It’s been quite a breakthrough year for Whitney Cummings.
The hyphenate is fielding two comedy pilots — one for CBS that she co-wrote on spec with Michael Patrick King, the other she wrote as a starring vehicle for herself at NBC — and she just set a deal with E! to star in a possible latenight companion to Chelsea Handler’s “Chelsea Lately.”
The E! presentation is being produced through Handler’s Borderline Amazing production shingle. Tom Brunelle, exec producer of “Chelsea Lately,” will also exec produce Cummings’ presentation, dubbed “Whatever Whitney.” It’s set to shoot in February.
Cummings credits her frequent appearances on “Chelsea Lately” for giving a big lift to her career. She also took part in the “Comedians of Chelsea Lately” standup tour that hit more than 50 cities earlier this year.
“Chelsea has opened doors for female comedians by putting people on her show and giving them the opportunity to go on the road,” Cummings said. “I had opportunities to do talkshows in a couple of places, but I wanted to do it with Chelsea’s blessing and involvement. She’s the best role model I could have.”
Cummings’ busy sked this year also included starring in her first hourlong Comedy Central spesh, “Money Shot,” which aired this summer, and she lensed a role in the indie feature “Frankie Goes Boom,” set for release next year. She’ll spend New Year’s Eve live on the air as host of MTV’s countdown program.
In her spare time, the CAA-repped Cummings wrote a pilot with King for Warner Bros. TV that revolves around two young women who are broke and desperate in New York City.
The spec sale of “Two Broke Girls” spurred a bidding skirmish among multiple nets, ultimately landing at CBS with a pilot order. King, steward of the “Sex and the City” franchise, responded to Cummings’ work after he held a round of meetings with writers in his search for a collaborator. (Cummings will not have an on-camera role in “Girls.”)
Cummings confessed she never worried more about what to wear to a meeting than she did when she first met King. The oh-so-stylish “Sex and the City” was a big influence on the style and tone of her standup comedy, which focuses on sex and relationships.
“I’m still in shock that I get to work with him,” she said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever worn heels to work.”
Project for NBC, “In Between,” is set up with Scott Stuber Prods. and Universal Media Studios. Rooted in Cummings’ standup material, it focuses on a woman in her late 20s feeling the pressure as her friends begin to get married and settle down. She envisions it as an updated take on “Mad About You,” with edge.
“It’s about a girl who’s scared of marriage, who comes from a background with a lot of divorce, but throughout the show things happen that bring her close to getting married,” she said.
Cummings, who was on Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch list in 2007, started out intending to be a dramatic actress. But during college, she took hosting gigs to earn extra money that set her on the standup comedy path. Her drive to work on both sides of the mic — as writer and performer — comes from watching role models such as Tina Fey and Seth Rogen.
“The career model I look to is the people who say, ‘Write the things you want to be in.’ There are still very few roles for women comics, so you have to write something for yourself. Sitting around and waiting to get cast in something will just make you insane. You have to take control of your career.”