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Clash of the Tituses

Comedian Christopher Titus mines his rocky childhood and lingering after-effects for double CD.

Christopher 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 Central Records.

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 excuse.”

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.

  

   

     

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