But it’s not my job to remind everybody about how bad things are. My job is to remind everybody how good things are. I'm not discounting the bad things; we need to pay attention to them. But we cannot honor the bad things if we do not also honor the good things.”
They paused, and we could feel, even over the phone, a metaphorical lightbulb appearing over Butcher’s head.
“Maybe I’ll call the tour ‘Good Things.’ Hey, you just helped me come up with the name for the tour!”
We laughed and agreed that “Good Things” would be a great name for the Los Angeles-based comedian’s stand-up tour—and told them that Houstonia would totally take credit for the moniker if they went forward with it.
Reader, not three hours later Butcher’s publicist emailed us to confirm that their tour would indeed be called “Good Things.”
Coincidence? We think not.
Besides serving as inspiration for the comedian, Houstonia talked with Butcher about their TV show and longstanding L.A. comedy show Put Your Hands Together ending, coming out (but not really) as non-binary, and the possibility of another Dodgers vs. Astros World Series ahead of their performance at The Secret Group this Friday, September 13.
A lot has happened since we talked two years ago before your Back to Back tour. Put Your Hands Together and Take My Wife ended, and your baseball podcast Three Swings launched. Tell me a little about those changes.
Take My Wife ended in 2017, because [defunct comedy streaming service] Seeso basically went away overnight. The season made it out—it didn't just get put in the closet or the trash, so that's good, because a lot of people worked on it. That was my main thing—a lot of people put in a lot of time on this, and that would stink to just go away.
As for Put Your Hands Together—it was just time. It could've kept going, but I don't know if that's what needed to happen. I feel good about the six and a half years I worked on it, and I met a lot of people. I miss it, you know, but that's good, that means that I have a heart, and I have feelings. If it didn't miss it, I might be a sociopath.
It was a long time for a queer show. The thing about that show is that when it started, it was a crazy thing to be an out queer host. And by the time it was over, it was not a big deal. And that's because that show existed. The audience was primarily young, primarily queer. It was not a queer stand-up show; it was just a stand-up show. Also, cis, straight white guys came to the show, and they had a great time!
How is your baseball podcast Three Swings going?
Three Swings is a lot of fun—it's just me talking about life through the lens of baseball. If you listen to it and all of a sudden you're like, hey, I might give baseball a chance, and if you like it, how cool is that? Baseball doesn't need any more money, but finding something new that you previously thought you hated, but all of a sudden you're like, this is kind of fun, you can't top that. I can't top somebody changing their mind about something that they thought they hated.
What do you like about performing in Houston?
The last time I was in Houston it was post-hurricane. I could feel how much everyone had come together over that. It was still so new that people weren't really talking about it, and I didn't expect them to. You needed some time to really process that.
It goes back to there are bad things and there are good things. People helping each other, people not losing everything that they have, the people who have lost everything they have being helped by the people who didn't. Seeing that not everything was torn down to rubble and seeing that some things were, I'm grateful that these people are in this room right now, I'm grateful that they showed up. Having gratitude for those things—that's what Houston gave me. And also you guys have really great food.
And you guys have the Pearl, right? That's a really cool bar.
I heard recently that there are only eight lesbian bars in the country, and it's one of them!
Yeah, that checks out. I feel like they're going to come back. I feel like the way that the culture is moving and everybody sort of seeing behind the curtain of the internet as a thing—all this brick and mortar is going to come back.
How has coming out as non-binary affected your comedy career? Has it made you reevaluate how you approach comedy, or how audiences approach you?
I didn't really come out as non-binary, even though I understand it feels the same way externally, but for me, internally, my process was like, oh, this is a new thing I realized about myself.
I liken it to rings on a tree. I still am those things, even though they shift around and change. I just like to talk about it that way as opposed to "coming out," because I came out, and I've been out. I've remained out. I wasn't hiding that part of myself—I just hadn't found it yet.
In terms of comedy, I don't know. Ever since I started telling people "I'm a non-binary person, I use they/them pronouns," more people have called me "she" than ever before in my life. (Laughs)
I'm finding ways to relate to people who don't totally understand the gender shit. Being in between other stuff—everybody exists in between somewhere. No one is fully one thing, whether we're talking about gender, class, where you're from—whatever you want to say. Everybody's in between something because you can't control everybody's perception of you all the time. And it's liberating, actually, is the thing.
That's really interesting that you say it's liberating to just exist in the world without labels.
Labels are an external thing that somebody puts on me, and an identity is something that comes from within. It's actually really liberating and freeing to just be like, this is who I am, I am a queer person, I am a person from Akron, Ohio, I am a baseball fan, I like plants, I am a vegetarian. All of these things make me up, and I get to just walk through the world without them being the reason things are bad. It's truly liberating.
That might be the most self-aware thing I think I've ever heard a comedian say.
(Laughs) I'll tell you, it's hard to make this shit funny, because it's just real! But I'm working on it.
What's next for you?
I've got a couple of things that I'm working on that are so early on in the stages that there's kind of nothing to put out there right now, but I will say they're exciting and cool. I'm working on Three Swings. I'm in my baseball league, and we're heading toward the playoffs. I'm looking forward to that this fall. And I'm excited to do this tour and doing more stand-up. I was off the road for like a year doing a writing job, writing for A League of Their Own. It's in development to be a TV show on Amazon.
As a Dodgers fan, how do you feel about the very real possibility that the Astros will play the Dodgers in the World Series again this year?
A re-match of the 2017 World Series is a very real possibility. But the Astros losing to the Yankees is as well, just like the Dodgers losing to Atlanta is. This is what I love about the post season. I predicted in 2015 that the World Series in 2016 would be Cleveland vs. Chicago and ever since then, I've had no real idea of who it will be. I think that series kinda broke open all possibilities. I would love to see that rematch, but I don't really want to watch LA lose a third straight World Series.
Rhea Butcher: Good Things, 8 p.m., Friday, September 13, at The Secret Group, 2101 Polk St. Tickets are $20 online, $25 at the door.