by Carl Kozlowski
Christopher Titus thought he had a lot to endure while growing up, with a severely alcoholic and emotionally abusive father and a mother who ultimately committed suicide. Yet instead of succumbing to despair himself and letting his hardships defeat him, he became a standup comedian who turned his pain into riveting and relatable tales that eventually earned him his own self-titled Fox network sitcom.
But even as he’s attained the highest of comedic success – including his upcoming third standup special for Comedy Central, which will debut July 4 – Titus has kept his eyes and heart open to the hardships of others. He’s established the charity Project InSight to organize annual stand-up shows to benefit various faith-based, private organizations that work to improve the lives of teens who are homeless or in foster care.
Saturday night, May 7th, at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, Titus will perform in a special show called “Laugh You A$$ Off, Save the World” with stellar talent including Kevin Nealon (“Saturday Night Live,” “Weeds”), Billy Gardell (star of CBS’ hit sitcom “Mike & Molly”) and Dana Carvey (“SNL”, “Wayne’s World”) to raise funds for the Olive Crest center for troubled teens. The event will be hosted by Jillian Barberie of Ch. 11’s “Good Day LA,” who is a former foster child herself, and is aiming to raise funds for the program’s comprehensive care services.
“There’s 56,000 foster and homeless teens in Los Angeles, and that’s a big deal for me,” says Titus. “We want to eradicate the problem of teens being homeless from Los Angeles by 2020. I had a tough childhood, with a tough dad and an insane mom, but can you imagine living in the bushes by the 101?”
Titus is particularly concerned about teenagers in the foster care system because of the general societal attitude that holds that troubled children must be reached at a young age or else it’s too late to do anything constructive for them. He notes that many teens spend their entire lives in foster care and then are forced out into society without ever having had anyone to truly care about them, develop their interests and train them to deal with the real world.
Project InSight seeks to work with private, faith-based charities because Titus believes that state-run foster homes are often houses where the foster caregivers “are just out to cash a check,” and that private programs make more effort to truly help their wards. He also strives to find efficient organizations, stating that many bigger charities have such large bureaucratic structures that up to 40 percent of the money they raise goes to maintain their payroll and public relations.
This year, he chose to help Olive Crest because it has provided wraparound services -including safe houses, counseling and education for both the troubled youths and their parents so that the families have the best shot at staying together before kids get sent into foster care – for more than 50,000 kids in California, Nevada and the Pacific Northwest since 1973.
“Right now they’re trying to fill a $150,000 shortfall for their counseling program,” says Titus. “I really learned about these issues by volunteering with a Hollywood day shelter called My Friend’s Place. They told me these kids live in the bushes by the freeway, and I was like ‘Holy shit.’ This is freakin’ Los Angeles, one of the most beautiful cities on earth, and economically we set trends and that’s not one we should be setting.”
Plenty of other social issues are upsetting Titus these days, fueling the outraged comedic sensibility that flourished during the three-year run of his sitcom “Titus.” His new comedy special is called “Neverlution,” and is rooted in the frustration he feels.
“We’re a society built on revolution, but now we’re placated by Starbucks and IPads and so we’re never going to get angry enough to have a revolution again,” says Titus. “We spend $900 billion on bullets and defense, and $90 billion on education. Why is Singapore kicking our ass on math and science? We’re not paying attention to what matters. I’m not Democrat or Republican, but that’s just messed up.”
Indeed, Titus is fiercely independent politically, finding serious faults with the approaches of both parties. But most of all, he believes that individuals should find a charity that they believe in and get involved with their donations and volunteering, so that private citizens can solve the country’s problems rather than waiting on the gargantuan and financially strapped government to do it for them.
“Just remembering what a screw-up I was as a teenager, I was a horrible student at 17 and they wouldn’t give me my diploma because I had to go to summer school still to graduate,” Titus recalls. “But I turned into a guy with a Writers’ Guild nomination. Who you are is a choice, what you want to be is a choice – and sometimes people don’t give these kids a choice.
“We need to give money to groups that give kids counseling and a different life,” he continues. “Maybe they’ll start a charity, follow a dream, get into standup or music rather than just try to survive every day.”
“Laugh Your A$$ Off, Save the World” takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 7th, at the Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. Tickets are $35 to $250 and are tax-deductible.
Call (818) 243-2538 or visit in-sightyouth.com for more information and to learn how to help if you can’t attend.