Whitney Cummings Talks Stand-Up, Relationships, and ‘2 Broke Girls’
Whitney Cummings is one of the best comedians working today, and like some of the greatest comics in the business, she had a tough childhood. As a young girl Cummings witnessed alcoholism, drug addiction and divorce, yet chose to use her struggles as way to channel her creativity. After graduating college in 2004, Cummings left her East Coast home to pursue modeling and acting in Los Angeles. She eventually tried her hand at stand-up and her innate talent soon lead to appearances on “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien,” “Last Call with Carson Daly,” and “Chelsea Lately.” She has yet to put down the microphone.
Cummings is currently touring nationally with the Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival alongside stellar comedians, including Louis C.K., Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, Demetri Martin, and Chris D’Elia, and she’s fully enjoying the experience. Cummings sat down with Entertainment Voice to discuss the tour, her comedy, and “2 Broke Girls.”
“It’s fun. It’s like camp. It’s like a big family vacation. We don’t all fly together all of the time, but I’ll get to buddy up and [we’ll] spend time together. It’s such a blast.”
Outside of her tour dates, Cummings performs as often as she can around Los Angeles to keep her material fresh and relevant.
“I’m up in the clubs in Hollywood, pretty much every night. I’m always working towards the new [comedy] special. I never want to tour with the same material that was just in the special. I don’t think it’s fair for people to watch the special, come see you live, and you’re doing the same stuff. After a special comes out, that’s when I really get to work.”
As Cummings likes to work on a handful of successful projects simultaneously, some may wonder how she has the time to perform in comedy clubs multiple times a week. But while standup is her career, it’s also her true passion as well as a catharsis.
“I get to do what I love and then get to hang out with the funniest people in the world and watch them do standup. I feel so lucky. It’s very healing.”
Cummings’ style of comedy is very personal, as she often discusses her own relationships and thoughts about gender differences. Last June saw the premiere of her latest comedy special “I Love You,” which discusses a breakup and her observations of how men treat women in modern-day relationships. Other comedians may draw a line when it comes to sharing details about their personal lives, but Cummings’ goal is to get even more personal.
“Everything I do is personal. I only talk about things that I have dealt with or that have happened to me. What I’m going through in my life is what I have to talk about. I don’t consciously sit down and [ask myself], “What should I talk about?” It’s just this is what’s happening and I want it to be as personal as possible. I’m not happy that that’s what I was going through either, but that’s just how I write. I’m not super-conscious of [how I write], but that’s another reason why I have to change my material, because I couldn’t talk now about a breakup that happened a year ago. I wouldn’t have the emotional connection to it. I really have to move fast before I lose that moment.”
While Cummings revealed that she still hasn’t had much luck in her love life since she wrote the material for her special, her experiences have given her great material for recent shows.
“Now, I’m talking about raw, nasty shit. I talk a lot about sex and what’s happening in my personal life [now]. I feel like guys wanted to sleep with me when I was broke, but now that I have a job, guys are not interested in me. I don’t know if it’s true. I’m exploring it. It could just be that I have a terrible personality, which is another issue I’m dealing with. The last two guys I dated told me that I talk too much or that I’m too aggressive. Maybe it’s this whole new thing where women are strong and have careers, [but] it’s not going so well [for me]. I feel like I’ve worked so hard to be the person that I am and I’m not getting great feedback.”
Besides juggling her nonstop standup career, Cummings is also the creative force behind the CBS hit show “2 Broke Girls,” which is currently entering its fourth season. She co-created the show with Michael Patrick King (“Sex and the City”) and they both serve as executive producers. After four years of working together, Cummings says that she’s still very much a fan of King and that they make the perfect team.
“Michael is so funny. He was my hero. ‘The Comeback’ was my favorite show ever and ‘Sex and the City’ was my religion when it was on. We have a very similar sensibility in terms of our taste in what we think is funny. We both grew up poor and were broke for a long time. But then I think he was able to infuse more of the Caroline [character and] the New York elite fanciness, where I bring the [Max Black] gritty girl with low self-esteem and a terrible past and bad childhood. I think together we are able to make these two characters come to life.”
Cummings’ daily life is her main source for comedy material — and when it comes to a good storyline, both her and King’s personal lives are never off-limits. Cummings and King infuse their experiences into the script whenever they deem fit, and they drew upon their personal histories to mold the characters from the beginning.
“I was never a waitress, but Michael was a waiter, so a lot of the stuff that happens in the diner, he has a specific history on that. Where I come in is with Max’s alcoholic family and trouble with daddy issues. Every episode is based on something specific. There was one where they went to this Williamsburg restaurant and couldn’t get service. That happened to me. One time I got an Uber and it got stolen, so we put that in the show. We always try to infuse personal, relevant things into the show, especially if they’re trendy. [Also] we’re both always looking for the emotion in something. We want to go to the edge and make something as edgy as possible, but we want to keep it visceral and poignant. [For example], there will be three bald jokes but then someone gets their heart broken. We try to keep a touching undertone instead of just a bunch of jokes for 25 minutes. Michael and I both want to always dig a little deeper.”
“2 Broke Girls” isn’t just a success in U.S., it’s also popular around the world, and Cummings believes this is because women of all backgrounds can relate to the show’s concept.
“The reason I wanted to do this show is because I was getting annoyed that in every show about girls, all they cared about was boys. That’s just not my experience. Every girl I know, even young girls in their early 20s, they have blogs, they have goals, they have businesses, they put their jewelry on Etsy, they have a Tumblr, they want to write a book. I don’t think girls [solely] think [about boys] as much anymore. For every show, the whole story was “Is he going to call me back?” But [it’s because] a lot of men were writing girls’ roles. We wanted to do a show about girls without money, which [reflects] most people in their 20s. In all of these [other] shows, they show girls in these gorgeous apartments [and] wearing Versace, like in ‘Gossip Girl.’ I wanted to do the opposite of ‘Gossip Girl.’ It’s just what real people deal with: being broke, trying to pay rent, having a dream, trying to start a business. That’s the American dream, [and] I think that [concept] resonates throughout the world: people trying to build a dream. Not everyone’s only goal in life is to date or find a husband, so it’s really cool that the show has resonated around the world and [with] other cultures.”
Whitney Cummings performs regularly around Los Angeles.