Whitney Cummings kicks off Laugh Fest
Six years ago, Whitney Cummings shared a stage with Snoop Dogg, The Situation from “Jersey Shore” and the future president of the United States.
On the dais for Comedy Central’s “Roast of Donald Trump,” Cummings landed some of the better lines of the night lampooning the reality-television buffoon. (“You’re gross. Nobody likes you. But you come back every few years: You’re like the McRib!”)
Cummings, who headlines the Aspen Laugh Festival at the Wheeler Opera House today, also offered some biting takes on Trump’s political ambitions during the roast: “You recently said you’re running for president — that is such a publicity stunt. If I wanted to support a greedy whore who is pretending to run for president just to get on TV, I’d vote for Sarah Palin. … I’d say, ‘Stick to real estate,’ but your buildings are hideous.”
These days, Cummings said in a recent phone interview from Los Angeles, she largely steers away from the divisive new president in her stand-up act.
“I did a few shows before the election where I brought it up and I had like two riots break out in California,” she said. “It’s a challenging time and it’s an acrimonious time, but I’ve been proud to be a comedian because people like Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah and Seth Meyers and Judd Apatow and Adam McKay have been stepping up and telling the truth.”
Cummings doesn’t do a lot of traditional political humor or riff on current events onstage, though gender politics and the power dynamics of sex and relationships are a mainstay of her act. In her brilliant HBO special “I’m Your Girlfriend,” which premiered in early 2016, she took on fertility egg freezing and how pornography has warped norms in the bedroom. The Atlantic, in an essay last year, hailed the hilarious and incisive hourlong special as a pinnacle of “soap-box comedy.”
The comic and co-creator of the sitcom “2 Broke Girls” said she’s still working out how — if at all — to incorporate the political tumult of the Trump era into her stand-up act: “Politics isn’t really what I talk about. So it’s been an interesting conflict for me: Do I start talking about that?”
Over the past year, while also juggling several creative projects, Cummings has been touring and building new stand-up material. She started from scratch after retiring her “I’m Your Girlfriend” set, so Cummings has been testing out jokes and tweaking them based on audience reactions.
“I try not to start writing too much before I start touring,” she said.
Beyond stand-up, Cummings is in the early stages of directing the feature film “The Female Brain” and also is writing a memoir.
She described the book as covering “all the things that I’ve been too embarrassed to talk about onstage, because you have to make eye contact with people and these things are too humiliating to talk about while making eye contact. So you can read them in your house alone and not look at me judgmentally afterward.”
Her years onstage, she said, have prepared her to write the book.
“When you do stand-up, the audience doesn’t let you be boring,” she said. “So when I sit down and I’m writing, if I feel like I’m blathering on, I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s boring.’ I have a high bar for what’s worth writing about. I think stand-up has helped me with that.”
Cummings did play the Wheeler once before some years ago, at the invitation of David Brenner. She’s looking forward to facing another oxygen-starved audience in Aspen.
“When people have altitude sickness and are drunker than they should be, they laugh more,” she said. “So I’m grateful. I always get more laughs than I deserve there.”
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