I started standup at 19; wrote, starred, and produced (with the help of a ton of other brilliant people) my own television show TITUS from 2000-2002. Since then I’ve done six 90 minute comedy specials and I’m working on my seventh called Born with a Defect, which is touring now. I’m also in pre-production for my first feature film called Special Unit, which we are shooting next March. I have two kids, two marriages, and a parade of stress polyps in my colon having a rave. I have been told I’m way too honest. Car questions will be snuggled.
And for the record I would kick the shit out of a horse sized duck, my battle strategy is sound.
Why was the show cancelled? I remember it as a good one.
Fox had 3 presidents in two and a half years. They all come in and want to change your idea so they can take credit for it. The new president asked me to change the entire direction of the show and I said “No” in a mildly unpolite way. And that was the begging of the end. It wasn’t ratings or complaints. It was I don’t know how to shut the fuck up.
You’ve expounded on this a few times in your shows, but I was curious what the biggest nightmare you’ve had working the club circuits. The worst heckler? The times the magic just wasn’t there?
Worst heckler of the last ten years? Orlando, FL last year. A guy was sitting with a group of people wearing his Saturday “going out” wife beater. He started heckling, so I started trashing him. Then he shut up and pouted for about 30 minutes, but when he had enough alcohol to get his pilot light reignited he started again. I told the bouncers to kick him at that point. As he was walking out with his friends he started talking shit over his shoulder (which I hate). So naturally I called him a pussy. He puffed up and came right at the stage. Now he’s on the floor and I’m on the stage and we are both screaming at each other. I don’t realize the bouncers are out back emptying trash for the next show, so I have no backup. Me and this guy are about to throw down and I look behind him and my wife is standing behind the dude with an empty wine bottle ready to clock him….So yeah….that was the worst.
How’s your mother-in-law doing?
Momshell is doing great. Tumor went from 5cm to almost undetectable now. Still on Chemo, still fighting the good fight. Thanks for asking.
Who would you say are your biggest influences in writing/comedy/acting?
First of all effed up people are by far the best performers, so good luck with that! I’ve always liked comics who have always done long form style, but a huge change in my life happened when I saw Lily Tomlin do “Signs of Intelligent Life”. To this day I still marvel at George Carlin’s writing. Whenever I want to feel bad about myself I’ll go listen to “Modern Man”
How do you structure your jokes so that they don’t contribute but don’t overpower the story as a whole?
I have a formula to write a long story and the first thin I do is give myself permission to not be funny so I can get all the facts out. Then once I do, every specific detail (and the more specific the better) I just write a punchline for that detail. I believe that every sentence is just a setup for a punchline. Then when you put those facts together you have a great 12 minute story (or in the case of “Bruce Who” a 30 minute story.
What’s your favorite thing to eat after a long stressful day?
Great restaurant in Studio City, CA called Hugos. I love their Turkey Wrap…followed by a glass of Pinot Noir (because deep down I’m a tiny girl)
What is Stacy Keach like off screen and have you two stayed in touch after all these years?
Been in touch here and there. Stacy Keach was one of the best, nicest, most professional people I’ve ever worked with. Very wise but not in that arrogant Yoda way. Acting with him was like being a shitty basketball player and then playing with Jordan so you were hitting everything. My finest on screen moments are with Stacy Keach.
Are there any stories that you’ve shared that, after the fact, you wish you hadn’t?
Only after they were already filmed an on TV. On stage I never had a problem because the end result was laughter. But watching them I realized “I just destroyed a family member…on television…next Thanksgiving is going to be trouble.”
Do you find yourself more excited for a new stand-up special because it’s how you started, or a new podcast episode because of the freedom you have and the more active aspect of it?
Apples and Oranges. Standup is a finished painting, podcast is a sketchbook…while I’m drunk.
What should I ask my Dad while I still can?
When your Dad talks shut up and listen to him. I didn’t do that until the last 5 years of my dad’s life and I wish I had done it sooner. I say this in the new show: No matter what you think about how your parents raised you, they gave you life and you ruined theirs. We all go, enjoy your dad while you can.
