Whitney Cummings expands her fearless comedy
Someone waaay younger than you could be perusing this, necessitating the relative tameness of this comic tidbit: “Stand-up is a lot like sex. There’s a lot of crying involved and I get paid to do it.”
Tame, that is, on the Whitney Cummings scale. We won’t cite examples of her felicity with humor focusing on certain parts of the human form (north of thigh, south of belly button), particularly the nonfemale variety.
Yeah, those jokes.
“There’s still a little bit of an eye roll if girls talk about something dirty, but so many female comedians have made their mark navigating those waters that I don’t think it’s a problem anymore,” says Cummings—who performs in The Venetian’s Lipshtick series—flashing back to the days of Phyllis Diller and Totie Fields. “We came from female comedians saying, ‘I’m a housewife’ to comedians today like me saying, ‘Who do I have to (um, you know) to become a housewife? I’m so sick of making all the money—can someone just take care of me?’”
Professionally, Cummings takes excellent care of herself. Once a store model and news reporter (on Washington D.C.’s WRC-TV), she leapt from her own eponymous but tepidly received NBC sitcom to co-creating CBS’ hit 2 Broke Girls (which just launched its fifth season) while maintaining a thriving stand-up career that includes being the toast of the roast circuit. (At roasts of David Hasselhoff and Donald Trump—where host Seth MacFarlane called her “the drag queen of mean”—her scorched-earth material cemented that rep.)
“When I first did the sitcom, I think I was forced on America a little too intensely,” says Cummings, whose female-power comedy is on par with Sarah Silverman and Amy Schumer, the latter having caught a pop-culture wave lately that isn’t Cummings’ trajectory. “Steadily, just doing my thing and not rushing it is more my style,” says Cummings, who’s been doing more screenwriting the last two years. “I want to sell tickets, but I don’t want to be famous-famous. It’s hard to maintain being an observational comedian when you get too famous. I’m not going for fame, I’m just going for funny.”
Yet wider fame may be rolling toward her after teaming with HBO, for which she’s developing a new series pilot, and which will air her unexpurgated special, I’m Your Girlfriend, on Jan. 23. “I talk about freezing my eggs and getting diagnoses from my therapist,” she teases. “It’s the most raw, honest, no-holds-barred special I’ve done so far, telling all my secrets, really embarrassing stuff.”
Ah, “secrets”—the key to her comedy, and, she claims, the Achilles heel of her dating life. “For biological, primordial reasons, it’s not that attractive for a guy to see a girl up onstage talking about how much guys suck,” says Cummings, whose relationship complaints sound like part shtick/part genuine exasperation.
“I lie and say, ‘I would never talk about you in my act; I make those jokes up.’ Which, of course, is not true. And I usually don’t let guys I’m dating see me do stand-up. I try to hide this job—although the Internet is a real bummer for that. It’s like being a stripper. I don’t want anyone seeing it.”
Such a conundrum proves counterintuitive professionally and inconvenient personally, yet Cummings survives and thrives. Still, the next beau might want to strive to avoid inspiring jokes like this: “Half the time I have sex with a guy, it’s only because it burns calories.”
You didn’t hear that, OK, guys?
The Venetian 9:30 p.m. Nov. 28, starting at $49.50 plus tax and fee, 16+ with adult. 702.414.9000