Whitney Cummings is fine. Really. The comedian is back with a new standup special, but is aware that her canceled sitcom, “Whitney,” may be on people’s minds.
She doesn’t waste time addressing the topic in her special, mentioning almost immediately that she’s glad to be back doing standup after working in TV for a few years. After the audience obligingly cheers, she jumps in with a chastisement that none of them watched the show. It’s a funny moment, but when talking to Cummings, it’s clear she’s not harboring a grudge.
“People come up to me and they’re like, I’m so sorry about your TV show. I’m like, I’m fine? They treat me like I have some terminal illness or something. I mean, we did, I think 45 episodes. To me, that’s a big success,” says Cummings. “I just want to address it … so we can move on. As a comedian, I always say, when young comedians ask me advice, I say the first thing you should say when you get onstage should always be what the audience is thinking, whether it’s about your personal appearance, or whatever it is, just address it so that they’re not thinking about it or distracted by it.”
Part of why Cummings is able to move on is that she can go back to doing more standup.
“Doing a show is all-consuming. You really don’t have time, which is hard, because doing standup is really where you figure out your point of view on things, and get honest about things, so being creative without doing standup, it’s almost like body building without going to the gym,” says Cummings.
“I think people become a comedian because doing standup satiates some kind of need in you to either be heard or to connect with people or the dopamine high, whatever it is. Standups don’t really have a choice in the matter. This is how we function. So to all of a sudden take it away, it made me feel very unbalanced and anxious.”
That doesn’t mean that she’s totally left TV behind. The sitcom she created but doesn’t act in, “Two Broke Girls,” is still going strong. But she says it’s freeing to come back to standup, which has fewer concerns about appropriateness than network television.
“Literally nothing is off limits. You’re kind of able to go to the edge and the edge is kind of my comfort zone for whatever reason, so it’s really awesome to be back doing that,” says Cummings. That said, she says she’s a little thrown by the characterization of her material as edgy or racy.
“The only thing that I’m talking about that is racy or edgy is sex, the thing that we all do, all the time. It’s so weird to me that that’s edgy,” says Cummings.
“There’s this thing where honesty is kinda taboo. When people get near the truth, or comedians or artists get near the truth, people get uncomfortable and that uncomfortable area is where I like to live.”
Blame a Catholic school upbringing, but Cummings is devoted to airing things out with people.
“As I got older, and started talking about these things, everyone was like, oh yeah, me too, me too, and I was like, why don’t we just talk about this elephant in the living room so that we all stop feeling all this guilt and shame,” says Cummings.
“I think going onstage, it validates your truth, because you say something that everyone’s keeping secret, everyone laughs, which is their form of agreeing, saying yes, me too, and everyone’s like ok, we’re not all crazy here.”
In other words, as Cummings aptly sums up, “Let’s just say what we’re all fucking thinking.”
While she has nothing but positive things to say about her experience of being on the show, the time away from standup was also beneficial.
“I think it was good for me to take a break because sometimes as a comedian, I’ve found, in my experience, you start doing a bad impression of yourself, and you have to kind of shed some of your shit,” says Cummings. She points out that her last standup special was created when she was 27, and a lot has changed since then, what with creating two shows, starring in one of them, being off stage for a long time and then coming back to stand-up.
“I think I came back with more gratitude and passion for being onstage because I was off it for so long,” says Cummings.
Cummings will be back, and saying exactly what she’s thinking, in her special “I Love You,” airing at 11 p.m. on June 28 on Comedy Central.