Do you normally do meet & greets after your shows? I’m guessing if you have two shows in a night the latter show would be a better/more likely option?
Every show! Until the last psychotic fan tells me their final nightmare story about growing up. I love you people, even the trolls.
It’s no secret you cover some very personal topics and approach them very honestly. Is there any topic you struggled to talk about on stage and find a comedic element to?
I found it hard, and still find it hard, to talk about my sister’s suicide. That dark stuff in my life that I talk about: mom’s mental illness, her killing her third husband, and my dad’s alcoholism has a bit of absurdity to it. But my sister taking her own life because of a stupid fight with her boyfriend I can’t find anything but tragedy in. We did a podcast about it called “One More Day”. No matter what’s going on in your life, suicide is never the answer. You can always wait one more day.
I grew up in a trailer park, alcoholic parents, yada yada yada; but I made it out with a good head on my shoulders. I still have a few friends who are ‘stuck’ in that old life, and who have yet to see the brightness in life. Do you have any advice for people stuck in that type of situation?
I did a thing call the “Landmark Forum” and I learned that you can’t change life. Life keeps lifing. You can only change how you see it. My wife is cheating on me and burned all our money? I can either curl up like a bitch in the fetal position or notice that I now have 90 minutes of new material for a comedy special. Which eventually turned into Love is Evol.
Just curious if your kids have listened to/seen Love is Evol and their reactions? Or do you know how you would handle it if/when they did?
Naw, neither one of them needs that kind of psychological damage until they’re over 18. They’ll probably sneak it though…and that’ll be one bitch of a weekend.
What do you think is the most common quality of successful people not just in stand up, but life in general?
Not giving up. A lot of people leave Los Angeles and say “I didn’t make it.” My opinion is that you just didn’t stay long enough. Just keep banging your head against the wall.
Have you talked to Bruce, (yes that one) since your the special he asked “Did you really say you bought The edges shirt?”
Yes! We’ve hung out twice backstage with him and his lovely wife Patty. He really proves you can be a superstar and a normal dude.
If you had to do it all over again, would you still have Willie Jello on the podcast for as long as you did, or has hindsight changed how you would have liked to have handled all of that? You blew my mind.
Willie started as a practical joke to my old agent. Kept him going for over a month until he called me in his office and asked me to find out “Who the hell this guy is” because he had threatened to kill him.
Willie took on a life of his own on the podcast. Then after Ferguson and the 95 other incidents, where cops seemed to be soul raping black people with bullets, I decided to stop doing the voice.
What’s next in the garage? A G-body from the general, or a Fox body?
I already built both of those. Currently driving 2007 Ron Fellows Z06, but really want to do a ’63-’72 Corvette. My inner disco is coming out.
Why is your Twitter handle @TitusNation, instead of @ChristopherTitus or something?
I named it in a moment of wild arrogance.
With your kids, what is the biggest change you brought as a parent from your parents, and what have you done the same?
I took my dad’s discipline, but I always make sure my kids know when they’ve done well. That’s something my dad always forgot. That’s where “Anti-Dad” came from in Norman Rockwell. No matter how good I did he would say, “Well you’re supposed to do that idiot.” It’s weird to be insulted for doing something well. So when my kids do well they get praised, and when they screwed up they get threatened…and that’s what I call love.
What do you think are the biggest takeaways from one special to the next? When/if you look back on the shows, do you see a progression or evolution or are they mostly standalone events in your mind?
I hate every special for about a year and a half after I film it. There are a couple where I make a weird noise after I make a joke. There are a couple that I know we filmed to early. But they always have a bunch of stuff I’m proud of like: “I’m whitey and I Apologize”, “Arm the Childen”, all of “Love is Evol” (that one stopped me from sucking on a bullet).
Who was your favorite comedian to work with, and why?
