Whitney Cummings has gone from pranking celebrities on Punk'd to becoming one herself. The comedian became a regular on Chelsea Lately and Comedy Central Roast, which led to her starring in and writing her self-titled series, Whitney, hosting a talk show, and co-creating the sitcom 2 Broke Girls. Now Cummings returns to her roots when she kicks off her stand-up tour at Tempe Improv on June 14 and 15.
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Cummings has had her fair share of ups and downs this year with the cancellation of her sitcom Whitney and talk show Love You, Mean It, and the success of 2 Broke Girls, a sitcom she co-created Michael Patrick King of Sex and The City.The show stars Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs as two young women trying to start a cupcake business in Brooklyn.
As an actress she received negative press for her physical appearance and wasn't prepared for the rumors that accompanied her newfound success. "All these strangers judge you and pick you apart for your hair and makeup," she says. "I didn't sign up for that shit."
Cummings sees her career in stand-up as a sort of safety net. "I look for stability in stand-up, that's what I was doing first," she says. "The talk show and all that was a bonus." For Cummings it has always been about comedy.
The comedian is on a career path similar to that of Chelsea Handler, Kathy Griffin, and Lisa Lampanelli, all of whom she considers friends, not competition. "We work really hard, we help each other," Cummings says. "Chelsea is single-handedly making careers."
Cummings is a regular at the round table on Handler's show Chelsea Lately and she worked with Griffin and Lampanelli on Comedy Central Roast. All three women appeared on Love You, Mean It. "They're all so busy they didn't have to do that."
But now's the time to move forward. "I got to work with so many amazing people, but stand-up and putting this tour together is such a big dream." Cummings will tour for the next four months to gather material for a forthcoming one-hour comedy special. Aside from launching a tour, she's busy working on a movie and devoting more time to 2 Broke Girls. Cummings has played with the idea of returning to television or something on cable as an actress, but she's in no rush.
"Television is incredibly challenging and physically draining," she says. Bloggers and critics pegged Cummings as someone who slept her way to the top. In reality, the comedian/actress thinks the demise of Whitney has to do with the fact that it was too real.
"TV can be authentic, but only if you want to go to really taboo, honest places that require some thinking," she says. "It's my fault for wanting to go to those places."
Her tour will allow her to go to explore those off-limits topics.
The comedian's stand-up routine is about honesty. She says, "Sometimes you need to say something just because it's important or valid." In terms of her stand-up audiences she said, "I don't need a huge applause break in every single line, I think that's dishonest." She wants laughs from the bigger picture.
"You can't say the first five things you come up with on network TV, you end up compromising a lot. With stand-up you never have to compromise." That means she'll be able to wear her preferred work uniform of sneakers and hoodies.
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Cummings says putting together a set is like a game of Jenga. "You can feel it out to know where to go... If I don't get the response I want I'll say, 'You know I think that joke deserved a little more.'"
Audiences can expect a more mature show compared to the last time she toured. Cummings says, "My life has changed so much in the past three years, the last time [touring] I was single and angry," Cummings says. "Now I'm older, I'm in a relationship, I'm just in a different place in my life."
Whitney Cummings performs at Tempe Improv Comedy Club & Dinner Theatre on Friday, June 14 at 7:30 pm and 10 pm and Saturday, June 15 at 7 pm and 10 pm. Tickets to the 21-and-over show are $28, and there's a two-drink minimum.