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Monday, February 28, 2011

Whitney Cummings Gets as Ribald as Her Name Suggests but Avoids the Predictable

Posted By on Mon, Feb 28, 2011 at 7:30 AM

Move over, men of comedy.
  • Move over, men of comedy.

At risk of getting too academic, let's consider names. A chapter in Freakonomics theorizes that a person's name can directly affect how successful that person will be, as well as the type of person he or she becomes. Now let's take stand-up comedian Whitney Cummings as an example. She has made a career of telling sex jokes. Has a lifetime of exposure to crass cracks about her name given her (at the least) a perverse sense of humor or (at the most) made her into a successful comedian?

whitneycummings02.jpg
We'll never know for sure. But after seeing Cummings at Cobb's on Saturday night, and seeing how comfortable she is in her own skin, we believe the 28-year old is genetically predisposed for a life getting laughs regardless of whether she was nudged toward it by her name. She joked with confidence, engaged a "rapey" crowd with poise, and generally got away with murder on stage -- just by adding a wink.

Count Cummings among the new vanguard of off-color female comics punching a hole in the wall of a male-dominated business, a short but strong list that includes Sarah Silverman and Chelsea Handler (whose show features Cummings as a regular).

Cummings has a cunning eye for the absurdity that permeates celebrity culture, and her placement on pop-culture-obsessed shows such as Chelsea Handler and Howard Stern is well earned. But her real gift to audiences is a fresh perspective on the common narrative of male/female relationships, rarely told with such honesty and disregard for sacred cows.

Early in her set, Cummings put her current relationship status in context. She said she used to copulate for the aerobic exercise of it: "Well, I had a lasagna today, so OK." But she reported that she and her boyfriend recently moved in together -- into her house, which gives her "all the leverage. If he fucks with me he's homeless." Her main reason for cohabitation? Penis fatigue.

Being a woman, Cummings riffed, is exhausting. "Do you think I like being like this?" she asked rhetorically, referring to all the Googling of ex-girlfriends, the constant displeasure with one's figure, the overzealous jealousy, the irrational judging of other women, stalking chicks from high school to see if they've gained weight. Her gender is the embattled one, and admittedly the crazed one (insert a Sarah Palin joke, which she did).

Her view of men is simplistic. Men, she says, have one criteria in forming first impressions of people: Am I going to fuck you? On the other hand, women could fill a book with their checklists.

Marriage was on her mind, and she told the guys in the room why women lust for it. Reasons cited: diamond ring, bundles of gifts, week-long vacation, and other material comforts.

"We just want shit," she says.

It's black and white, Venus/Mars: The Y chromosome wants chicken wings and boobs to stare at (hello, Hooters), yet women have no need for a place called Dongs, with dudes walking around in Speedos. Women want a man in a business suit with a briefcase and a perfect credit score. That's hot.

Cummings used the second half of her set to test jokes she plans to use for her upcoming appearance on Comedy Central's roast of Donald Trump. She read through multiple pages of one-liners riffing on Trump and other skewers. For another comic, it could have come off as cheap workshopping, but this crowd seemed to love the game. For a Cummings audience, talking shit about celebrities is an unparalleled opiate; Perez Hilton would approve.

Critic's notebook:

Texas-raised and L.A.-based Justin Martindale (who performs in a SoCal club in the clip above) opened with a demographically appropriate take on all things bizarrely pop culture. His 90210 looks ("Yes, I might have been in Twilight") and a knowing charm could be the right kind of ammo for a future in Hollywood, especially if he goes the Joel McHale route of celeb-slamming and reality TV insight. His take on reality show Toddlers and Tiaras and the "Prostitots" it features was especially glorious. His takes on S.F. architecture (including our "Inception" streets) and that omnipotent lingering smell of weed -- with a visual of him leaping in the air to inhale it -- were met with general, laughing agreement.

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Chris Trenchard

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