Whitney Cummings likes to think of herself as a comedy “martyr,” one of many modern comedians who are willing to “sacrifice themselves just to make sure the First Amendment is still intact.” She believes so strongly in her right to say whatever she wants on stage that she left Comedy Central, HBO, and Netflix behind to put out her latest uncensored stand-up special on Only Fans TV.
In this new episode of The Last Laugh podcast, Cummings talks very openly about the state of comedy as she sees it in 2023, and why she decided to embrace the “safe-for-work” arm of the popular porn platform to produce a series of celebrity roasts and now her sixth special, Mouthy. The comedian also discusses why trans jokes comprise nearly half of the new hour, how her perspective on the divisive issue differs from male comics like Dave Chappelle, why she was willing to apologize to one trans audience member who was offended by her material, that time she may have gone too far in front of an audience of Saudi businessmen, and more.
Cummings is running late for the taping and still in the middle of getting dressed when she logs into Zoom. As she slips a blue plaid flannel shirt over her bra, she jokes, “I’m the female Louis C.K., just disrobing in front of you.”
When Cummings taped her new special back in December at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles, she was seven months pregnant, which means when we are talking this week she could literally deliver her son at any moment. She’s been receiving a lot of unsolicited advice about having her first baby, including a lot of diaper-changing tips. “I never would have thought, how do I get him to not pee in my mouth,” she says. “I wouldn’t have known to even ask that.” Cummings then takes the joke a step further by adding, “I’ve gotten this far in Hollywood without any producers peeing in my mouth and now it’s going to be my own spawn?”
It quickly becomes clear as we speak that before she even officially becomes a mother, Cummings is already workshopping material about motherhood for her inevitable seventh special, including jokes about how comedians are basically the same as toddlers, between the inability to sleep through the night and unprovoked bouts of crying at six in the morning.
Cummings is also already anticipating how she might have to censor herself for the sake of her child, which might explain why Mouthy is certainly her most freewheeling special yet, complete with nearly 30 minutes of material on America’s “obsession” with the transgender community.
“We’re in this place where everyone’s like, ‘You can’t say this, you can’t say that,’ and I don’t buy it,” she says. “I don’t think that’s true.”
Below are highlights from our conversation. You can listen to the whole thing by following The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, or wherever you get your podcasts, and be the first to hear new episodes when they are released every Wednesday.
Why getting “canceled” is the best thing that can happen to a comedian
“From what I understand, and from what we were all able to ascertain, Dave Chappelle’s saga around having those trans jokes made [The Closer] the most watched special in history. The people that try to cancel us are usually just our biggest publicists. They just don’t understand that they’re helping us. Louis C.K. is bigger than ever. Shane Gillis is bigger than ever. Joe Rogan, every time they try to cancel him, his viewership goes up like 20 percent. So try to cancel me, guys, please!”
“I can’t ever put this in a special”
“I feel like comedy fans are more eager than ever to watch people take risks. They want comedians to go for it, and that’s what we do. So I was kind of just writing for the road, talking about the trans issue and stuff like that. I was like, I can’t ever put this in a special, I’ll get in trouble. I’ll get torn apart. And so everything I talk about in [Mouthy] wasn’t ever meant to be filmed. I was like, let me just do stand-up and stop thinking about it as an end product of selling a special. Let me just have creative freedom and write what I want to write about.”
Why she wanted to tackle the transgender issue from a female perspective
“I’ve always made fun of everyone, which is our job as comedians. To go, ‘I’m not gonna make fun of this group,’ that to me feels patronizing and like you can’t handle it, and you’re made of glass, and it’s accusing people of not being smart enough to understand nuance and have a sense of humor. I have a lot of trans friends. They have some of the best senses of humor. You have to have a sense of humor if you’re trans and you go through life being ridiculed and having to defend yourself and getting bullied. I also found it very weird that it was all men weighing in on it, too, because I was like, they’re taking our trophies. They’re taking our sports. If someone’s going to be mad, it should be us. So I thought it was an interesting way to do some commentary around that with an angle that I hadn’t seen. If I couldn’t find an angle that no one had seen, it would just feel exploitative and like trying to talk about something popular or something incendiary for no reason.”
How her politics have changed as “the left” tries to “silence” comedians
“The left has, to me, in a lot of ways, when it comes to speech, become unrecognizable. Because it used to be the party of free speech, it used to be the party of tolerance, it used to be the party of, we criticize—or at least are suspicious of—Big Pharma. I mean, Bill Maher has said this, Roseanne said this years ago when I was working with her, that the left has just gone so far that a lot of people who used to be on the left now feel like they’re kind of in the middle. But when it comes to speech, the left wants to silence people in a lot of ways. So I think comedians do find themselves criticizing that part of the left. I do think that in their minds they’re doing it to protect people and to make the world safer. But I don’t believe that’s how the world is made safer. I just want to make people laugh. But I do find that people that probably would consider themselves more conservative these days have a better sense of humor, for sure.”
“If comedians are scared, we’re in trouble”
“People always talk about censorship. But there’s also a lot of self-censorship that happens just because we’re scared. And I take the stance of, if comedians are scared, we’re in trouble. It’s our job to be fearless. It’s our job to push back and sometimes say things that we don’t mean or say things that we know are wrong and offensive, just to make sure that we’re not turning into some totalitarian country. This whole thing where I only believe in you having free speech if you agree with me, I think that’s a really scary place to be. And I think sometimes I go too far in the direction of like, it’s on us to make sure everyone still has free speech. Sometimes you can just go on stage and be funny, and you don’t have to be a free speech warrior all the time. I think sometimes I martyr myself a little too much where I go, ‘Everyone should be able to make fun of everyone. This is America, gosh darn it!’”
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