'Titus' experience allows comic to say standup is his forte

THE BALTIMORE SUN

You may know him by the Fox show that bore his last name. You may know him as the standup guy who made you laugh about heart attacks.

Either way, you can get to know fast-talking actor and comedian Christopher Titus better this weekend when he appears at the Baltimore Improv.

Although his road to success has been marked by potholes, including parents who were everything but role models, Titus persevered.

Now in his mid-30s, he knew he wanted to be a comedian when he was 5 years old, after listening to Bill Cosby.

But it wasn't until one night when he was drunk at a bonfire that he finally decided to pursue that dream: "I could either die here like this or become a comic, so I decided to become a comic," he says.

Titus attended a community college in Northern California, where he barely scraped by with a pre-law degree. (He had no interest in law but studied to satisfy his parents.) His first job was at Punchline, a comedy club in San Francisco. He made $2,500 that year and survived on one slice of pizza per day.

In 2000, he became the star, executive producer and co-creator of Titus, a dark comedy on Fox. He turned his broken-family background (including his mother's stays in mental institutions and suicide and his father's five divorces) into humor, and the show became successful.

The show, which was the first sitcom to use high-definition cameras, was canceled after three seasons because of what Titus called creative differences.

He continues to perform standup, which he calls his forte. "The great thing about standup comedy is that it's so instant. Walking on a tightrope, dancing in front of a firing squad. If you dance good enough, they won't kill you," he says.

He doesn't play for laughs in his next television appearance, however. He is trying his hand at drama, as the star of Future Tense, an hour-long pilot filmed in Australia. He plays a medical doctor who is the head of a high-tech law-enforcement unit. But he doesn't find it too hard to switch genres.

"In drama, you can actually play around a bit," Titus says. "There's a bunch of different ways to say things. [In] comedy, you have a very narrow window to get a laugh."

He's currently writing another TV show, a comedy he hopes will be picked up by NBC, as well as three other TV shows for friends, as well as making the standup rounds.

Christopher Titus performs at the Improv (6 Market Place, Power Plant Live) tomorrow through Sunday. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 410-727-8500.

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