“I killed a baby with comedy,” is one of the quotes still lingering in my mind. This quip came out of a phone interview with comedian, Christopher Titus, best known for his Fox sitcom, Titus. Sitting with me in the studio for the interview was Chico comedian, Don Ashby. Together we tag-team interviewed one of our heroes about the rocky road of show business, the memory of his mother’s suicide, and how to laugh at ourselves.
Titus is performing his latest show, Church of the Epic Fail, which is part of his current tour: The Grapes of Mirth.
When asked what to expect from a show called Church of the Epic Fail, Titus said it’s all the stories of the screw-ups in his life, including playing Darth Vader at birthday parties for six-year-olds, wrecking his Viper, and losing his TV show.
“I said one sentence that cost me 30 million dollars,” Titus remarked about losing his Fox contract. “If there was a Pope of fuck-ups, I’d have a three-foot hat.”
As a writer for the show, the star, and the executive producer, Titus was working 20 hour days and became what he described as, a vampire. Titus could not say enough about the brilliant people he worked with at the time, many of whom went on to work for Family Guy, George Lopez, and a number of successful projects.
But the loss of the show got Titus right back to his favorite place: the stage.
“I love doing comedy more than anything,” said Titus. “If tomorrow, somebody wrote me a check for 100 million dollars, I would make the movie I want to make, then go right back on the road. I will never stop this—I love it. I’m actually kind of pissed I have to take a break through Christmas, I want to get on stage right now.”
Titus has a unique style compared with other comics. His specials have a set more like a play than a comedy show. He doesn’t use a handheld microphone, a mic stand, or have a stool. And as far as density, he easily packs more words in per minute than almost any other comedian that’s ever performed. Why?
“I think comics are lazy. That’s from George Carlin,” Titus said. “It always bothers me when you see a guy on stage; he does three jokes, and then takes a drink of water. Then he’ll do three more jokes and take a drink of water. Then he goes, ‘So what are we talking about?’ and I want to get up on stage and go, ‘You’re wasting stage time, get the fuck off. You’ll never see me with a bottle of water on stage.”
After only being in comedy for a couple years, Titus saw Lily Tomlin perform her one-woman show, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (once performed at the Blue Room by Chico actress, Betty Burns), a show in which Tomlin represents at least a dozen well defined characters.
“At one point she’s doing four characters at once all having a conversation with each other, and I thought holy shit, she’s doing 4 characters at once.” Titus said. “I walked out that night thinking, ‘I need to be a welder. I need to quit comedy because I’m never going to be that good.’”
But Titus didn’t become a welder. He has continued performing for over 20 years, defining his own specific style through personal realizations.
“Comics are afraid of the silence more than anything, as am I. I’m afraid of the silence too.” Titus said. “The sin is worrying about not having laughter in the silence. As long as they’re engaged, if the audience is leaning in like, ‘Holy shit, where are you going with this?’, then you’re not failing, you’re doing great. In my specials there’s always this moment where I lead the audience down a path where they don’t want to be there, and I like that. So many comics are afraid to tell honest stories because they don’t think the audience will follow them. As long as you make the destination funny, you can take a moment on the journey and scare the living shit out of them. Just don’t forget to be funny.”
Christopher Titus performs this Friday, January 25th, with special guest Rachel Bradley. Doors open at 7:30PM and the show starts at 8PM. Tickets are available online at jmaxxproductions.net