Five weeks into the two-month experiment by CBS to rotate guest hosts in and out of The Late Late Show, we’ve seen plenty of different techniques to introduce viewers to their new hosts for a night (or two or three).
Drew Carey already had taken the Late Late desk for a spin once before last year, so his learning curve wasn’t quite so steep. The women from daytime talker The Talk pretty much did what they do. Jim Gaffigan used his own jokes — as well as his wife and children — to add some extra flavor to his cold openings, monologues and sketches before the first guest. Judd Apatow — who casts his wife and daughters in his movies — went straight to the jokes, given the chance to reveal the stand-up material he has been honing over the past year. The monologues this past week for Sean Hayes and John Mayer easily could have been Saturday Night Live monologues.
And then there was the oddity of last week’s slate of Late Late shows, broadcast not from Hollywood but from the New York City studio home of CBS This Morning, filmed before a studio audience of none but the camera and stage crew. Last week’s guest hosts happened to already be in NYC (Regis Philbin lives there, Whitney Cummings headlined Caroline’s on Broadway last weekend, and both Cummings and Adam Pally’s sidekick for the night, Ben Schwartz, had previous bookings last week on Late Show with David Letterman).
Cummings, co-creator of CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls, would have stood out even more so from everyone else, even notwithstanding the lack of a studio audience nor any of the traditional trappings of a late-night talk show set. No, of course, Cummings was and is the only woman CBS booked to guest host The Late Late Show. And in 2015, when neither broadcast networks nor cable channels seem willing to program a late-night show fronted by a woman, that’s rather remarkable.
More remarkable: Cummings’s decision to broach the shocking disparity and double standards facing women in comedy and late-night TV in both of her monologues.
On Wednesday night’s show, following the cold open and title credits, Cummings stood at the back of the CBS This Morning set and looked directly into the camera at us, delivering these words:
“Good evening America. I’m a woman, and welcome to The Late Late Show. Thank you for choosing us over that infomercial for the thing that shocks your face. Just so you know, I am a little nervous about doing this show because there’s no audience here tonight – which is kind of weird for a stand-up comedian. To not have people around laughing. You know. It’s like doing jokes without an audience, it’s like – it’s like having sex without an audience. Awkward. You know. And for those of you who are looking at me thinking, ‘I don’t think a girl should host late-night,’ let me tell you something: Everybody agrees with you. So. Can’t be too mad. But we’re going to get through this, because I’m very happy to be here. I’m honored to be hosting this show, even though, let’s be honest, you know the only reason I was asked was because Joan Rivers died. And, calm down. Joan was a friend of mine. She would have thought that was funny. And when they asked Tina Fey about hosting, she just emailed back, ‘Unsubscribe.’ And when they went out to Amy Poehler, she just wrote back, ‘LOL.’ And all the other female comedians are unavailable. Sarah Silverman’s at Sundance. Kathy Griffin is on tour. And Chelsea Handler is – technically not a female. But you knew that. A lot of haters are going to say that I got this gig because I was lucky, I got it by sleeping with people. That is not true. I didn’t sleep with anyone to get this job. I mean. I tried. But, no takers. After I sleep with someone, they barely ever text me back much less give me a job. People don’t realize this but I actually slept with the president of NBC, and that’s why my sitcom got canceled. The show’s ratings were great. My rating: Not-so-great. That being said, I have faced sexism in this business before. I have not been hired for numerous jobs because I wasn’t talented enough, and that’s discrimination. It’s not fair. I mean, as you know, women are mostly found in daytime TV. I personally would never want to do a daytime show, because I look better at night, and I can’t cook. It’s weird to me that there aren’t more female late-night talk show hosts. You know, women make great hosts. We host parties, showers, incurable diseases – we have a lot of practice, you know. But I feel ready to do this. You know, I’ve had my own talk show before. And I learned a lot. Notably, don’t read your Twitter @replies. Bad idea if you’re Whitney Cummings. Anyway, we have a great show for you tonight. I’m very excited to be hosting my first network talk show. This is very cool, and for this honor, I’d like to thank my mother for giving me low self-esteem, my father for not paying enough attention to me, and all my ex-boyfriends for making a hole in my soul that can only be filled by laughter from strangers. Or, if there are no strangers available, by a tiny machine. And I’m not talking about this laugh button.”
It begins at about two and half minutes into this video:
The following night, her sidekick Bridget Everett brought up the Twitter feedback, which prompted Cummings to say this:
“Well, between me hosting last night and working on The Late Late Show for today, I noticed a couple of issues that I want to give the rest of the guest hosts a head’s up on around the set, you know, so all the kinks are worked out. First thing is, don’t be a woman. It’s not helpful. It just slows everything down. And you get paid much less. Also, everyone doubts you and will judge your hosting skills solely on whether they want to sleep with you or not. Even though, in real life, you would never sleep with them. Second, something is wrong with these cameras. They all make you look like you’re 10 years older than you are. They also make your voice sound super annoying and like grating. I mean, do you actually think this is my real voice? If this was my real voice, no guy would ever talk to me…Doing some math. Some things are coming together. Never mind that one. Also, guys, don’t wear Spanx while sitting at this desk for an hour. Still can’t feel my hands. Alright. Um, that’s that.”
You tell ’em, Whitney!