Thursday, January 24, 2008

SUN 1/27: "Titler's Oddville" -- My Chat w/ "Titler"

10pm to Midnight
Titler’s Oddville
at The Beehive, 541 Tremont Street, Boston (South End)
$10 online / $15 door

When you see the cross-dressing Hitler look-alike on Oddville's flyer, you know this is destined to be one of the edgiest performances Boston will see all year. "Titler" and his "extra-ordinary friends" are going to shake up The Beehive with a modern vaudeville show. Besides a variety of surprise weirdness, those appearing are: Red Peters whose quasi-dirty songs have been a longtime favorite on the Howard Stern Show, comedian Shane Mauss, and husband-wife team Yo-Yo Couple.

This is not for folks who are easily offended, and you should have an appreciation of the absurd. Nonetheless you will probably be offended at some point. Bring some glue or safety pins as well, because you'll definitely laugh your ass off.

I had a little chat with Titler's alter-ego, local filmmaker Gregory Roman. He created "Titler" a few years ago for a series of wacky MTV shorts that they never aired. The compiled vignettes were later a hit at the Sundance Festival and the Boston Underground Film Festival -- and have built a following of admirers including Ben Folds and Amanda Palmer (The Dresden Dolls).

Charlie Chaplin took the piss out of Hitler with his 1940 film, "The Great Dictator" -- but besides the Monty Python guys, few comedians have stepped forward to slam Germany's "little corporal". Enter Titler in his dress and minimal facial hair and you've got something shocking, provocative, and hilarious. I like the description "everything nobody wants to see all at once."

Let's pretend the following interview took place in seedy Berlin cabaret...

How was the "Titler" character created?

I have always hated what Hitler did to completely innocent people. And one day ...I thought: "What better way to erase the memory of a monster than to slap a dress on him and turn a monster into a he/she spokesperson for peace, individualism and tolerance?"

I read once where a young Adolph Hitler was not accepted to Art School and was absolutely crushed when he heard the news. Had he been able to blossom as an artist, today’s world would be in a very different place.

The human race should never, ever forget what Hitler did in history, but that should not make one afraid to make fun of his image.

You seem to have got the whole package, so to speak -- great voice, songs, bosom -- why do you think you're not popular in the US?

Thank you for the kind words. I’m not really concerned whether Titler is popular or not. In fact, Titler is very popular in the underground circuit all over the world and quite frankly, I prefer it that way. I get e-mails every week from fans in the USA, France, Germany, The UK and even in Japan.

I own a film production company called Magic Box Films and stay very busy directing television commercials and short films for a wide array of clients.

So, I guess I have purposefully have kept somewhat of a low profile in the past, but after playing live with The Dresden Dolls and Ben Folds in the last year, I knew it was time to "come out" so to speak.

And... As serendipity would have it, I ran into my good friend Brother Cleve, who happened to be spinning music at this awesome private Halloween party in an old Fire Station with vintage neon signs all over the walls and a completely restored 1920’s diner parked where a Fire truck would normally be. It’s an incredible place to throw a party, not to mention live. So anyway, Brother Cleve and I started chatting about doing a show at The Beehive and next thing you know... Poof! Here I am.

I think the dress really balances the short moustache. I've worn dresses on stage and have gotten dirty looks before and after the show. Do you think one element bothers people more than the other?

Titler believes firmly that one should always dress to befit any occasion and everyone knows you can’t go wrong with a tight little black dress and a nice pair of army boots.

Do you get a lot of resistance when you perform live?

Yes, I certainly do get looks when I walk among other civilians, but when a dress fits a body this way, it’s bound to stop some traffic.

Whenever I play live, the audiences love Titler. Although, when Ben Folds asked me last year to fly to Nashville and be a part of the his historic, 'first ever' concert broadcast live via the internet, the SONY record executives really freaked out when all they could find on YouTube was Titler singing "Jesus Never Existed" and shouted: "That THING is NOT going to play at this concert!!" Ben then politely played them an mp3 I had e-mailed him earlier of my tribute to Johnny Cash "I Cross the Line" and... the SONY folks then insisted I perform.

