I became an ardent fan of Titus and his work when I first saw his Fox sit-com, Titus. The show, based loosely upon his life, really struck a chord with me. Because, not only was he from a dysfunctional family and into cars (like me), but he managed to make both really funny, especially the dysfunctional part! And I don't mean in the grunting, sappy, cheese-ball Home Improvement type of funny, more akin to irreverent, crass Married With Children funny. Growing up in a some-what dysfunctional family that always had an old Chevy (and various other forms of vintage tin) in the driveway, I couldn't help but be drawn to the show and Titus' sarcastic, cynical and often times straight-up silly sense of humor, and the "Negative Space" from which he narrated and commented was, I thought, really unique. It was different than any other show that had been done before. And while I referenced Home Improvement and Married with Children to describe Titus, really the only thing it had in common with either were cars and dysfunction, respectively. Unfortunately, Titus only made it to the 3rd season. Figures. The really good stuff never lasts on TV.
But nonetheless, I've continued following his stand-up act (though I have yet to see him live). He's released several televised and/or recorded specials since his show ended; Norman Rockwell is Bleeding (2004), The Fifth Annual End of the World Tour (2006), Love is Evol (2009) and most recently, Neverlution (2011).
Titus has never really been shy about broaching even the most taboo of subjects; substance abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, suicide. He's included all of these plus others into his acts. He even finds a way to make you laugh about them. And not to say that he makes light of such heavy matters, but he definitely finds a way to make you laugh about even the most soberingly serious subjects. His facial expressions, tone of voice, characterizations/impersonations, gesticulation and body language are as much a part of the performance as the subject material and words themselves. Plus, he always finds awesomely interesting and creative ways of incorporating visuals, whether with his sets, lighting, photos, etc. And the thing I really like about the visual aspects he employs, is that they never detract from his performance. They almost always simply add another layer of nuance that you probably won't notice at first. Despite the very un-subtle way he approaches comedy, the visuals are tastefully understated.
One of my favorite things about Titus, is that, in the tradition of the Late Greats George Carlin and Bill Hicks, Christopher Titus is not afraid to offend, though it is not his intention to do so. He says what he wants, how he wants to say it. No apologies or back-pedaling. Just, this is what it is. Laugh or don't, Titus is here to entertain. And not unlike the work of Carlin and Hicks, Titus seems to make you think as hard as you laugh. I believe Mel Brooks might refer to such as "Stand-Up Philosophers."
In my opinion, never has that M.O. been more apparent than in his latest special, Neverlution. In the past, a bulk of his material dealt with family and personal relationships, backed up with his social commentary. This release is kind of the other way around. While never really getting deep into the realm of politics, ala Lewis Black, Titus sets his sights on our crumbling society and the causes of it. Not so much the political reasons, more so the social reasons; modern parents and their shitty parenting or lack there-of, "terrorism", our country's techno-philia, our society's mediocrity, banality and apathy and the out-and-out douche-baggery of the people in our country.
He basically says it's up to us to make the change. If we sit around waiting for our government to do so, it'll never happen. I read somewhere that "Dissent is the highest form of Patriotism." With that said, Titus seems upset at what our country is becoming and can you blame him? We should all be upset, but in the word's of Carlin, "Nobody wants to rock the boat because we've all got cell phones that make us waffles and rub our balls for us. We've been bought off by gizmo's and gadgets..." Titus makes a similar observation, saying sarcastically that "I'd rather give up my freedom, than give up my shit." That seems to be the general consensus throughout this country. And I'm not immune to it, I love my shit. Do you think I have an old car because I needed one? Is it essential to my survival? No. I wanted one. We are a people of wants. And I suppose there's nothing wrong with that mentality, but... The time for change is coming. What that will entail and what it's going to cost us as a people remains to be seen. But tensions are rising all over the world and we are not immune to unrest here in the United States. History has proven that to be true...
Regardless of where you stand politically, or what kind of family life you had growing up, I think just about everyone can get at least a laugh or two out of Neverlution. Though personally, I laughed my ass off.
Here's a few clips of some of Titus' work, plus the Intro from Neverlution:
From Norman Rockwell is Bleeding:
From The 5th Annual End of the World Tour:
From Love is Evol: