The statement that one thing or another puts the fun in dysfunctional is now far beyond cliché, but for Christopher Titus, it may be apropos nonetheless. For three seasons, the comedian's show Titus, which was canceled earlier this year, took the conventions of the family sitcom, a form that was old and tired even when The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family aired, and gave it new life by tackling the real issues in family life -- fistfights with Dad, insanity, and so on. For Titus, it was funny because it was true. The show was semiautobiographical, which meant he got to relive the time his alcoholic, infarction-prone father got in a brawl with him and the time he had to defend his schizophrenic mother's stabbing of an ex-boyfriend.
Titus TV tanked, but standup still sizzles
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"I didn't concede content or anything," the show's ex-star says of his relationship with Fox executives. "I was fighting with them constantly. Once I might have let on that they were stupid. It's weird, because Fox is run by Rupert Murdoch, one of the most conservative people on the planet. They wouldn't agree to what I wanted, but Fox would do the Scott Peterson fishing hour."
It does seem strange that the station that gave us police-chase video as entertainment and birthed Goebbels' wet dream with Fox News would turn up its nose at a simple sitcom. But Titus maintains it was more the relationship between himself and the Fox brass that soured rather than anything directly relating to the show.
"We did 54 episodes of a great show," he says. "And now I'm moving on to the next thing."
But like many comedians who find themselves with shows in the past tense, Titus finds himself putting a lot of effort into new shows, with only minimal results.
"We shot a pilot for Future Tense, a police show set in the near future," he says. "Unfortunately, it didn't get picked up.
"I got a call from this senior V.P. about this show Power of Arrest: Angel City Bailbonds. I'm writing some scripts and trying to get them out there.
"All these executives keep looking to the young comedians, like, 'Who's new this year?' 'Who's been doing it four years?' but those guys haven't really found their voices yet," Titus says. "It was 14 years before I got my show. Fifteen years before Seinfeld got his. You have to find your voice before you can be a success on TV."
But, hey, he's not bitter or anything. When all is said and done, a standup comedian can always fall back on... standup comedy. For Titus, it's just about the only job he's had, going back to the days when he would have to rush on stage, do his act, then flee the scene before being accosted for being underage in a nightclub.
Titus will host the masters at the Montreal Comedy Festival, a venue that has been good to him in past years. Before heading up to Canada, though, he hits the road, including a stop in West Palm Beach this weekend at the Improv in CityPlace.
"I'm doing standup because I really like standup," he says. "There's just something you get out of it that you don't get out of anything else."