From 2000 to 2002, 35-year-old Christopher Titus was at what many would consider the pinnacle of his career: He had his own sitcom, the Emmy-nominated Titus. Issues with the network led to Titus' unceremonious cancellation, a blow that could have been insurmountable to a lesser—or saner—man. But a tumultuous childhood had prepared the comedian/writer/actor/husband/father to roll with the punches.
"The weird thing about it is, I loved that show," said Titus, who was nominated for a Writers Guild Award. "I loved the stories. We had such a great group of writers, and I got to be the head writer with Jack [Kenny] and Brian [Hargrove]. The show always was about something. I don't go back and go, 'Look what I did.' I like the show because of what it did. There were so many jokes in the show, I forgot what we did, because we were just on a treadmill. So [now] I'll watch it and go, 'Oh my god, that joke's really funny."
Not one to let the dust settle, the funny man moved on, appearing in a slew of reality and scripted TV shows; hosting Pawnography (a game show on the History Channel); founding his own production company; releasing five stand-up specials, all of which aired on Comedy Central or HBO; producing a podcast; touring regularly; and more. Titus barely finishes one thing before starting another and although he's in the midst of his Angry Pursuit of Happiness tour, he's writing a new stand-up show, titled Born with a Defect. Titus said the audience at his Boise show on Friday, March 13, at the Knitting Factory will be one of the first to hear the new material.
While his early experience in television could have derailed him, Titus values it for showing him he "could do anything" and teaching him a vital lesson.
"It made me really smart about Hollywood," he said. "When the show ended, I realized, 'Oh. This is how it works.' They're flying you around in private jets, you're introducing Sid Caesar for his lifetime achievement award and then... you're forgotten. That's how fast it happens."
Titus has some words of wisdom for people in the business who don't recognize how fleeting it can all be, like a friend who was "bitching" about his success.
"A buddy of mine was upset about how good his show was going," Titus said. "He's like, 'You wouldn't believe how busy I am.' And I said, 'Well, yeah, I would believe it.' I said, 'Stop and look around. You have people bringing you things, you have people giving you free stuff, you're on TV every week, you have people begging you to come see them. Look at it as a joy,'" he said without any bitterness. "'The 10 years it took you to get here? It's gonna take you 10 seconds to lose it. When they finally decide that it's over, it's gonna be one quick phone call. That's how Hollywood works.'"
Following his own advice, Titus founded Combustion Films. Its first full-length film production will be Special Unit, written by, directed by and starring Titus as an LAPD officer with "a drinking problem, an ex-girlfriend problem (his ex girlfriend is now the mayor) and an anger problem [who] is forced to build a team that consists of a rag-tag group of disabled people who want to shove the term 'differently-abled' up the world's butt." A crowdfunding campaign only netted $3,600 toward the $480,000 goal, but Titus wasn't thwarted.
"We have raised a quarter of the money, and I have a meeting with bankers on Friday," he said. "Oh, yeah. This is the windmill I refuse to stop tilting at. I swear to god this movie is getting made. The budget is done, the shooting schedule is done, the production schedule is done, the script—which is ridiculously funny—has been rewritten. Special Unit will happen."