Yeah, it's a great reinterpretation.
Are there other places where you're more popular? Austria or...?

I’m pretty popular everywhere because of my films, but so far, I’ve limited my live venues to only here in the US, but yeah, I would LOVE to play Beethoven-Hall, in Austria. It’s one of the most beautiful places one could perform music for a captive audience.

Your film made a splash at the Sundance Festival a few years ago, is there anything on the cutting room floor that you wish had made it in?

If I remember correctly, I think we pretty much used all the songs we shot for the film.

Were the "Titler" clips originally intended for MTV? Or did they consider using them after production?

You are absolutely correct. Each of the vignettes of the original Titler film were originally intended to be used as "bumpers" for in between shows on MTV; but when I sent them the final DVD, they reacted as if I had sent Kryptonite to Superman and abruptly stopped all communication. I knew at that very moment, I had a hit film on my hands and entered it into The Sundance Film Festival 2000 where it not only got accepted, they also had to have two additional viewings because it was such a popular short film.

It won an Honorable Mention in Sundance 2000. How brave of them. It then played for a month at The Boston Museum of Fine Arts where I got a standing ovation and gave a speech on the very first night to an SRO crowd. It was truly a memorable evening for everyone in attendance.

You have a song called "Diane Chutkowski", and it sounds like you're fond of her. Is there anything else you'd like to say about her?

Diane Chutkowski is a real person, and I will always be thankful to her for agreeing to do the film. There is something about her name that almost instantly wrote a song in my head. Ba Ding Ding Ding...

Does it take a long time for the songs to be written? Do they flow out?

I have what I can only describe as a musical version of Tourette Syndrome. It usually takes a word or something to trigger it, but songs literally shoot out of my mouth like swearwords. They always have. Ask anyone who knows me.

The Dresden Dolls and Ben Folds are fans of yours; what do you think of them? Is this a some kind of mutual-admiration club of edgy pianists?

Both Amanda Palmer and Ben Folds are great supporters of Titler. Each of them has asked Titler to share the stage several times. I have them to thank for nudging me to play more live gigs.

Yeah, I noticed you performed at Amanda's 'film festival' when it was at the Brattle... What was the inspiration for "Oddville"?

I’ve been planning a Nu-Vaudville type show which featured my own hand-picked, extra-ordinary talent for quite some time, but the name of the show did not occur until I was explaining the concept to Jack Bardy, one of the owners of The Beehive. That is when we both coined the name "Oddville" for the Titler event. I was explaining to Jack that "An Evening with Titler and his Extra-Ordinary Friends", was not a freak show but a showcase of hand-selected, very talented individuals that the audience normally would never get to see.

We both looked at each other and Jack said, "Sounds like Oddville," and the name of my show was instantly born. I love both Jack Bardy and Darryl Settles for their creative spirit and combined desire to make Boston the musical playground that it once was in the 1940’s and 50’s.

The performers include Red Peters, Shane Mauss, and the Yo-Yo couple. What other types of acts should people expect?

Every procreating human being loves a Red Peters song. Nobody can "croon" out a number like that guy. Shane Mauss is a very unique and talented comedian, and I love his material. The Yo-Yo couple are terrific. I’m so excited they’ve all agreed to perform.

I don’t want to give you all the acts, because then there would be no surprises. I will tell you that I am introducing a new animated character to the audience: A six year old girl named Oopsie Poopsie. She’s just plain unforgettable, that’s all I’ll say about her. I also have someone very special imported from the USSR. He is simply brilliant.

Haha! Sounds great! So, how odd will it be?

All I’m going to say is that it will be "Oddville", a once in a lifetime, memorable event that is not to be missed. Be there, or be Old.

On a scale of one to ten -- Lawrence Welk being one and you being ten -- what would the number be?

I honestly think Titler would be terrific on The Lawrence Welk Show, don’t you? I like to think of Titler as the Nu-Ed Sullivan.

The answer to your other question, I think Titler would have to be an 11. Not only because we will have "Wunnerful" music just like Lawrence Welk, but also because I love odd numbers so much, 11 just seems right.

Cool. How long are most performers going on?

