I have to admit, I had a bit of a bias against Whitney Cummings before starting this book. Literally my only exposure to her was her TV show, which was kind of terrible. But she’s been a writer and stand-up for years, and I’ve never really sought out anything else by her. I saw her book had high reviews on Goodreads, plus I was stuck on an airplane, so I gave it a shot and I’m glad I did. This was much more than your average “funny girl tells awkward stories” book.
“People always ask me how I got funny. The short answer is: I had to figure out a way to be liked. The long answer is more complicated because humor also developed as a survival mechanism to protect myself and disarm or intimidate people when I didn’t feel safe, to make fun of myself before other people could, to avoid having to feel sadness, or to mitigate the gravity of a situation because laughter was my anesthetic for pain. Also, my last name is Cummings, so as you can probably imagine, I had to learn to defend myself from insults pretty early on in life.”
There are definitely awkward stories here, but the main focus is on Cummings’s coping mechanism — extremely unhealthy ones. She talks in detail about her eating disorder, her need for attention, and the terrible situations she got herself into trying to make men like her. TERRIBLE situations — almost going to prison, serious bodily injury, that sort of thing. She says in the introduction “you should buy it if you want to laugh and learn how to stop being crazy”, and that sounds flip, but she really has some good advice here. This book is written by someone who seems to be (mostly) on the other side. She sought help. She took steps to get well. And while she presents some of her advice in a humorous way, it’s solid:
“Now here’s the hard part of all this: Once you do spot a red flag, your job is to actually read the writing on the wall. You don’t get to pick up a pen and rewrite the writing on the wall. For most of my twenties I rewrote the writing on the wall, and frankly it’s a miracle that as a result I’m not in court trying to get custody of my seven kids from numerous very handsome malignant narcissists.”
Like I said, I wasn’t expecting quite so much depth here — it was a pleasant surprise. I might have to give her show another try…