Can Whitney Cummings crack you up and turn you on at the same time? She’s determined to find out with her new sitcom “Whitney.”
An accomplished standup comedian who rose to fame skewering celebs on Comedy Central’s roasts, Cummings has gotten as much attention for her looks as for getting laughs. And as a writer, producer and star of her series, in which she plays a determined marriage-phobic in an otherwise committed long-term relationship, she tells PopcornBiz that she plans to keep intermingling the funny and the sexy.
“Because the show has a lot of sexual elements in it and it's about a relationship and the pilot is about spicing up our sex life, there's going to be a lot of opportunities in the show where I'm going to try to be sexy for my man, which we all try to do in relationships. I'm sure there's going to be more skimpy outfits on the way.”
She’s nodding to a sequence in the pilot episode in which she dons a revealing nurse’s uniform for a bit of saucy cosplay. “The nurse thing was so fun,” says Cummings. “Something that's really important to me with the show is that I'm really open and honest with my flaws and my clumsy approach to relationships. I think that it's really important for a comedienne to be private and public. That's sort of my job. So that really intimate moment that you normally wouldn't want to share with people, dressing up in a costume and trying to make your man think you're sexy which can be pretty embarrassing, it's really important that we do all that on the show. It's not necessarily trying to be sexy and hot. It's like ‘This is what would really happen.’”
Cummings says she’s glad to have come into her own at a time when comediennes can be known as much being glamorous as for their pithy punchlines. “People say ‘Being a comedian is not as hard [for a woman] anymore,’” she says. “Women have obviously always been funny – Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers and Lucille Ball, the list goes on and on. Now I feel like women can be feminine and sexy and funny too, and embrace that and not have to hide that. Beautiful women in comedy, whether it’s Maya Rudolph and Christina Applegate and Tina Fey and Kristin Wiig.”
She’s already honing in on the similarities and differences between standup and sitcoms. “I think the similarities are that if you’re honest, you will get laughs. If people believe you, you will be funny,” says Cummings. “I think the differences are that on stage, it’s obviously just you and a microphone. You’re telling a story on your own and you’re very independent, whereas on a sitcom you have a lot of other people and the idea isn’t to tell funny jokes. It’s to be in funny situations and to act real, instead of being on stage and saying funny things.”
Her future seems definitively tied to television for the moment – she also co-created the CBS sitcom “2 Broke Girls” starring Kat Dennings – Cummings says she’ll never stray from the standup stage for long. “Standup is what got me here so I don’t ever want to get away from that because that’s what keeps me strong and, I think, quick and honest,” she says. “There’s nothing that keeps you more honest than a group of drunk strangers. It keeps you honest and humble. It’s like going to the gym: if you want to be a bodybuilder, you’ve got to go to the gym every day. If you want to be a funny comedian, you’ve got to perform every day.”
"Whitney" debuts tonight at 9:30 PM ET on NBC