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When I ask Whitney Cummings how she became the ABC showrunner Roseanne restart, a mischievous smile flashes on her face. “I’m just a fan of his tweets,” he jokes. “I just think you get some good points.” He laughs as he adds: “It will be quoted out of context, now I can see it!”
Over a year has passed since Cummings announced that she would step down from the show, and this week’s episode of The last laugh podcast is the first time he has talked about it for a long time on the disc.
“It made a lot of sense at the time,” the comedian, whose new special stand-up Can I touch it? started streaming on Netflix this week, sharply adding his decision to team up with the controversial sitcom star. What some people might not understand is that she actually left before ABC fired Barr and renamed the show The Conners without her.
“Working on Roseanne was a surreal and incredible experience,” Cummings wrote in a tweet canceled in May 2018. “Due to work schedule and my tour schedule, I will have to watch the Conners on the sidelines of next season. It’s It was an honor to work with such an incredibly talented group of actors, writers and crews. “Referring to the founder of TMZ, he added,” Harvey Levin, you can stop calling my cell phone now. “
The real reason Cummings left the show had everything to do with Barr’s racist tweets.
“I wanted him to get off Twitter,” he says frankly. “It seemed to me that it would reach its climax. It was like he was a mole. “
Recognizing that “maybe people won’t believe me,” Cummings says he is unaware of Barr’s long history of offensive tweets when he accepted the job. He realized that it would be a problem before Barr published the racist tweet about former Obama administration official Valerie Jarrett who eventually pushed ABC to cut ties with her. “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is disgusting, repulsive and at odds with our values, and we decided to cancel her show,” said ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey in a statement at the time.
As the story kept getting out of control from there, Cummings tried to stay as far away as possible. When a TMZ reporter ambushed her at an airport to ask her if she wanted to see Barr’s character killed, a plot twist that ended in the fall to explain her absence, she admits that she didn’t come out with a bell. appearance. “I don’t even want to think about it,” Cummings said at the time, visibly annoyed. “Killing her would mean I should think about her and I don’t even want to do it right now. I’m too pissed.”
“It was a nightmare,” he says now. “I was Pissed off. We all worked hard for that show and it’s just a shame. You put your heart and soul into something for 12 months and it’s just for nothing. ”
“I grew up watching Roseanne, I loved it, “adds Cummings.” I grew up poor and that was the first show that looked like my home. It was the first show that didn’t make me feel bad about myself. ” In the past he has talked about how the character of Kat Dennings 2 broke girls—The hit series she created for CBS in 2011 – is how she imagined Roseanne Conner could be like a 20-year-old.
After Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, Cummings wanted to do something to channel his frustration creatively. The ability to add his voice to a show that could be seen by those who – like Roseanne Barr – supported Trump, was too good to let go.
“There is this enormous disconnection between Hollywood writers and America,” he says. “And there is this idea among some Hollywood writers that America is stupid.” He thinks that Hillary Clinton’s comment that she calls half of Trump’s “deplorable” supporters played on this notion. “What I liked most Roseanne, it has always been, just because we are poor does not mean that we are stupid. And I have poor family members who live in red states and I think many people did not feel seen or listened to. ”
“I’m not saying that’s why people voted as they did, but they did and were not represented on television,” Cummings continues. “The opportunity to bring the content with a message in the red states has been very interesting for all of us. Because many things we do, only our echo chamber sees. We are so delusional about who looks at what we do and many times we are in our echo chamber and forget that there are a lot of people who are not watching and are preaching to the choir. ”
The writer’s room is original Roseanne showrunner Bruce Helford assembled together included comedy legends like Norm Macdonald and Wanda Sykes. “There is an idea that it was a group of right-wing racists who wrote the show,” says Cummings. “It wasn’t quite like that.”
Before the show premiered in 2018, Cummings said in an interview that sometimes seemed to be the “PC police” in the writers’ room. “Ugh, this makes me hate myself,” he says a year later. “It was much more than we really had to be careful in terms of portraying how this family and these characters would actually speak and behave. And if we had been offensive, it was for the right reasons and on purpose. ” For example, he cites a “big argument” that they had that John Goodman’s character Dan should use the term “undocumented workers” or “illegal”.
“In the privacy of his kitchen, with his 60-year-old wife, he probably wouldn’t say” undocumented workers, “he explains.” But “illegal” isn’t the term PC. It’s difficult. And people got mad at the crew. “Cummings had to defend the reality of the scene from the objections of those who found the term offensive. He said it was up to them to” do it right, so we know how the characters are wrong. ”
As “a huge fan” of Roseanne Barr growing up and coming of age, Cummings describes the comedian’s final fall as “heartbreaking”, “surreal” and “so traumatizing” that he almost blocked the entire episode from his memory.
“I just thought we were all recording to keep a mirror on what was going on and we hope to do something fun, healing and nostalgic,” he says. “I think it had the potential to be truly curative and start interesting conversations.”
Cummings indicates a teleconference that former first lady Michelle Obama had with television showrunners before leaving the White House where she spoke of how a show like Will & Grace actively changed the perception of same-sex marriage across the country. “So this made me think, this maybe can be a powerful thing, especially a show that so many people will watch,” he says. “Maybe this can unite us, which seems so naive now that I’m saying it.”
Asked if he thinks ABC made the right decision when it was actually canceled Roseanne, Cummings says, “Yes, I think so. It’s just a shame. I’m still too shocked and confused to even know what to think. It’s terribly unfortunate.”
At the same time, Cummings says that “perhaps what was to happen in the grand scheme of things is the head of that network that made a very public statement about what will not be tolerated.”
“And maybe this is the message that should have been passed on to everyone,” he says. “Because that story was huge. It was all someone was talking about. Maybe that’s what was supposed to happen. ”
Next week The last laugh Podcast: Comedian and co-star of Lots of fleas is Stranger Things, Brett Gelman.