Whitney Cummings: Comedy Queen
by kathryn romeyn
Men. It’s a topic comedienne Whitney Cummings built her career on. With a shtick that focuses on the trials and tribulations of chemistry, sexism and couple-dom, the 29-year-old is making serious waves this season starring in her own relationship-themed NBC comedy, Whitney, and sharing cocreator credits on CBS’ 2 Broke Girls with Sex and the City executive producer Michael Patrick King.
While the funny brunette says “making people laugh is what keeps me going and fills me up,” being a jokester wasn’t the original plan. “I thought I was going to be a journalist,” says Cummings, a Washington, DC, native. “I had an obsession with injustice and was a very curious kid, always asking a million questions. That’s what you do as a journalist—you investigate something. I just happen to do that on stage in front of drunk strangers.” At 12 she picked up Paul Reiser’s book Couplehood and suddenly a new career was in the cards. “I felt like I had the same instincts and approach to things,” she says of the comedian.
One of the Funny Women
Her break came after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, when she joined Ashton Kutcher’s prank show, Punk’d, the exposure from which led to more stand-up gigs and a regular spot on E! Entertainment Network’s Chelsea Lately. “[Chelsea Handler] is like the Jay-Z of comedy. She really inspires me,” says Cummings. “Chelsea taught me to say what you really think, be proud of who you are and then the rest will fall into place.” Furthermore, Cummings appreciates the legitimacy Handler has helped give female comics. “Three years ago people were asking, ‘Are women funny?’ This is the year that comes to an end—it’s not even a question anymore.”
Undoubtedly, Cummings plays into that seismic shift. Whitney, a four-camera sitcom filmed before a live audience (“After I say something funny, I need to hear a noise or I start panicking and sweating,” she says), is based on the mishaps of cohabiting with her boyfriend in a world full of divorce. “It’s about me being in a happy relationship and kind of not believing it—overreacting and waiting for the [other] shoe to drop,” she says. As for 2 Broke Girls, Cummings—who calls Sex and the City “a religion”—is living her dream by coproducing with King. Together they wrote about two waitresses in New York City and sold the show on spec. “I still get butterflies when I receive e-mails from him,” she says.
Regardless of how well Cummings’ shows do, don’t expect her to start seeking out flashbulbs. “I lead a pretty dorky life in the Valley,” she says. “If [paparazzi] can find me, come get me, but I wear underwear—very big granny panties—so I’m probably not worth following.”
photograph by mitchell Hasseth/nbc; COURTESY OF GETTY (ROTATOR)