Christopher Titus on happiness, joking about guns, and Pawnography
Christopher Titus is a singular voice in standup comedy, with a unique style and profound personal connection to his fanbase. Titus stood out early on with appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Premium Blend, and managed to turn his one-man show Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding into the eponymous sitcom Titus, which ran from 2000 t 2002 on Fox until it was cancelled following a dispute with executives. Titus remained prolific in the aftermath, releasing standup specials The Fifth Annual End of the World Tour, Love is Evol, Neverlution and The Voice in my Head in the space of a few years. He now co-hosts the Titus Podcast and is working to fund a movie called Special Unit, co-starring Denver's own Josh Blue, as well as gearing up for his next special, The Angry Pursuit of Happiness. Titus will headline at Comedy Works South this week; in advance of those shows, Westword caught up with him to discuss honesty in comedy, dismantling pro-gun hysteria with humor, and his new History Channel game show, Pawnography.
Westword: So, you're in town this weekend to do Comedy Works. You've been there a bunch of times, right?
Christopher Titus: I would say this, if anybody in that town has not been to that club --the downtown one and the Landmark one, which is like a little theater -- if anyone has not been to that club, they're missing out. It's the best club in the country. Bar none. The only club that can even compare is this club in Tempe. The woman who runs it, Wende, has built kind of a comedy dynasty and she is so committed to comedy in that town. If you guys live in that town and don't know how good the comics are, Wende keeps them focused. If you're new, don't expect to get paid, but she does push comics in the right direction. It's not like that in the rest of the country. Denver is one of my favorite comedy towns.
That would the Angry Pursuit of Happiness Tour? Are you planning to record that hour for a special anytime soon?
We film it in September and then I start writing the new one. I always try to come back with new material. Denver really appreciates that kind of stuff. If you keep coming back with new material, people will keep come up to you after shows and not only remember the last time, but they'll compare it with you. The comedy audiences are really smart there.
Fans like that are probably the best insurance against becoming a hack. Having comedy nerds on your team means they notice and appreciate the work that goes into generating and refining all those jokes.
Yeah, there's also just desperation and fear to keep me writing new material. It's all desperation and fear. I've seen a lot of guys stick to an act for year, and what ends up happening is that they fade. I listen to comedy radio all the time to hear who's funny, who's new and great; I really try to stay up to date. It's my job. Seeing someone get 45 minutes and just ride it out is amazing to me. My dad would come back from the grave to beat my ass if he knew I wasn't doing my job.
Yeah, I've seen a few hacky road dogs just sleepwalk through their sets before. It's dispiriting. You know, doing like a ten-minute shout-out to the troops just to fill out their time?
Yeah, if you're still doing "Don't we all hate Sadam Hussein" jokes, you really need to re-think about what you're doing up there. Seriously, re-think. Any bit that starts out with, "Hey, remember when..." just to bring up a pop reference -- like "How about that Casey Anthony?" Just stop. Read a newspaper. There's at least a new douchebag you could probably use those jokes on. At least update your subject matter. So I have an attitude about comedy. I really do have an attitude. That's why my comedy has never really been dick joke-based, or reference-based -- not because it's bad or good. I've tried to stop being so critical. If I see a guy doing a lot of dick jokes or scatological jokes, I'll always say, "Listen, if you can't write a dick joke as well as Dave Attell, you should just avoid it. It's such a well-traveled road." If you start there, it tweaks your show. It weirds them out.
The audiences are a living, breathing entity. They know when you're lying, they know when you're being inauthentic. Not consciously, but they'll change, they'll get quiet. I've learned that the best thing to do is to tell the truth and point out what a loser you really are. Which is easy for me now.
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