Stand-up comedians have long mined their families for material. Audiences know just as much about Rodney Dangerfield's ball-breaking wife and Margaret Cho's naive mother as they do about the performers. But Christopher Titus's use of his kin onstage (and in his short-lived Fox sitcom, Titus) comes from a different place; a checklist of his background reads like a week's worth of Dr. Phil episodes. His alcoholic, institutionalized mother gave birth to him as a teen, and she later killed her third husband; Dad was a brawling confidence-deflator; and there's a litany of heart attacks, half-sisters, suicides and custody battles. Instead of laying on the couch to hash out these lingering problems, Titus took to the stage. "Life isn't a tragedy -- we all have crappy things happen to us," he told one interviewer. "You can choose to let it ruin your life, or you can let it work for you...Turn your pain into cash!"
Titus has done just that with his show Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding, which is one part play and one part stand-up. "If you can take an audience to a place of horror, then crank a joke in, they will laugh harder," he has said. His current Fifth End of the World Tour incorporates portions of Norman Rockwell with newer material that looks outside of his dysfunctional family circle.
"At least God has a sense of humor about the end of the world," he offers. "Dr. Atkins died. Slipped, hit his head, got brain damage, died on life support. The man that invented the all-meat diet...died a vegetable." All of this from a guy who used to open for Kenny Loggins. 8:30 p.m. Thursday, August 19, and 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, August 20 and 21. Laff Stop, 1952 West Gray. For information, call 713-524-2333 or visit www.laffstop.com. $22 to $29.50. -- Bob Ruggiero
Sunday Shoes: Off
Among the recent rash of stage shows based on movies and oldie song catalogues, we have Footloose, the Musical. (We assume Footloose, the Existentialist Drama wasn't that big of a hit in previews.) The story of a boy with questionably spiky hair who takes on an uptight Bible-thumping town with his dancing was a hit 1984 flick with music, and now it's, well, a musical. There won't be any Kevin Bacon on the menu at Great Caruso Dinner Theater, but you can enjoy some other meat dish while chewing to "Let's Hear It for the Boy." And don't forget that big helping of cheese. Opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, August 20. Continues at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays; and 6 p.m. Sundays. Through Sunday, November 21. 10001 Westheimer. For information, call 713-780-4900. $35 to $40. -- Bob Ruggiero
In Mozart's Don Giovanni, the title character is quite a player. (The name Giovanni, after all, is Italian for Juan.) He tries to seduce one woman, then kills her father. Then another woman shows up, scorned from a previous seduction. So what does the Don do? Naturally, he tries to bust a move on a random newlywed. And that's just the beginning for this lothario. Composed and set in the late-18th century, the opera finds new life here with an English-language production by the Houston Ebony Opera Guild. Timothy Jones will take on the role of the Don. We recommend that all the other cast members stay away from him at the after-party. Preview performance at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, August 19. Christ Church Cathedral, 1117 Texas. Full performance at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, August 27 and 28. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 100 Concert Drive. For information, call 713-333-2236. Free. -- Keith Plocek
Snoop leads the pack for Projekt Revolution
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Snoop Dogg has been a crossover favorite since he busted out in '93 on Dr. Dre's consummate summer single, "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang." Here was a gangsta whom suburban white kids could relate to; Snoop's raps made dealin' chronic and thuggin' seem like harmless fun. These days, clearly his mind's on his money and his money's on his mind, evidenced by his movie appearances (Starsky & Hutch), video games ("True Crime: Streets of L.A.") and spokesperson gigs (AOL, Girls Gone Wild). A rapper always down with rock, Snoop, a.k.a. Calvin Broadus, is traveling with the Projekt Revolution 2004 tour. Will his presence add some flavor to the teen-angst fest? Fo' shizzle. The Dogg performs with Linkin Park, Korn, Less than Jake and the Used at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, August 22. Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins. For information, call 713-629-3700 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. $42.50. -- Steven Devadanam
Time to Vent
Ventriloquist Jeff Dunham is no dummy. Hoping to capitalize on the success of his act, he sells CDs at his shows. "You don't have to see my show," he says. "There's a lot of good jokes in there." For anyone who ponders the obvious irony of listening to ventriloquism on CD, Dunham notes a historical precedent in the radio shows of Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. "It was The Cosby Show of that time," he says. "The whole family could sit down, and it would be smart, uplifting humor." Kind of like a Jeff Dunham show. 8:30 p.m. Thursday, August 19; 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, August 20 and 21; and 8 p.m. Sunday, August 22. The Improv, 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800. $20. -- Eric A.T. Dieckman