Christopher Titus says we need a Neverlution, and other thoughts from the comic on our society today
The world's not ending. It just seems that way to more than a few people, including Christopher Titus, who suggests we lead our way back through a Neverlution. That's the title of his newest double-disc two-hour CD on Comedy Central Records, which is cut down to 42 minutes for the TV special that debuts this Sunday, also on Comedy Central.
Titus recently spoke to me about the special.
How did you decide what to keep for TV?
"I really worked at it. It's the most hated part of every show I've done. Finding out what needs to stay...how do i make it work? The Obama thing was important. I think the trophy part was really the core, the core of the failing of America...and then the ending was really important...And the Lady Gaga joke, just because. Lady Gaga is proof that David Bowie raped Carol Burnett..that was staying in no matter what."
Um, OK. Recorded just this March in Aspen, Colo., Neverlution contains material that's a lot more political, or socio-political, than the more personal approach Titus has taken on his past specials and his self-titled FOX sitcom from a decade ago. Your TV/DVD special opens with political imagery. Based on what you were saying, I take it you watched Jon Stewart's recent interview with FOX News, then?
"Not only did I watch, I Tweeted about it. That was brilliant. To walk into the belly of the beast...that he nuts up and does it...it's great. But Sarah Palin won't do it. She won't go on any shows anymore. But to listen to MSNBC yesterday, and they thought Jon Stewart was on his high horse. That was the perfect interview, that he pissed off everybody from this. Jon Stewart is a national treasure. He also pisses me off, because every night I wish I'd thought of that. Damn. That's the highest compliment. I call the cable news the terrorists. I wrote that joke a year ago. So Jon Stewart finally stole from me. Finally."
Let's watch a clip!
And I see you're not afraid to joke about Palin, after having to apologize recently for a different joke about her (see the Titus apology via Facebook).
"The Palin joke that I riffed. So here's what happened. I did Adam Carolla's podcast. They played her response to Paul Revere. Literally a first-grader could have cracked a better answer. So honestly, I said if she becomes president, I'll take my spot on the grassy knoll. The FOX blog picks it up and says comedian threatens to assassinate Sarah Palin. So all of a sudden this tidal wave of hate comes at me. It's just like Jon Stewart says. It's all about assassination. I apologized to the Kennedy family because they've been through more than enough already through the years. But the joke was about we had set the bar so low that she is even being considered. You want to lose all credibility as a comic? Sell out yourself."
Did you feel the same way about when Ryan Dunn from the Jackass crew died in his own car crash?
"As a comic you have to say what you want to say. I Twittered, 'I am Ryan Dunn. And this is DUI Porch Flip.' We're doing a podcast about it. The Ryan Dunn thing is such a hard thing, because he made me laugh a lot. I watched the Jackass movies. He's the one who made me laugh a lot. He had some heart. But he got into a car drunk and killed a buddy. So it's hard to laugh about that. So i wrote four jokes about it....He stuck a Hot Wheel up his ass. You know this guy would punch himself in the face for doing what he did. At his funeral he would want us to make fun of him. America is in a weird place."
Yes. Yes it is.
Here's another clip from the special, in which Titus talks about terrorism post-9/11.
In Neverlution, Titus posits that we, as Americans, are just waking up from a 10-year bender and finding out that men have become less masculine and parents have stopped parenting, and that the real terrorists aren't Osama bin Laden, but the cable news anchors and talking heads who instill us with fear on a daily basis. Titus has an extended story about how kids today get trophies for losing, and reminding him of seeing how one father dealt with his kid at the DMV. As he says on the track:
"And it was at that exact moment that I decided to write this show. Because I realized, we are about to go extinct. Do you get that? We're over. We're done. Drink up because it's fucking over, man! I'm not kidding. This doesn't make me laugh at all, man. I realized if that generation gets raised like that, the next generation's worse, the next generation's worse, we're done. We're done."
Sounds a lot like someone else believes in the movie Idiocracy coming to life, doesn't it?
"It's up to us. How do we justify spending $90 billion on war, and only $90 million on education? Why is Singapore better than us on math? It's up to us. We're sitting on our ass. it's because were sitting around playing video games. And our neighbor doesn't believe what we do, so fuck him."
Your Neverlution calls for Americans to join together for a two-hour shutdown. What do you think that would accomplish?
"Imagine if that could happen, if they knew that we know, and literally not a dime was spent. And the people that say they run this country would realize they have no power and would get off their ass and do what we want them to do. Such a great idea. So impossible, but such a great idea."
TItus talks about the civil rights movement and the war protests in the 1960s, and how that was the only time in modern society that Americans rallied to get the attention of the people in power. And then he recalls the recent flak he got about his riff on Sarah Palin.
"Nobody wrote me about the war in Afghanistan. Nobody wrote me about how prescription medicine is the number-two killer in America. They sure wrote that I made a stupid joke."
Storytelling as comedy is much more popular than when you were doing it a decade ago. What's your take on that paradigm switch?
"I've had so many comics ask me how to do it. How do you make a story funny like that? I think if you tell a true story from your life. And the problem is so many comics are making up fake stories. The audience knows collectively, they know when you're lying to them. They don't know why, but they know. If you make that story true, there's a bonus, and the audience feels it. Storytelling has become more of an art form. Joe Rogan is claiming everybody is stealing, and jokes are easy to steal. But if I tell a story about my life, you can't steal that. And if some comic starts to do it, other comics will shut them down."
"I do it because it's the only way I know how to do it. I grew up on Cosby...there's a 22-minute bit about my dad's funeral at 'The End of the World Tour,' where we try to figure out what to with my dad's ashes. It's the only way I know how to do comedy."
So you mentioned doing a podcast about Dunn. How do you feel about joining the comedy podcast revolution yourself?
"If you listen to the early ones, you can tell I didn't know how to work a sound board at all. It's such a cool thing to talk about what's happening in the world without having to put it into my act. The WBC, that church that's protesting soldiers' funerals, we want to go the other way and have people send them a nice note. 'In your name, I have donated either to a gay organization or a veterans organization,' and to let them know their protests are helping raise awareness of them. So we're not even getting mad. We just started last week. So we're going to try to do this every week. If you're good at your job, you'll get an audience. And if you don't like it, don't listen to me, then. I'm doing a podcast coming up about Ryan Dunn. It's harsh. Hey, it's comedy! I'm not running policy. Don't listen to me, then, or Tracy Morgan, or Chris Rock. These people were spewing such hate at me about Sarah Palin, and then my girlfriend started tracking these guys. One guy, he had maybe 100 followers, but he also had 22,000 Tweets. It's giving everybody who doesn't deserve a voice, a voice. Louis CK deserves a voice. Some of these guys don't."
That's OK. Technology's making everything weird.
"But you have to remember, Louis has award nominations for making short films. You can't get that deal if you're fucking waitstaff and drinking until 4. Louis busts his ass."
"And that's why Neverlution is my fourth show in seven years. You can't stop. My next show, I'm running for president. Christopher Titus in 2012. It's an intentionally funny campaign speech. But if you look at it, it's storytelling, anyway. I was the son of a coal miner. I go into my economic policy, and my foreign policy. We'll do a 10-minute question-and-answer session. And a 20-minute wrap-up. Beating my chest on the American flag. Just, mock it. Mock the political drama that's going on right now. Hopefully by election time, we'll be able to sell out a rally. I'm already planning my concession speech."
"And then my one after that is, 'Scarred for Life.' You've got to have a plan."
To hear Christopher Titus talk in-depth about his life and career, listen to this week's episode #188 of WTF with Marc Maron.
To buy Neverlution, click away!