Dana Carvey. When I started comedy as a horrible opening act I got to watch him do all of his characters, songs, and standup. What was always amazing to me was that he could do the same show 7 nights in a row and could make it funny every single time. He taught me one of the most important things about standup, “You’ve got to learn how to ‘say it again’ for the first time.”
Yeah I know…mind blown.
I have loved your work since Norman Rockwell. Years later you remain funny, relevant, and thought provoking. I feel as though Angry Pursuit of Happiness had a more serious tone than your previous stuff. Was that intentional, and does your brand new material continue in that direction?
If you look at every standup special order they usually go: personal, topical, personal, topical, personal, topical. The new one, Born With a Defect, is about my kids and why you should never have kids. I’ve been telling people, if you’re a parent it’s therapy and if you’re not it’s 90 minutes of birth control. Thanks for sticking with me this long.
Favorite car that you’ve owned? Favorite car you WANT to own?
Owned: ’08 Z06 Corvette, just because it did everything well and can hang with Ferraris. Also I love my ’56 Chevy Wagon from the TV show, which I still have.
Want to Own: Tesla P90D with ludicrous mode.
Any intent of trying to relaunch Titus? I’d try to avoid using Fox but you already know that.
We tried to talk to Fox about getting on HULU. They flat out refused and told me that basically I don’t own my own life anymore. So there you go. I’m probably breaking a law talking to you about it right now.
I really miss Titus. It was one of my favorite shows. What episode stands out to you the most (most memorable)?
We went out of our way to do stuff that actually wasn’t on Telivison. We did an episode where we had an intervention to get my dad to START drinking again. We did another episode where my dad tricked me into thinking I was infected with AIDS. But one of my favorite episodes was called “Tommy’s Not Gay” where we took on Gay bashing. Really memorable, really funny, and it made a good point. I alway think funny first, but then try to make a stand with it.
When I think about it, making people laugh is probably my favorite thing to do. There’s a few bars in my city that do amateur stand up. Any advice you could give me?
To anybody who wants to do standup, I’d like to point out that in the history of time no one every laid on their death bed and said, “Thank god I didn’t try what I wanted to do.” So the only advice I can give you is to:
* Write your jokes.
* Say them 100 times so you don’t forget them in front of an audience (because you will)
* Get on that stage and do it!
To be a comedian you have to be mildly delusional. You have to think that people will get on Reddit and ask you question about your life and career. Amazing, but delusional.
What do you find to be the difference between just telling an absurd true story and actually having a home with a punchline?
The only way to really write jokes about you’re effed up life…is that you have to forgive everyone from your effed up life. You can’t write comedy out of vengeance or letting the audience know how bad you’ve been wronged. You have to be over it in order for it to be funny.
Because I have no other skills.
Where can I find the video of you getting taken down by an attack dog?
The attack dog video was shot by comedy central and I think it only aired once. I would love to have it myself. One of the scariest moments of my life was when that dude released that dog and it sprinted full speed after me. I really did run full speed into an 8 foot wooden fence. If youtube were around in those days I would have gotten 35 million views and be making as much money as Pewdi Pie.
Do you still have contact with the old main-crew Cynthia, David, Zach and Stacy?
I did an episode of Cynthia’s show on MTV, “Finding Carter”. Haven’t seen David since the show went down, he was really angry about it getting cancelled. I see Zach a couple times a year and Stacy every couple of years. That cast was lightning in a bottle. Everyone was funny, everyone was on their game. Love those guys.
How much of your TV show represented your vision? How much of it was manufactured by the studio?
All of it. Even the black and white. I actually wrote the pilot script (with Jack and Brian).
What do you think is the #1 thing that has contributed to your successes over the years?
Fear, desperation, and self-hatred. It has also contributed to my lack of success.
How did you get involved with Pawn Stars?
They offered to pay me.
I bet he offered half of what you wanted.
Actually I turned it down, because the last thing I wanted to do was a game show. Then they came back and asked me what it would take. So I threw out a number that I thought they would laugh at my face about, but what I didn’t know is that Pawn Stars is a Top 5 show in 58 countries. So they said “No Problem, we’ll pay you that”. So I whored myself out for 48 episodes.
