Titus gives love a healthy dose of realism

By James Kraft

Christopher Titus, the Emmy-nominated creator of Titus, a Fox situation comedy that ran for two years, is touring a new one-man show about love, hate, and the funny blend of love and hate most people call “relationships.” It’s playing at the Improv Theater this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In a recent telephone interview with the Maroon, Titus talked about his inspiration for the show, his career as a comedian, and a few other projects he’s got in the works these days.

James Kraft: So tell us about your new show.

Christopher Titus: I’m doing a show called L-O-V-E is E-V-I-L. It’s about this awful divorce I’m going through right now. One of the guys she was cheating on me with is like 60—how awful is that? But he’s got $10 million, so I guess I understand it.

JK: That sounds awful! Is the show mainly about bad relationships, then?

CT: Yes. If you bring your date, either the show will fix your relationship or fucking destroy it. I like to start a show by posing a problem and then try to solve it by the end. Audiences get sucked into a story. So the question this time is, why do we stay in bad relationships? It’s because we have hope. We all want to make up and end up 80 years old, holding hands watching the sunset. But then you wake up one day, and they’re fucking your boss, fucking your best friend—yet we go to Starbucks, and they use soy in your latte instead of milk, and you want to kill them! Love is evil, my friend.

JK: You just touched on what I find to be a very interesting aspect of your comedy. On the one hand, when you do a routine, it seems to be very much in the traditional mold of stand-up, in that you hit a punch line every 20 seconds, you interact directly with the crowd, and so on. But then I’ve often heard you describe your bits as one-man shows, and you always give them titles, which suggests that you think of them more as theater. Could you talk a little bit about your process when you’re coming up with a show and putting it on?

CT: I did stand-up for 12 years, just normal stand-up, but then I did this one show at the Landmark Theater and I thought, “Wow, I’m in front of 300 people a night. I could really do something with that.” The thing is, when people laugh at you, they’re agreeing with you. So I realized that was this enormous opportunity, that I could help people.

JK: So how do you do that, how do you go about trying to do good?

CT: I saw a Lily Tomlin show a long time ago, and the opening line was, “If you’ve never contemplated suicide, then you’ve never been in love.” And at the time I thought, we’ve all been there. So I have a bit in where I say, “If you’re sitting next to someone that you’re in a bad relationship with, wait 10 minutes, then say you have to go to the bathroom, and just leave.” There’s three billion men out there and three billion women, so if you’re—especially if you’re a bisexual—and you’re not happy, then you have no excuse. You need to just cut that relationship off. And you know what? I’ve had people get up in the middle of the show and leave. I mean, I could just do dick jokes, but that would be such a waste. If I have this talent, I might as well use it for good—kind of like a superhero, you know? Honestly, I think any comic who gets on stage and just talks to the audience hasn’t done his homework.

JK: I was wondering if maybe you could talk a little bit about Titus, the show you had on Fox from 2000 to 2002. How good a job did the actors do portraying your family?

CT: Well, for one thing, Stacy Keach’s portrayal of my father was literally dead-on, almost frighteningly so—much to my dad’s chagrin, by the way. The thing is, I hate sitcoms, so we really wanted to shake it up with that show. We had to fight a lot of people to get it on the air. I think of all the things I’ve done professionally, it’s the part of my career I’m most proud of. The whole point of the show is, everything you do in life, it’s because of something in your past, and I think we did a very good job at showing that.

JK: Why did the show get cancelled?

CT: Oh, that was completely all my fault. I pissed off the network president. They wanted us to do something that Dharma and Greg had just done, and I said, “Do you even watch the show?” Basically, I talked to the president of the Fox network like she was a three-year-old. So she moved us to the same time slot as the West Wing, post-9/11, and that just killed us. So basically, there was one person I couldn’t get along with, and that cost me the series. You make a lot of mistakes in life, and some of them just cost more. That mistake probably cost me $40 million. Even now when I think about it I just want to cry, I screwed up so bad.

JK: Oy vey. Would you like to do another series someday? Is anything like that in the works?

CT: Yes, I’ve got a lot going on right now. It’s very exciting. I’ve just signed with the agency that represents Jim Carey and Ben Stiller and a lot of other really great comedians. I have four movie scripts out right now, and they’re turning “Special Unit” into a movie, too, so that’s exciting. Also, my Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding show is coming out in April on CD and DVD, and the End of the World Tour is out on CD right now. You can get it on iTunes, too—the review that’s on it right now is ecstatic, I can’t really believe it. Basically, everyone should read it.