Clash of the Tituses
Comedian Christopher Titus mines his rocky
childhood and lingering after-effects for double CD.
Titus fell off the larger pop culture radar following the cancellation
of his Fox sitcom, but has returned with his second CD in two years, a
new double CD, “Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding,” out July 22 on Comedy
Starkly packaged, with a half in-shadow cover photo of the comedian,
“Norman Rockwell is Bleeding” mines Titus’ crazed youth and parents’
difficulties for dark humor, which he has done for a long time, even
pre-dating the sitcom -- although not on record before. “Norman
Rockwell” takes a different route that Titus’ 2007 album “The Fifth
Annual End of the World Tour” which was more topical and less personal.
Titus is a skilled storyteller, and it is admirable that he delivers an
effective stand-up act completely out of personal storytelling rather
than anything that could be considered purely observational humor.
The best example of this might be “Bon Fire” from the first disc, where
Titus tells a tale of getting badly burned at 17 because he fell into a
bonfire while getting drunk and messing around with friends, and the
reaction of his hard-ass father (no stranger to drinking a lot), who
loved to call Christopher a “wuss.”
Another great piece on “Norman Rockwell” is “Last Husband,” where Titus
tells what happened in his mom’s disastrous remarriage. To tell any of
this story would spoil the ironic surprise.
The second disc of “Norman Rockwell” finds Titus carrying forward the
effects of his difficult childhood, continuing the personal storytelling
of the first. One highlight is “My Wife,” in which Titus, self-aware,
faces up to the fact that he’s sought out a woman just as crazy as his
mom and several stepmothers to marry himself, just like “dear old dad.”
Another highlight is the piece “Insanity Genetic,” where Titus is
thrilled to learn that insanity can be genetic, “because now I have an
Titus’ sitcom mined a lot of the same autobiographical stories presented
on “Norman Rockwell,” and in a broader or more entertaining way. What
you get on the double CD is the raw material, or the raw, truest
versions of these stories. Titus doesn’t set out to make himself
sympathetic in telling these tales, which is a fearless choice, but in a
way ends up making the performance seem a little remote. Still, “Norman
Rockwell is Bleeding” has no shortage of laughs in it.