"It's like we're kittens in lion costumes." That's how Whitney Cummings describes the one part vulnerability to two parts adrenaline that is stand-up comedy. Like any good comedian, she brings her personal experiences to the stage, specifically the unspoken good, bad, and ugly of relationships.
As Cummings wraps up her latest comedy tour in preparation for her upcoming special, the writer, actress, and co-creator of CBS' 2 Broke Girls spoke with Jackalope Ranch about love, laughter, and her latest dating pet peeves.
In our last interview. you talked about Whitney getting canceled saying, "TV can be authentic, but only if you want to go to really taboo, honest places that require some thinking. It's my fault for wanting to go to those places." What exactly are those taboo places? Well, it's so interesting to me that every CSI episode is about rape and hookers and strippers and semen, but then in a comedy you can't say Jesus or God. It's interesting that, when you're joking about something, it's off limits. Bringing levity to it makes it taboo.
It's so amazing to me that anything sexual is so taboo, because it's a thing we all do -- hopefully a couple of times a week. It's actually the one thing that unifies all of us. Whereas rape or something -- not all of us rape; not all of us do that, well, hopefully -- but that's less weird.
I think all of it comes from the Puritan base of this country. Religion's really tricky. I feel that it's becoming more and more taboo. I think when things get harder in society people get more religious instead of less religious. Rape is another one that you would think would be abating but that's just as tense as ever. I think as we make progress in certain places we regress in certain places.
Don't get me wrong, I love taboo. We need it for comedy because otherwise nothing would be shocking. If everyone was just super-cool and accepting of everything nothing would be funny. I think what offends someone is very personal. What makes someone uncomfortable and what someone thinks is funny says a lot about them. I think taboo humor can be very educational to the person hearing it. What you laugh at says a lot about you. I like to play around with that area because you can't script laughter, you can't force it. It's all involuntary. I have this new bit on stage where I talk about all the types of male orgasms, and whoever laughs, that's them. When you're laughing at something, you're basically saying, "Yes, I agree" or "Yes, I feel that." It's really validating.
So if you don't get laughs, do you chalk that up to personal preference? Oh, no, the goal is to make everybody laugh. If someone doesn't laugh, I'm not going to be like, "That's their problem." I'm like, "No, I need to fix that." But you can tell when you're on stage who's relating to something and who's just laughing at it. But the jokes I like to do is people noticing something about themselves that maybe they've never acknowledged before.
Yes, you seem to have a knack for disclosing the real truths in relationships. There aren't a lot of women in comedy who talk about relationships. Sarah Silverman does her own thing, her highbrow, edgy thing she does. Ellen [DeGeneres] talks about mundane, everyday, observational stuff. Kathy [Griffin] talks about celebrities. Chelsea [Handler] you know, kind of does celebrities. She's doing a tour, which maybe she'll talk more about her family. There aren't a lot of female comedians talking about relationships, so I think it's cool for me to be able to have that.
How does talking about your relationships on stage affect your relationships offstage? That's the thing, Phoenix, lucky for you when I date someone, I don't let them see me do stand up because there's stuff in my stand-up that I don't want the person I'm dating to know. My stand-up is so personal I would never let anyone I know see it, only strangers. I don't let friends come see me do stand-up because it's too personal. Like I hate it when people I know are there because I feel like I have to edit myself whereas strangers I feel really safe from.
But when I come to Phoenix, the guy that I'm dating is actually coming to see my stand-up for the first time. So come witness, be with me as I experience a breakup on Valentine's Day.
Any romantic plans while you and your boyfriend are in Phoenix? I'm basically going to be providing entertainment for Valentine's Day dates hoping I don't ruin relationships. Because I do. A lot of people come to my shows, and then I see them leave and hear them bickering to their boyfriends like, "You do that! You do that!" And the guys are like, "Well, you fucking do that!" I think this new hour of material definitely starts a lot of dialogue.
I'm going to shoot my special in two weeks, and I'm basically coming to Phoenix to work on the new hour before I shoot it.
What's the new special going to be called? I don't know yet. I think I'm going to call it I Love You. I think that's going to be the name of the new hour. Because I had my heart broken real bad, like, recently, and it got me thinking a lot about love and what does that even mean and why do people that love you hurt you?
Any advice for aspiring comics? Just work. Work really hard. Don't try to get famous. Don't try get on TV. Don't try to get an agent. Just figure out who you are. No matter what you get, it's not going to be of value unless you know who you are. Just get on stage as much as you can and dig, dig, dig until you get honest. Don't say anything on stage that's not the truth. That you don't truly believe.
And I have more love for the people I get to perform for than most people I'm in relationships with.
Because people can tell? Yeah, because it's not funny. Like, "Why is that guy not funny?" And the comedians can tell why, but it's usually just because he's trying to say something he thinks will be funny instead of something he really believes.
What are some of your relationship pet peeves? The new thing now that I'm dating again is the shit with Instagram. Don't follow a bunch of porn stars on Instagram. Just go watch porn. If I'm dating you, I don't want you to be following 50 porn stars on Twitter and Instagram. Just don't comment on their photos. Keep your porn in private. I know you're doing it. I just don't want to see it.
I also think there's a lot of ambiguity now on who's supposed to initiate dating. I've had couple of guys go, "So what's going on?" You haven't asked me out. And they're like, "No, the other day I texted you, 'What's up?"
That's not an invite. No one makes plans anymore. Guys just text you, "What are you doing now, at this moment?" We're so obsessed with now, now, now. We can't think two days ahead. Before texting we had to make plans. Make a plan and stick to it.
So making plans, don't follow whores on Instagram, and also the asking you out and being like "So what do you want to do?" Well, you decide. "Well where do you want to go?" I don't know. "Well, what do you want to eat?" Why are you making me do all the work? [It's] like you when you got to Rite-Aid and you have to check yourself out.
Whitney Cummings performs at Stand Up Live February 14 through 16. Showtimes are 7:30 and 10 p.m. Friday, 7 and 10 p.m. Saturday, and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $28 with a two drink minimum for this 21 and over show. A special three course Valentine's Day meal package will be offered on Friday for $57.28. Visit standuplive.com or call the box office at 480-719-6100.
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