Whitney Cummings Gives Comedy’s Balls A Mighty Tug

Whitney Cummings Gives Comedy’s Balls A Mighty Tug

Whitney Cummings is getting more and more attention these days.  The 27-year old comedienne, perhaps best known for her frequent appearances on the E! late-night gab-fest Chelsea Lately starring fellow comedienne Chelsea Handler, has recently appeared on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien (may the show rest in peace), was a featured performer on E!’s Comedians of Chelsea Lately, co-starred on the first season of The Tony Rock Project, roasted Joan Rivers last year for Comedy Central, was featured on Showtime’s Live! Nude! Comedy! and, in May, will film her first one-hour comedy special (broadcast details to come).

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Meanwhile, to keep her comedy chops strong, Cummings still goes out on the road to perform.  She will appear at two Zanies locations in the Chicago area this week (full dates and times are at the end of this interview).  Visit Zanies.com for more information and to purchase tickets.  Cummings is one of comedy’s brightest stars at the moment and, at a comedy show, free of TV’s language/subject constraints, will no doubt kill it this week in Chicago.  As she discusses in our interview, now is a great time to be a female comedian and Cummings is doing her part to dispel the myth that women cannot be great comedians.

Cummings was kind enough to take time out of her schedule to answer some questions via e-mail.  Check out the full interview below.

Rock ‘n Roll Ghost: What do you normally do when you’re not on the road?  Obviously, you’re writing for some shows and you’re working on material?

Whitney Cummings: Luckily I get to work a lot as an actor and writer.  Right now I’m working on writing a couple movies and whenever I’m in town I’m auditioning.  I’m shooting an hour special in May, so I’m also working on a bunch of new stand up material.  Any down time I have is dedicated to Twitter and sugar.

Can you describe your work ethic?

I’d say passionate.  Some people might say “Type A”, but I love what I do and every second of the day I think about it, obsess about it.  When you’re a comedian, comedy becomes all encompassing – everything in life is a premise and you see jokes in everything.  Your views get stronger and stronger and you get even more aggressive with your opinions.  I write as much as I can, and even when I’m not writing I’m consumed with premises and jokes and ideas that I want to talk about onstage.  I just try to explore  things that interest me as much as possible and sometimes it’s hard to turn that off.  Some people might call it a psychological disorder worthy of an intervention, I call it being passionate.  I’m very grateful for what I do and I don’t take it for granted.

Where does your work ethic come from (family, inner drive)?

I’d say love and fulfillment.  I get a lot of fulfillment out of what I do so I want to do it as much as I can and yes, I am probably running from something.  Comedy is so challenging and time consuming.  You have to absolutely love it.  I get to work with amazing people…you get to hang out with comics and friends every night and make people laugh…so it really doesn’t feel like “work.”  Except for the airports.  That can be exhausting.  Paying $7.50 for a Naked Juice gets old after a while.

Most comics work from a very dark place.  What, if any, demons do you have?

Perfect segue from the last question!  I always say comedians aren’t dark and damaged…they get into comedy and they become damaged because the lifestyle is so hard.  I think everyone has demons, it’s just that comedians publicly talk about theirs.  Many people keep theirs to themselves.  We talk about them on TV and onstage in front of people every night.  Comedians, for the most part, explore truths and subjects in a very honest way, and the truth is often very dark, so we get a bad rap.  (George) Carlin, (Richard) Pryor, Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks…these comics were relentlessly honest even though they may come off as “dark.”  Everyone has demons, not just comics.  We’re just not ashamed of them.

Looking at the history of comedy is now the best atmosphere to be a female comic?

Absolutely.  Every female comedian has done amazing things in whatever time they were in.  But right now I’m particularly proud to be doing this because there are so many amazing female comics out there:  Chelsea (Handler), Sarah Silverman, Kathy Griffin, Joan Rivers is still killing it, Lisa Lampanelli, Maria Bamford…I mean, the list goes on and on.  And Chelsea is supporting females in such an amazing way – she has her 5 female writers on the show all the time and other female comics.  I think after this moment in time people will groan less when they see a female comic go up onstage.  I’ve noticed in the last year I’ve gotten less comments like “I usually hate female comedians,” so I guess in some universe that’s a good sign.

Tell me about being on E!’s Chelsea Lately.  How did you first come to be on the show and how much has that show (or TV in general) helped your career?

It’s been amazing.  People love the show.  It’s a phenomenon.  I have the best time being on it and absolutely adore and am so inspired by Chelsea.  It’s been great to be able to connect with a strong female fan base.  They’re incredibly supportive and fun and I’m so grateful for them. Chelsea fans are the best fans out there.  Plus, I get to hang out with Chuy, a Mexican midget with a heart of gold who dresses like Kanye West?  I mean, what more can you ask for?

Who have been your comedy heroes?

So many.  Pryor, Carlin, Paul Reiser, Bill Cosby, Ellen Degeneres, Jon Stewart, Joan Rivers, Bill Murray, Amy Sedaris, Louis CK.

Who do you enjoy seeing perform (comedy) today?

Louis CK, Sebastian Monascalco, Steve Byrne, Dana Gould, Dave Attell, Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman, Bill Burr.

Has the internet been important to your career?  If so, what aspect(s) of it have helped you?

I think Twitter has been an amazing way to connect with people in a personal way.  It’s great that people can go to your website right away and see all your work.  I love Twitter because it gives people a sense of immediate connection and authenticity.  Like, you’re a real person and not a robot.  I like that people can write me back and I can read their thoughts and opinions.  Except for the ones that make me cry.   I try to ignore the ones about me looking older than my age and being a “skank”.

5 musical artists/albums you love?

I’m weird with music.  For the past couple of years I’ve been obsessed with everything by Citizen Cope.  I’m religious about him and quite obsessed.  I get the rest of my music from my friend’s blog ilistentoeverything.com.  I just download whatever she recommends – recent discoveries are The XX, Fanfarlo, Florence and the Machine, Feist.  I also routinely download inspirational or self-help books that I never read to give me the illusion that I’m improving myself.

5 favorite movies?

Ooh.  Windy City Heat, Groundhog Day, Three Amigos, About Schmidt and anything with Catherine Keener.

Whitney Cummings will appear at Zanies Chicago Wed. & Thurs. January 27th & 28th at 9:30 PM, Friday January 29th for two shows at 8:30 & 10:30 PM and at Zanies Vernon Hills on Saturday, January 30th for two shows at 7:00 & 10:00 PM.

Official Whitney Cummings Website

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