10 Comics to Watch

“They say it takes 10 years to make a good comedian,” notes Whitney Cummings, the 24-year-old D.C. native, reaffirming her commitment to a regimen that can include as many as three gigs a night at separate L.A.-area clubs, followed by morning auditions.

Her proclaimed dedication to this daily grind aside, don’t be surprised if the Penn graduate — magna cum laude in just three years, according to her bio — found a way around such grueling paths of most resistance.

Certainly, IQ-wise Cummings — a former supporting prankster on MTV’s “Punk’d” — is more capable of analyzing the chess pieces of the whole starlet game than most of her competition. In fact, it makes for great self-deprecating material.

During a recent Laugh Factory gig, for example, she went to that well several times, once noting that she often double-books dates when she’s down to her last “morning after” pill: “Actually, I have two (pills) left, but I have an audition tomorrow,” she quipped, getting laughs from the more cerebral demo in the packed club.

Having studied at D.C.’s Studio Theater — years of “masturbatory actor training,” she says — Cummings staunchly opposes anything that resembles method acting (even if that training seems to come in handy, evidenced by the recurring dramatic role she just landed on the upcoming HBO skein “Tell Me You Love Me”).

Her true fondness, she says, is for smart, observational standup — Ellen DeGeneres is the template. “She’s just so funny about the stupidest things,” Cummings says. “If you can make something funny out of something mundane, it’s borderline divine.”

Buzz: A recurring turn as a roving “Sundance Film Festival Dailies” co-host and a solid bit on “Last Call With Carson Daily” in September have built momentum for her of late. Besides the upcoming HBO series, she has roles in several soon-to-bow indie pics — a vapid news reporter in the horror film “Grizzly Park” and an alley cat in the bowling-based comedy “7-10 Split.”

References: Outside of perhaps her parents, Cummings’ manager, Barry Katz, offers her staunchest praise: “Whitney proves to our industry that God, on the rarest of occasions, does give with both hands — she’s as talented an actress/comedienne as she is beautiful.”

Fallback plan: When asked what else she could be doing with her life, Cummings can’t come up with an answer. And don’t look for her to follow in the footsteps of her venture-capitalist father, either In fact, she isn’t even sure what kind of “venture capital” he’s into. “That’s always been unclear to me,” she says. “It could be online poker for all I know.”

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