Christopher Titus: Angry Pursuit of Happiness Tour @ Wiseguys 05.09
Christopher Titus is unapologetically raw, angry and hilariously funny. His rant-style monologues are similar in fashion to other comedy greats like George Carlin, or even contemporaries like Bill Burr and Louis C.K. (whom I had never heard of until Titus opened a new world of comedy for me). He is the reason many people have become fans and participants of comedy, myself included. Getting to see Titus on stage is such an amazing experience, and although his stand-up specials can be streamed and purchased with ease online, I’ve never seen him live without a packed house. His live performances are peppered with unexpected audience participation (more on that in a minute), personal additions to stories and a lot of raw emotion that can’t be matched on a DVD.
Titus always takes the chance to stop by Wiseguys here in Utah when he ventures out on tour, and we’re lucky enough to have him make appearances here about once a year. He’s never shy to tell Utah audiences what he thinks of us either—that is, he loves it here. We get kudos for being such a fun and attentive audience, and smart enough to always get the jokes. I will say, the audience member in the front row at the showing I attended would soon be a running joke through his set—her uncontrollable snort-laugh was compared by Titus to “Predator being in the audience tonight.” When she’d get going, the audience couldn’t help but laugh at the joke, as well as her snorting crescendos.
The show opened with a monumental set from local comedy favorite Christian Pieper. He likes to talk about how he’s a “Big Guy,” his wife’s Asperger’s Syndrome and those “cool” Mormons. Pieper really connects with the audience in a way that is both endearing and relatable. By the time Titus came running onto the stage, the audience was loosened up and ready to laugh. Don’t think you’re going to get feel-good jokes about being a husband and father from Titus. For instance, his first comedy special was titled Norman Rockwell is Bleeding. He brings the absurdity of real life to the stage, which can either make you feel better about your own, sad life or make you nod your head in agreement with him. “Yes, I also had crazy exes and extreme parenting, and sometimes my children make me cry myself to sleep.” With his newest comedy special, The Angry Pursuit of Happiness (see, I told you feel-good wasn’t a theme here) airing on Comedy Central the same weekend that he appeared in Salt Lake, he took the opportunity to share some brand new, unpolished material. This included some of his usual themes about family dysfunction, marriage and divorce, and his unconventional relationship with his father, but he also wove in new narratives about being a dad and hoping that you’re not totally screwing up your offspring.
Watching a seasoned comic work out their new jokes is actually an amazing experience. This is vastly different from attending an open mic with a “win some, bomb some” approach to jokes. Even his untested material is amazingly funny and insightful. There seemed to be even more truth and emotion behind it, because this man is on stage telling you about his real life: the good, the bad and the really messed up. He doesn’t seem to pepper his stories with too many cheeky insights, crude punchlines or one-liners. He’ll tell you exactly what he’s thinking, and make you face your own thoughts about it. Maybe being a parent isn’t the miracle we’ve all been led to believe it is, but it does have it’s moments. Maybe that person that you once thought you loved was actually evil incarnate, but at the time, you didn’t foresee Armageddon on the horizon, and you probably survived to love again. If you attend a Titus show with a spouse, girlfriend, loved one, parent, or child, there will be moments in his set where you two look at each other, lock eyes and burst out laughing, because that’s your life, too. It may be hard to admit you were a crappy child to your parents, or you and your significant other play the same games everyone else does, but this is like therapy, and rather than wanting to punch something or cry into a decorative throw pillow, you’re more likely to embrace laughter as the best medicine, shrug your shoulders and admit that sometimes child abuse sounds perfectly reasonable.
He finished out the night with his fast-paced monologue from Angry Pursuit of Happiness, where he eloquently puts the rat-race that we call life into perspective. It’s authentic, but it’s certainly not pretty and gets a little bit dark at times. However, that’s the way we like it. I mean, we’ve all had that moment with a parent or someone that we look up to where they have mortified us in public. In Titus’ case, it just happened to be his dad, as an elderly man, talking loudly in public about what he had to do to prepare to have sexual relations with his elderly wife. Not to spoil it, but it does involve an injection into a very sensitive appendage on the human body, and the story is even more horrifying than even that visual. Titus takes it in stride, shares it with millions of strangers onstage, and it makes his set all the more brilliant because of it. At the end of the night, you do realize that facing what we all think about, being able to laugh at misery and misfortune and ourselves is highly cathartic. And then you take a deep breath, finish your beer, and laugh about everything again on the car ride home.
You can check out any of Titus’ specials all over the internet or purchase them with ease on his website at www.christophertitus.com. Also, check out his hilarious podcast on Combustion Radio. You can also find both his and his wife’s wickedly funny twitter feeds. However, if nostalgia is more your thing, go back and revisit his old Fox series Titus—it is still as good as you remember. If you ever get a chance to see him when he’s passing through locally, take it, you will not regret it, and you’ll have new fodder to talk to your shrink about, if you even need one at all after his show.