(This review originally appeared at Reel Film News on April 3, 2013.)
“Tonight, we are gonna go to the Church of Comedy Fresno, California parish! We want you to bring your pain, ‘cause we got jokes and an open bar, ladies and gentlemen! Tonight, we are gonna use the power of comedy to heal the pain of the outside world, to stop that tumor growth that started in you when you spent Christmas with your relatives! Tonight, we are gonna take you to the Church of the Epic Fail… where Bad Decisions are the motherf**kin’ religion! Yeah… ‘cause I am the Minister of Mistakes! I am the Shaman of S**tstorms! Ladies and gentlemen, if there was a ‘F**kup Pope’, I would have a three-foot hat!”
With that, Christopher Titus introduces his new stand-up comedy special, Voice In My Head. Arguably one of the hardest-working comedians in the business, Titus’ stories about dysfunction have spanned a three-season television show and four televised comedy specials, with Voice In My Head being the fifth. Originally toured as Scarred for Life and Epic Fail, his hour-and-45-minute discourse on some of the more amusing failures in his life is as great as the rest of his catalog, and it’s only available on his website.
If you’re familiar with Christopher Titus, you’ll know that a lot of his comedy revolves around his chaotic family life, both as a child and as an adult. His father was a rough multiple divorcé, his mother was a diagnosed manic-depressive schizophrenic, his ex-wife turned out to be a cheating harpy who accused him of abuse… so you can see the kind of coloring Titus’ world has constantly had. Instead of falling victim to self-destructive patterns evident in similar people, Titus took it all and used it as fuel for his unique brand of comedy; while certain touchstones (his father’s unusual way of teaching him life lessons, his mother’s craziness, how he used to be a self-described screwup in his teenage years) are referred to in every one of his specials, he always manages to churn out fresh stories and infuse them with his biting, snarky, sardonic, and hugely funny sagacity.
Well, as much sagacity as can be gained from what he considers his own personal failures. In Voice In My Head, he brings back the “Inner Retard,” the character he introduced in Love is Evol (his third special), which represents the voice in everyone’s head telling them that they’re not good enough or smart enough for something. It’s that voice that robs us of our self-worth, even when good things may plentifully be happening. (If you get offended at “retard,” I’d advise watching this preview clip on his usage of the word. It may explain some things.) This character seems to dominate Voice In My Head, seeing as how he’s discussing the failures that made him the man he is today, whether it ends up in abject loss, destruction, or eventual triumph.
Set against a backdrop of panels that represent most of the main focal points of this special, Titus takes us from the highest of his highs to the lowest of his lows. Yet throughout it all, even when he’s at his lowest, he mines a brilliant, almost gallows-humoresque comedy from these incidents in his life, and he manages to even whip a lesson at us, about how self-worth should never depend on the opinions of others (except for one person, and you’ll see who that person is at the end of the special). As with his previous four specials, Titus manages to mix acerbic banter with a little bit of the sweet thrown in to show you that his world just isn’t just a result of the harsh and sad upbringing or his failed marriage or his cancelled show; his comedy also derives from looking past those things to the future… and whatever f**kups lie ahead.
Voice In My Head is caustic, touching, scathing, cuttingly funny, and it’ll push your buttons.
But it’ll make you think, and most importantly, laugh your ass off.
Here’s how you can see it: due to his dislike of Comedy Central’s whittling his previous stand-up specials to fit a 60-minutes-with-commercials timeslot, he has released this for download on his website for only $9. The download (in .mp4 format) is yours to keep, and it really isn’t a high price, considering you’re getting a movie-length feature full of Titus’ humorous insights and stories.