Christopher Titus, courtesy photo
Kids learn that “honesty is the best policy” at an early age, but for comedians to learn that lesson can take a little longer.
Before his breakout one-man show “Norman Rockwell is Bleeding” in 2004, comedian Christopher Titus admits, ” I had done comedy for about 12 years, and I was just kind of a crappy comedian. Nothing happened in my career until I threw all of my material away and wrote that show, which is the first time I was really honest about my life on the page.”
Drawing on dark, personal stories from “my mom’s suicide, to my dad’s alcoholism, to getting punched in the face by my ex-girlfriend, to all kinds of stuff,” that one-man show led to his dark comedy TV series Titus on Fox. The show also earned him a Writer’s Guild nomination and an Emmy nomination, and Newsday called him “TV’s most original voice since Seinfeld.”
Titus describes his comedy storytelling as, “hard funny …. Like if you put Bill Cosby in a horribly abusive home and he fell into a bonfire when he was 15.”
Whatever it is, it’s working.
“Norman Rockwell is Bleeding” paved the way for Titus’ future comedy albums/specials, “The Fifth Annual End of the World Tour” (2007), “Love is Evol” (2009), “Neverlution” (2011), “The Voice in my Head” (2013), and now his newest show, “The Angry Pursuit of Happiness,” which comes to the Lobero Theatre on Saturday, September 27 and will be filmed for a television special.
“This will be my sixth comedy special and this one is the best one I’ve ever done,” says Titus. “There’s a bit called this how life goes. There’s a bit called arm the children, a very funny bit, but it’s kind of a big FU to the NRA, actually to be honest … I even do my own eulogy in this special.”
He continues, “In comedy you have to make people question what you’re talking about. … A friend of mine calls it ‘the last bastion of freedom in America.’ So that’s why they can tell you on a TV show you’ve got to do it this way and this way or our advertisers won’t take it, but on the comedy stage they can’t do that to you.”
Titus speaks from personal experience on the TV show front: his Fox show was infamously cancelled when he spoke his mind to a network executive. “Yep, tell the network president they didn’t know what the hell they’re doing. It turns out if you tell your boss they’re stupid long enough they will fire you. Write that down. One of those rules of life. If you tell your boss they’re stupid long enough they will fire you. I said one sentence that cost me $30 million dollars. You feel better about your life now?”
Unlike his previous shows, Titus says, “‘Angry Pursuit of Happiness’ this was a hard one to write for me, because my entire comedy thing has come out of pain and anger and my divorce and my crazy mom and my alcoholic dad. I got married again, I met this great woman after my horrible divorce and I got happy and I got really scared I’ve never been more uncomfortable in my life because everything was going well. So I had to deal with that in my life,” he laughs.
“That’s a rich white lady’s problem. You should just call me Miss Daisy. But if you’ve never had happiness and ease in your life, when it happens it’s unrecognizable. This show was about we’re all going to die. No one really believes they’re going to die. Deep down we all think we’re highlanders. I eat more broccoli than anyone, I take many supplements, and I will live forever! … But we’re all going to die and no one thinks about that and this is kind of about finding a different place in your life. ”
The cast of Pawnography, courtesy photo
Life is indeed good for Titus these days. In addition to a happy home life, a busy career as a stand-up comic and writer and a new gig as the host of Pawnography on HISTORY, he’s also directing a film, Special Unit, about four disabled detectives. Titus describes it as “The Shield with handicapped people. …. basically due to the fairness and disability law the LAPD has to hire more the handicapped undercover detectives.” The cast includes Titus, as well as Brad Williams, a stand out in his performance at the LOL Comedy Festival at the Lobero earlier this month.
When asked if there is anything left on his career bucket list, Titus says, “you know, I love doing stand-up so much. George Carlin did 21 albums and 14 one-hour specials. There nobody currently even near that. but I’m gonna keep going till I croak on stage and people will think I’m doing a bit. They’ll think I’m doing a piece of material and watch me die and think that’s funny.”
Knowing Titus, it probably would be pretty funny.
He promises, “The show in Santa Barbara will be great. “There is some swearing in it but if you have a 16-year-old kid you could bring them. Any younger than that, I wouldn’t. … The truth can be painful, but the truth is really funny.”
Christopher Titus’ “Angry Pursuit of Happiness” is at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.) on Saturday, September 27 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets click here.
Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on September 22, 2014.