In her new Netflix special “Can I Touch It?” Whitney Cummings delves into the different times we’re now all living in after the rise of the #MeToo movement. So different, in fact, she finally felt comfortable to read for Howard the roast jokes she’d originally written about Harvey Weinstein in 2010 but was too scared to tell at the time.
“There was a roast for Quentin Tarantino at the Friars Club,” Whitney explained on Wednesday. “This was like my first roast with like Hollywood people. I was maybe 25 years old.”
Whitney learned ahead of time which celebrities would be in attendance that night, including Weinstein and film director Brett Ratner.
“These are the two people who can make or break your career in Hollywood. They were the scariest, most ominous, powerful men,” Whitney told Howard. “I’d written all these jokes about them but at the last minute I chickened out saying them because I was too afraid.”
Fast-forward to now when both men are facing multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual assault. Though Whitney is no longer fearful about either man harming her career, she couldn’t help but notice how prescient some of her material was. One joke observed how Tarantino’s movies are “violent, bloody, and sometimes leave a bad taste in your mouth” just like an audition for Harvey.
“That’s a testament to how scary these guys were – I was too scared to do jokes about them,” Whitney told Howard.
After the roast that night, Whitney went to dinner with a few people, including the man of the hour, Quentin Tarantino. While at the restaurant, he ordered an exotic dish that featured octopus legs and asked Whitney if she wanted to try a bite.
“I put this octopus leg in my mouth … and I instantly started gagging,” she remembered. “It just regurgitated out of my mouth.”
Whitney tried her best to catch the food in her hand and pretend like nothing happened since she’d long been an admirer of Quentin’s work. Unfortunately, the director noticed and asked if Whitney had just thrown up right there at the table.
“I literally pretended it didn’t happen and I was holding it in my hand,” she continued. “It was fucking the most embarrassing moment of my life.”
Neither her jokes nor her coughing up food that night negatively affected Whitney’s career and she’s since found quite a bit of success in stand-up and on TV. Just last year, Whitney was serving as an executive producer of the “Roseanne” reboot that became the No. 1 show in the country. But based on what she was seeing behind the scenes, Whitney told Howard she knew the sitcom wouldn’t last long on the air due to its star’s behavior, particularly on social media. Even with its success in the ratings, Whitney decided to quit once Season 1 of the show wrapped.
“It felt imminent that there was an impending disaster,” Whitney said.
“Because of her tweeting?” Howard asked.
“Yeah,” Whitney replied. “Something happens, I think, when someone’s behavior is consistently like that, where you actually start to lower your bar for their behavior.”
Whitney wound up being right. In May 2018, Roseanne posted a racially insensitive comment about former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. ABC took swift action, canceling the series immediately even after the network had renewed the hit show for a second season.
The whole situation probably could have been avoided if Whitney pulled off something she’d suggested to her fellow producers on the show for how they should handle Roseanne’s social media use. “I pitched the idea to make a fake Twitter app for her where she thought she was tweeting … like in a video game,” Whitney said with a laugh.
Watch Whitney Cummings’ new comedy special “Can I Touch It?” available now on Netflix.