Depending on the performer, our booked acts range five to ten minutes in length.

Is the show going to be filmed? Should people wear disguises for any reason?

I know that Boston.TV has contacted us to cover the event. We are also filming the entire show for broadcast over the World Wide Web at a later date.

I want to have a roll of black electrical tape at the door for those who want to wear a Titler moustache for the show. I think that would be a fun visual from the stage. If the entire audience were donning Titler moustaches for the event, it would be a riot.

Should audience members do anything special before the performance?

As I said earlier, I want to have a roll of black electrical tape at the door for those who want to wear a Titler moustache for the show. I think that would be a great visual from stage. If the entire audience were donning Titler moustaches for the event, it would be a riot.

I used to listen to Howard Stern on "terrestrial" radio and loved the Red Peters songs he played. I didn't know he was a Boston guy -- or that he had a show on Howard's Sirius channel where he's played your stuff. Have you known him for a while?

I’ve known Red Peters for many years. He has one of the smoothest singing voices on the planet. Red Peters is our generation's Dean Martin and is just about to hit the mainstream. Red is preparing a move to Las Vegas, and we are very lucky he has agreed to perform considering his busy schedule.

I read you were going to do a TV pilot with Red. What was it going to be about? What happened with that?

I did film a TV Pilot with Red called "Carol": A show about a sweet girl, who’s always been a good size. You can see it on my Magic Box Films under the Short Films Section.

We sent it to Saturday Night Live and all over the place in Manhattan and Los Angeles after it was completed, and nothing happened until one day someone told me they saw a fucked up version of my Carol on S.N.L. and said that Horatio Sans made my Carol just dirty, fat and awful.

I looked on the Internet and sure enough, S.N.L. not only took the Carol character and fucked her up, but the worst part was that they copied the opening sequence of my pilot, along with keeping the name of the character, which I thought was pretty brazen.

Wow. Did you think about taking some action?

I had sent the DVD to S.N.L. via Fed-Ex, but after my lawyers talked to their lawyers I was told I had no real legal way to prove they stole the concept or character and could not really do anything but move on.

Lesson learned: Horatio Sans is an horrible actor.

What's next after Sunday's Oddville? When will we see Titler again?

Titler would love to take his Oddville show on tour... Keep your eyes and ears open.

When I first went to your website, it was like two little hands slapped my eyes. I see you're not the designer, but what sort of direction did you give?

The designer of was Murat Bodur. Murat has won numerous awards for designing the Titler site and others. I told him I wanted it to feel as if you somehow fell inside Titler’s brain, and he did an absolutely amazing job of bringing that thought to life. He had a team of people work for months to create the site. Take a dunk. And you are correct, there’s really nothing like it.

I'd like to end the way Bernard Pivot (and that James Lipton guy) does by asking these questions:

What is your favorite word?


What is your least favorite word?

What turns you on?


What turns you off?

Passive/Aggressive Behavior

What sound or noise do you love?

Crickets at night

What sound or noise do you hate?

Diesel Engines

What is your favorite curse word?


What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

UFO Pilot

What profession would you not like to do?


If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?


That would be great. Thanks for your time, Greg.


Anonymous said...

Awesome Interview!!!

Anonymous said...

Rob--this interview rocks. Can you e-mail bostonist at caroline THAT SYMBOL

spitcurl said...

A thousand pardons, but -- the name "Oddville Vaudeville" has been in use in the Boston area for over 2 years. It is also registered in numerous, National Burlesque databases.

I realize it is not precisely the same name, but as both Boston and the cabaret arts are both pretty small scenes, I feel a bit protective of it.

Artistic Director, Oddville Vaudeville since 2005


Anonymous said...

The name Oddville Vaudeville has been in use for some time by a Boston-area troupe and is registered with national burlesque databases--we are not connected to this person in any way. Not that he doesn't seem like a very interesting and entertaining person, but it seems to me there's room for confusion here.

Unknown said...

Red Peters fans will enjoy this 30-minute Mr. Media Radio interview with the legendary dirty song composer and performer (conducted June 22, 2010) in which he discusses his taste in music and how Howard Stern changed the course of his career--for the better.