Whitney Cummings Breaks Down the David Hasselhoff Comedy Central Roast

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Whitney Cummings

Oddly, the star of the recent Comedy Central roast of David Hasselhoff was not Hasselhoff himself but a young comedienne named Whitney Cummings. Cummings, who appeared on the MTV show “Punk’d” before becoming a stand-up a few years ago, skewered Hasselhoff and the roast’s other participants with such lacerating, economical wit that the audience seemed momentarily stunned — not an easy thing to do in a roomful of comics. The performance has garnered Cummings accolades just in time for her one-hour special which airs this weekend on Comedy Central.

Speakeasy caught up with the comedienne after her appearance this morning on the Howard Stern Show.

The Wall Street Journal: You were like a super-fit prizefighter pummeling the guests at this roast.

I’m so shocked at the response to this roast. I didn’t realize I was so edgy. Someone said to me recently that I have a surgical approach. I really make it tight and scientific. I cut the fat. I end up writing hundreds and hundreds of jokes, and in the week before the roast I’ll go out to comedy clubs and run them in the clubs to get a feel of them.

Did any of your jokes get cut from the TV special?

There’s a lot of reasons a joke might not air. Like last year Greg Giraldo and I both had an AIDS quilt joke. You can only have one AIDS quilt in a roast. All the stuff that people think is too dirty or whatever, I did on Stern this morning. I think it’s going to be the tradition that I go on Stern after the roast and do all the jokes that didn’t air.

Do you have open license to make fun of the person being roasted?

Every year something is off limits. For Bob Saget, his sister who had died was off limits, which is kind of fair. For the William Shatner roast, what was off limits was his wife who drowned. This year, it was David Hasselhoff’s daughters. He said, ‘Just don’t talk about my daughters,’ and I called them whores. I can see why that didn’t air. And then Pam Anderson was very sensitive this year, so a lot of the ones about her didn’t air.

Do comics see the roast as a chance to tell jokes that might otherwise be too cruel or offensive?

It’s the one hour a year where nothing is off limits and nobody’s feelings are involved and no one is allowed to be sensitive or take things personally and nothing is offensive. It’s a celebration of the first amendment, I guess. I would never say the things I said in the roast. I wouldn’t just go up to Pam Anderson and say, ‘Hey, you have AIDS.’ And I wouldn’t do it in my act. My act is not mean towards people at all. The roast is self contained.

Do you worry that the meaner your jokes are, the more you’ll be made fun of by other comics?

I don’t take things personally. I’m dead inside.

I can see how the experience might dent one’s self-esteem, even a comic.

That’s why we have Xanax. I don’t understand people who sign up for it and are offended. You know what you’re signing up for. You go through months and months of contract negotiations. This year Pam Anderson really was sensitive about people making fun of her. It’s not like we’re coming up to you at two in the afternoon on a random Wednesday and saying, ‘You’re a whore.’ By the way, this is how comedians show love to one other.

That’s what is so fascinating. During Comedy Central’s roast of Joan Rivers, you skewered her, then ended by earnestly telling Joan how big an influence she’s been on your career.

The roast is like the Oscars for comedy. In acting, you give each other little gold statues. But in comedy, we just call each other fat whores. It’s a very twisted, weird approach but that insult humor is a famous tradition in comedy.


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