Judge Jim Thomas has a real job, numbnuts. What he needs is a nap.
"Screw normal! You know why? 'Cause if you're normal, the crowd will accept you; but if you're deranged, they will make you their leader."
Christopher Titus burst onto the comedy scene in the late '90s, quickly making a name for himself with his self-deprecating wit and sublimely dark comedy. The then-nascent Fox network, heady with the unexpected success of The X-Files, took a flier on him, resulting in a sitcom, Titus that ran for three years (and should have run for a few more). The show was based on his, shall we say, somewhat dysfunctional upbringing (Stacy Keach played his dad, which pretty much says it all). After the show was cancelled, Titus took some of the material he developed for the show and transformed it into his first Showtime special, Norman Rockwell is Bleeding. The show was a huge success, spawning three more specials. So far.
Christopher Titus: Get a Real Job, Numbnuts! packages all four specials (The year indicates the first performance of the show):
Norman Rockwell is Bleeding (2004)
You should consider yourself all damned fortunate, because I just deleted 800 words of mind-numbingly dull analysis of Christopher Titus' comedy. Never forget E.B. White: "Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog; it can be done, but it's messy and the frog tends to die in the process." It all comes down to this: His humor comes from a seriously dark place; how many people do you know will build a routine around a parent's suicide? It's not to everyone's taste—there are usually a more than a few "eeeeewwwwww"s from unwary audience members during the course of a show. However, as far as this judge is concerned, Titus is one funny sumbitch. I first listened to most of these specials on my iPod at work, where I promptly spewed Diet Coke and ruined a keyboard. I was delighted to discover that he's even funnier on screen, because he has some great expressions. I also noticed that in profile he looks eerily like Beavis. Make of that what you will.
Each of the shows has a theme/focus, and the titles give you a big clue. Norman Rockwell focuses on Titus' family and his somewhat challenged upbringing, Love is Evol loves at his relationships, his divorce, and his return to dating. The other two specials shift over to social commentary; End of the World looks at Post-9/11 America, parenthood, and the death of Titus' father. Just so you know, the entire sequence on that death, from the death itself through the funeral and the aftermath is simultaneously cringe-inducing and side-splitting, or as Titus himself puts describes the funeral, "It was beautiful…and offensive…and perfect…and wrong."
Neverlution is something of a departure for Titus; while his personal life is certainly a major part of the show, the focus is more on society as a whole. It's a good show—not in the same league as the previous three—but still a good show, and it's good to see that Titus is expanding his repertoire. Damn, I'm getting back into the mind-numbing analysis bit.
OK, one last analysis schtick and I'll move on. Titus isn't just trying to make you laugh, he isn't just gunning for your pity, hell no, he's trying to make statements. To that end, his shows are carefully structured—a routine early on sets up something later. In Neverlution, a hellish trip to the DMV (really, is there any other kind?) leads to multiple extended digressions, each with a particular purpose, each slowly making its way back to the DMV. It's a testament to Titus that he crafts his shows with such care, and it's also a testament to his respect for the audience—he takes it for granted that you'll connect the dots in the right order. It doesn't just result in great humor; it also results in great emotional payoffs, such as the end of The 5th Annual End of the World Tour, when the three disparate threads of 9/11, his dad's death, and his stumbling attempts at parenthood all come together, and you realize that he's been weaving a tapestry for the past 90 minutes.
Technically, the discs are…there. Let's face it, you don't need cutting edge tech for standup comedy. The first three have noticeably better audio and video than Neverlution, but because they were co-produced by Showtime and/or Comedy Central, they had higher productions values. Love is Evol is the only special previously released on DVD; it's the same disc, with the same extras: audience members talking about their worst dating experiences, a lame featurette involving the cover photo shoot, and a "Countdown to V-day," quick 15-second bites of Titus giving guys advice on how to handle the fourteen days before Valentine's Day. The only other disc with extras is Norman Rockwell is Bleeding; we get interviews with Titus' dad and brother, which are interesting simply because Ken Titus, a.k.a. "Dad," is so much different from how his son portrays him, yet seems to take it in stride.
Christopher Titus: Get a Real Job, Numbnuts! is a damned good collection of comedy specials from one of the best comics in the game right now. If you watch this on your computer, all I have to say is keep a towel handy, 'cause you will spew your drink, and I'm not buying you a new keyboard, numbnuts.
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