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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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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.