At the pace he’s running, Christopher Titus will be at fifteen specials — the same number as the legendary George Carlin — by 2023. His latest, Born With a Defect, which has not yet aired, took just a year to crank out, and it’s a 180-degree turn from his past work.
Well, a total turn in the way Titus does things, at least. He and his experiences are still the bulk of the subject matter, but this time around he wrote to a specific audience: parents.
Parents tend to hold their children in the highest esteem, so when a man comes around and explains why they’re entirely wrong to do so, he'd damn well better be able to explain why, and why it’s funny. It’s not easy, but Titus understands the value and necessity of the punch line. And he’s just the man for the job, with two children of his own and a personal upbringing that was far from idyllic.
See also: The Truth Hurts (My Sides): Comedian Christopher Titus Wants to be Honest with You
We talked with him about how he writes and, more importantly, how he adapts his ideas for the stage. Oh, and kids — we talked to him about why we don’t need kids anymore.
Kelsey McClure: How do you write out your patterns of thinking and translate that to an audience?
Christopher Titus: I have two problems. I need a beginning and an ending. Once I have a beginning and an ending, I know what I can do with a show. I just don't want to be one of those guys that does the same style and material every time. That's why I try to immerse myself — like this one is all about having kids. If you have kids, you're going to love the show, because it's going to give you some relief. If you don't have kids, I am going to teach you. You are going to learn so much. At the end of the show you're going to be like, "We're never having kids, ever."
I am with you on that; I don’t know that we need any more kids.
One of the jokes is — and it's funny because parents really at times do hate their kids — one joke in the show is, "I love my kids because I hate jail." That's really how it breaks down, because if there wasn't a chemical thing in your brain that made you love them and take care of them, you would stab them. Your kids don't care about you. I love my kids, I really do, but this whole show is the real true story. You can't watch my new show and go, "I want to have kids." You'd be like, "Oh my God, is that really what's going to happen?" This is really what's going to happen.
The topic of children can be such a sensitive subject though. How did you find the line and how far are you willing to cross it?
Some parents don't have any lines. "My child is little Jesus tears." No, they're not little Jesus tears. They're little Jesus hemorrhoids. Because they're annoying, irritating, and hard to get rid of.
I don't know when this happened, Rachel [Bradley] and I were talking about this: When did the deity child come? When did we start treating our children like they're perfect and special? They're not. We're supposed to make them special by the end of eighteen years. All you're doing is downloading programs for eighteen years. By the end of it, you... I always tell the audience, "Don't raise douchebags, because you don't want to be the parent that gets interviewed after the verdict."
Oh, but what about just letting them be kids?
"Let them be kids." Hey, they are kids. We're supposed to stop that. We're born idiots. Every other animal has instinct, has some ability. A dolphin knows to swim for its first breath. A deer walks in an hour. A human child needs two adults around it for five years, at least, so it doesn't choke on a damn Cheerio. We're idiots, and we're supposed to get that out of the kids. We're not supposed to let them be idiots. We're supposed to stop that.
How long have you been writing on this one special? It was just a year ago you were touring The Angry Pursuit of Happiness, so at that pace you're rolling out a 90-minute special every year. Are you writing as you're touring?
When we started Pursuit in September, it aired in May. It's funny because I first... I cheated, because I knew it wasn't going to air until May so I kept doing it. No one had seen it so I kept doing it.
That's not cheating. That's good business!
Then it aired and I had already written a bunch of stuff. I had written down a bunch of ideas on my phone about this certain subject, about what I wanted my show to be. I had the beginning and the end, so once [Pursuit] aired I panicked and I just went into this writing frenzy. I wrote like 40 pages of stuff. Then I just started taking those pages on stage. Within three months — so it was basically June, July, August — and by late August it started to form. And then the second week of September I was in Cleveland, and it just started to work.
It's always crazy. I know how hard it is to write good jokes. I know how hard it is to be here. You go through all this panic, "Is this a good idea? Is it funny? What if these jokes suck? What if I'm never going to be funny again?" Comics are a bizarre combination of amazingly arrogant confident people. Yet if you walk in front of a room of that many people and think you're going to run them… It’s a mental illness. We're also crazy insecure about what we have to do. It's an amazing dichotomy.