By the way, those guys are really fun.
Is there a role or project you regret passing on?
The only thing I’ve every regretted in my whole career us that one meeting with Fox I mentioned in another answer.
What was it like playing MMA arena promoter Trevor Mason on CSI Miami? Did you get to party with Caruso later?
Always fun to play an A-hole (you always get cast as what you are.) But I had seen Caruso party before I did that show and I can tell you…you don’t want to party with Caruso.
How do you feel about taking on the comedy greats! You chose a very difficult profession. Whoa- Carlin, Chappelle, even Jerry; how does one decide to be a professional comedian? It would almost be easier to be an astronaut.
Comedy isn’t really like that. After a long career you either end up a great…or you don’t. But I do believe (and I mentioned this in another answer) that you have to believe that when you’re in a room full of strangers that you’re the most personable, charismatic, and hilarious person around. That’s serial killer behavior…in joke form of course. You also have to set the bar at the greats, like Carlin, Chapelle, and Pryor, if you want to last.
Given the chance what is the one episode of Titus you wish you could of done but didn’t get to for obvious reasons?
I wish we could have finished the story about getting my dad on the heart transplant list, then his funeral. Because the actual story is way funnier than any piece of television I’ve ever seen.
Most annoying celebrity?
Any celebrity that thinks being a celebrity gives them the right to be an asshole, indulge in too many drugs, sex, alcohol, or treat people shitty. If you are lucky enough to have anybody like what you do, then you should be humble about it and enjoy what you do. Don’t burn down your talent and reputation. The best people I’ve ever met in show business were the most talented. It’s always the people just hanging on that are the psychopaths.
If invited to do Drunk History, what would you talk about?
I don’t know, I just hope I would’t fall into a bonfire.
Any advice on how to handle bombing? Is it smart to have a backup plan or just ride it out and feel the burn?
I had something happen recently where I had a bad set in LA. Even after all these years my mouth went day and it started to hurt a little. Then I repeated in my head what I always do when it’s not going the way I think it should, “Screw these people, they don’t have to the balls to get on stage, and I really don’t care what they think.” Without that sentence I never would have never gotten through writing “I’m Whitey and I apologize”, “Pedophile Crucifixions”, “My Dad’s Funeral” etc. Obviously I love my you guys, but once you get to a place where you’re not afraid of your audience your best work can come out.
Beatles or Stones? Favorite song?
Stones, no question. Sympathy for the Devil, but I also like Doom and Gloom.
Is there any go-to items, dvd, CDs whatever that you have to lift your spirits?
Yeah, the things that lift my spirits are usually kind of dark. The movies Training Day and Pulp fiction are my go-to pick me up films. My wife and I also have two Yorkies that no matter how murderous I’m feeling can flick my smile switch. Yeah…I know.
Do you have an estimate of when your born with a defect special will be available for purchase?
We’re planning to film it in Eugene Oregon in April on a Saturday. Then on that Sunday we’re going to film Bombshell’s. With TV changing so much I’m not sure if I’m going with Comedy Central, Netflix, or just straight up online release (via youtube).
Where is your happy place? It could be a place like the beach, mountains, or even building something. Where do you go to unwind?
My wife and I bought a memory foam bed and I believe it haw unseated my old happy place, which was on top of a mountain on a snowboard. My third place would be lying under a car with a wrench, music blaring, knuckles bleeding….ahhhhhhh.
Your storyteller style is great and suits you very well, but I was wondering if you started out writing short jokes or one liners? Do you remember any of them that are particularly weird or dumb or funny only to you?
Yeah here’s two from early on:
“I went to a California public school, we had a great surf team, but four of our cheerleaders drowned. ‘GIVE ME A – blub blub blub”
and another was
“I’m sore because I went to the gym today, got on the stair master, tripped, and fell down it for 45 minutes.”
Dimitri Martin did a similar joke in his last special, but I wrote that one in 1987.