No doubt, when comedian Christopher Titus’ father filed for his fifth divorce, he had no idea that his son would parlay his various un-fatherly pathologies into a nationally syndicated television sitcom. Cruel childhood circumstances — such as brutal father-son fistfights and a suicidal mother — are more the stuff of a Dickens novel than a comedy routine.
And even though Titus’ father, an admitted alcoholic, ruled his childhood home with a bullying fist, Titus found a way to survive.
It seems that Titus and his father used jest as a sort of communication salve. Before he died a couple of years back, Titus’s misogynistic pop asked that he be cremated and poured into a douche for a hooker, for what he called “one last ride.” As revolting as that may sound, it is the sort of noir humor that gets a family like the Tituses through serious heartbreak.
If you can’t beat ’em … make a joke out of ’em.
Titus’ mother spent years in and out of mental hospitals; she even killed one of her husbands and eventually herself.
Somehow, Christopher Titus always manages to get the last laugh.
Titus began doing stand-up nearly 20 years ago as a pimply-faced 18-year-old. Because he was too young to even be allowed into most comedy clubs, he would hang out in the alley, waiting for his cue to come up on stage — only to have to leave directly after the set. So when his perseverance and sardonic sense of humor developed into a routine about his tempestuous upbringing — it was called Norman Rockwell is Bleeding — it is no surprise that Fox TV sweated this young wisecracker as if he were the next Jerry Seinfeld or Ray Romano.
Enter “Titus” — an autobiographical sitcom based on the young comedian’s real life spent bicoastally in New Jersey and California.
It seems that the good folks of Hollywood thought they couldn’t lose. Harness Titus’ edgy vibe, laugh all the way to the bank.
Strangely, they didn’t expect the star to be opinionated, or so says Titus.
“If I learned one thing from having the show, it is to not go to your boss and tell him that his ideas suck,” he says.
Despite that “Titus” was faring quite well in the Fox rotation, the comedian soon learned that arrogance and a quick tongue would not be the best way to get his voice heard in the disposable world of television. So only two years after the show’s inception — just as it was finding its gait — Titus claims that his rifts with Fox’s impresarios caused his hilariously lowbrow sitcom to be yanked from the airwaves.
No major worries, though. We already know that Titus is no stranger to heartbreak — and he’s got a bottomless well of twisted material.
Focusing on the apocalypse and workaday insanity is Titus’ new savior-faire. “It’s almost biblical,” Titus says about the evolution of his post-TV routine.
With his Fifth Annual End of the World Tour, Titus has developed a new strain of sarcasm that manages to make audiences laugh to keep from crying.
“You know that filter that most people have … that filter that tells them to stop talking? I don’t have it … most comics don’t,” he says.
Titus rants about the things that piss him off. “I even have a piece about Laci Peterson.” We all know there isn’t a damn thing funny about the young mother’s demise, but a guy like Titus, a crestfallen hero, is sure to find something funny about it.
And you’d think that fatherhood — his child was born 16 days before Sept. 11 — may kindle residual feelings of resentment and abandonment. But he doesn’t lament the way he was brought up. Titus says he’s over it now.
“Without it [my childhood], I wouldn’t be here.”
On the road until Jan. 1, Titus thinks this may be his last tour for a while. He has decided to focus on his writing. He recently wrote a new pilot for NBC and even though the hour-long Midnight Run-meets-48 Hours cop comedy/drama wasn’t picked up, Titus says, “It’s not dead, I can assure you. It’s on life support.”
Until then though, a grassroots Titus is loose in the land.
See Christopher Titus at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle (269 E. Fourth, Royal Oak), Friday-Saturday, June 20-21. Call 248-542-9900.Eve Doster is the Metro Times listings editor. E-mail [email protected]