Whitney Cummings is concerned she may be a little too PG for Miami's brand of raunchiness. "I'm actually worried I won't be edgy enough for Miami," the actress-slash-comedian-slash-writer told me as we talked about her upcoming show at the Magic City Casino on February 13. I Love You, first produced as her second Comedy Central one-hour special, shares brutally honest insights about love and relationships, touching on everything from the three types of faces men make when they orgasm, to her frustration at the way men brand female emotion as "crazy."
Miami is Cummings' first stop on a tour that's long overdue, both for the comedian's fans and for her. "A lot of people ask me why I'm not focusing more on TV or on movies, and honestly, going on the road, going to places like Miami and doing clubs, that's actually what I live for doing," she says with the unbridled enthusiasm of a woman clearly interested in changing the way we think about female comedians.
Cummings' inspiration to create I Love You came on the heels of a bad breakup, which she doesn't hide from her audience. Instead she uses the material she gleaned from one disastrous rebound to another to fuel for her comedy. For the comedian, the most important thing is to be as raw and as honest as possible, and relentlessly pursue the reality of what it feels like to give yourself to love. And for Cummings, falling in love is kind of like ripping your chest open and exposing the inside out.
That's where the idea for the promotional poster born. If you were taken aback by the brashness of the image before, I'm pretty sure you'll be having nightmares about it now.
"I told them I just want to be ripping my chest open, and they were like, 'You know we really can't do that with Photoshop,' but I persisted," Cummings says. She spent months Googling corpses, organs, surgical procedures, you name it. Finally, her photographer gave in. "He suggested I rent a cadaver and shoot it, so we rented a dead body, cut it up and shot it."
Cummings is using her comedy to draw attention to the way women behave in relationships, while calling out men who stereotype that behavior. She points to the discomfort people expressed at looking at her ad as just one example of how men and women are viewed differently in comedy. "You know with women right now, the fact that I ripped my chest open and everybody was upset by it, if a guy did that it would be cool," Cummings says. "If it makes people uncomfortable, it just makes me want to lean into it more and makes me want to do it."
It helps tremendously that the stories or anecdotes she recounts are spot-on, and pretty universal. Take for example Cummings' rant on the mystifying male genitalia ("Sorry guys but anything that changes shape, color and size without your permission is just fucking weird"); or the way she describes the female stream of consciousness, referring to it as the "voices" that are as berating as they are insecure.
"It's my job as an artist to not make a fake experience, that's why so many movies and TV shows are so bad," Cummings explains, "because they try to appeal to everybody and they wind up coming up dull."
And Cummings is no stranger to television. A seasoned producer and writer, she's the creator of 2 Broke Girls, a show about two young women hoping to launch a successful start-up. Her self-titled NBC sitcom Whitney, picked up by the network giant the same year as 2 Broke Girls, was canceled after 38 episodes. Cummings has also regularly appeared on Comedy Central roasts throughout the years, as well as various stints on her pal Chelsea Handler's show.
It's safe to say that Cummings' relationships with men aren't her only inspiration.2 Broke Girls is a testament to Cummings' belief that women are supporting each other creatively now more than ever before.
"I'm lucky I don't have girlfriends who are scared of me and tell me what I want to hear all the time, they just give it to me straight," she says with a laugh. That brand of empowerment seems to be a recurring theme in the industry today -- where actresses are consistently typecast while their male counterparts are offered the gamut of diverse roles. Duos like Amy Poehler and Tina Fey and Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner are working towards expanding the concept that women can write, star, direct and produce work to wide acclaim.
As for Cummings, she'll continue to blaze the trail with her "I Love You" tour, and an upcoming film and brand new TV show under works. "It's going to be like a TV version of my stand-up," she says. We can hardly wait.
Cummings will perform at the Magic City Casino on February 13 at 9 p.m.
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