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DID YOU READ

Christopher Titus on comedy, being a loser, and “screaming truth” in his new anthology

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After plowing through a decade’s worth of comedy in the new anthology from veteran writer, actor, and comedian Christopher Titus, it’s hard not to feel pretty good about my life. Not only did my parents get along pretty well, but I don’t recall ever making a snarky comment that cost me my own television series.

For Titus, however, every bad experience — whether its cost is measured in dollars or emotional currency — is a one-man show in the making. He’s had more than enough material to mine over the years, too – and it’s all collected in his new, four-disc collection, “Get a Real Job, Numbnuts.”

Encompassing all four of his comedy specials released between 2001 and 2011, “Get a Real Job” is a mix of Titus’ unique brand of slice-of-life comedy and political commentary that chronicles a period filled with personal and professional upheaval for the comedian. From his first, critically praised one-man show, “Norman Rockwell is Bleeding,” through the rise and fall of his hit TV series “Titus,” and concluding with 2010’s “Neverlution,” the anthology is a fascinating (and funny) look at the nature of life, love, and getting by in a world that occasionally seems to be playing a joke on us.

IFC spoke with Titus about the new anthology, and what it feels like to have ten years of his life collected on four DVDs.

“You know when something bad happens in your life, and you react like, ‘Oh my god, it’s horrible!’ Well, when something horrible happens to me now, my first reaction is still, ‘Oh, crap!’ — but my second reaction is usually, ‘How do I turn this into a one-man show?'” laughed Titus.

For Titus, looking back on the decade of performances contained within the set has been an educational experience, though most of the lessons aren’t the sort you learn in a classroom.

“It’s made me know that everything is absurd,” he explained. “We make our lives so heavy, and everything that happens is heavy and it’s the end of the world . . . and with everything I’ve gone through with my family and everything else, it’s just that: absurd. I need to be able to step back from the drama, and that’s what these [shows] were for me.”

Alternating between his musings on life as seen through the lens of his own admittedly dysfunctional family history and color commentary on current events, “Get a Real Job” collects his first four one-man shows: “Norman Rockwell is Bleeding,” “The Fifth Annual End of the World Tour,” “Love is Evol,” and “Neverlution.”

“The first one kind of encompasses my whole family,” said Titus of the key personal themes and issues of the time that informed the shows. “With the next one, my daughter was born 16 days before 9/11 — so I knew that I was going to build it around that. They say ‘comedy is tragedy plus time,’ so every time a tragedy happens, all I think is, ‘Oh, I have a new show.'”

“The third one was a product of my divorce,” he continued. “That 90-minute special cost me $2.5 million, so I didn’t make a dime on that one. [Laugh] And then ‘Neverlution’ came out of getting older and looking around and realizing how fucked things are, and wondering how to fix it. The only way to fix it is to tell the truth about it. A buddy of mine says, ‘Scream the truth and everything will work out.’ So that’s my new thing: trying to figure out what the truth is.”

Among the ten years that make up the anthology are also a few years he was working on his hit show, “Titus,” a dark spin on traditional family sitcoms that he wrote, created, and starred in. His experiences on the show — and maybe more importantly, what he learned when a professional misstep got it canceled — are just some of the elements that inform the collection of comedy in “Get A Real Job.”

As Titus explains it, the end of his self-titled show was the product of two sentences — just 14 words, in fact.

When the new president of FOX suggested during a company meeting that “Titus” should follow the lead of “Dharma & Greg,” and have its lead couple (who were modeled after Titus and his ex-wife, Erin) cheat on each other, the comedian made a mistake he’ll never live down.

“The whole point of the show was that two dysfunctional, screwed up people could make a decent relationship together, and that it doesn’t matter where you came from, it matters who you are,” he said. “So when they said, ‘We want you to change the show and have Titus and Erin cheat on each other,’ this is the sentence that cost me $30 million: I looked at the president of the network and said, ‘Do you even watch the show? Let me explain to you how it works…'”

“So, yeah… I’m not just a normal loser,” he laughed. “I’m the sort of loser who succeeds really well and then drops a turd in the punch bowl.”

Still, as Titus discovered, the combination of regular one-man shows, a popular podcast, and various other projects have expanded his fanbase to include people who know nothing about his time as a sitcom television star.

“In a weird way, the podcast sometimes feels like better therapy than any comedy I’ve done,” he said of his weekly online radio show that has him teaming up with his girlfriend and a close friend to discuss various topical and personal issues. Like his TV show, the podcasts usually begin with a monologue relating to that episode’s theme.

“The world never disappoints,” he said, when asked how he keeps coming up with material for his shows, podcasts, and everything else on his plate these days. “The world will give you a nightmare to talk about. Then, by the time the nightmare of the world has been milked, something horrible has happened in my life again, and I can do the next one about it.”

“Get A Real Job, Numbnuts” is available now on DVD. You can get more information about the anthology at Titus’ official website, www.christophertitus.com, where you can also find links to his podcast and other projects.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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