“You know how I roll, and I’m not talking about that time I fell into a trashcan on top of a hill.”
Longtime Lion King auditioner Titus Andronicus (nee Ronald Wilkerson) is the Karen Walker to the titular Kimmy Schmidt’s Grace. Or, if that reference is too retro for you, Titus is the fidget spinner to Kimmy’s calloused index?
Having jilted a wife in Chickasaw County, Alabama, Titus ditched the name ‘Ronald’ snatched up his Barbies and hot-stepped his way to the Big Apple. While trying to hock the aforementioned ‘bies in dingy pawn shop, he meets loveable curmudgeon/ drug look-out Lilian Kauschtupper and the rest is three seasons (with a fourth in the works) of hilarity.
When he meets Kimmy in Season One he’s working as a mute Iron Man rip-off posing for tourists in Times Square, but by Season Three he has ascended the heights of career success, securing a role as an understudy for Dionne Warwick (cameo by Maya Rudolph) on a cruise-liner production of Mahogany. Sort of. There’s also a brief run as a singing werewolf in a Halloween-themed restaurant.
Along the way, Titus drops some stone cold classic lines (“DJs? Their poor parents!”, “You know how I roll, and I’m not talking about that time I fell into a trashcan on top of a hill.”) Take this explanation of his sexuality: as he says, he’s not a Bear or an Otter or a Cub or whatever – he’s “a flamingo, because I’m delicate, colourful and I often stand on one leg thanks to a planter’s wart.”
Whatever he is, he’s the funniest thing is a very funny show.
When Titus breaks up with boyfriend Mikey so he can understudy for Dionne Warwick on a Mahogany (the movie, not the wood)-themed cruise, he comes back to find Mikey with another man. This leads to full-on “Lemonading”, where Titus parodies a couple of ‘Yonce tracks before going full-on Solange-in-a-lift on Mikey’s Tilda Swinton truck decal.
Full disclosure: I’m not familiar with Lemonade beyond what I learned from Facebook headlines (which is probably everything, since no one would shut up about it). Beyonce is great and all, but just not my cup of Lemonade. Fans will appreciate the homage, mis-Beyhavors like me will appreciate the comedy.
In episode 6 of season 1, Titus decides to make a music video for ‘Peenot Noir: An Ode To Black Penis’ and so, hastily grabs a rhyming dictionary and Lilian’s cell phone to make it happen. Since it needs to be classy, the pair head for the classiest place in the neighbourhood (after the abandoned chandelier factory): the strip club with the columns out front.
Eventually they end up at Kimmy’s workplace, the Voorhies mansion, to finish the video shoot. Titus sets the scene: “We see a tough, blue collar worker – maybe he’s a car fixer or something with ladders,” Titus tells Lilian. “Then, thorough the magic of Peeno Noir, he’s transformed into what the French call ce soir de gentique [sic]” (fluency in French gibberish is just one of Titus’ many endearing qualities).
The full lyrics are available here, but here’s a sample: “Peeno Noir, Myanmar/ Listen to Tom Beren-gar”
Interesting side note: actor Titus Burgess actually released his own line of Pinot Noir, which can be purchased here.
When a straight-acting co-worker is promoted ahead of him at the horror-themed singing restaurant where they both work (“It’s funny what people who’ve never been kidnapped think is scary!” scoffs Kimmy), Titus decides that butching it up is the key to career success.
Co-worker Rick offers him an escape from forever playing the sassy best friend who makes up words (Like “‘snowbesity’: it’s when you don’t know whether someone is fat or not ’cause they’re wearing a winter coat”) by giving him the number of Le Loup, a secretive acting coach who can help him butch up. He’s so good, he even helped Rick book an ad for a paintball range (“The straightest of all weekend pursuits!” exclaims Titus).
Le Loup (Breaking Bad’s bald and burly Dean Norris) teaches Titus all the essentials of playing it straight (or more accurately, playing to heteronormative stereotypes): never drink from a straw; never give any indication that you’re listening; always leave a “buffer seat” etc. However, it’s Titus’ farewell to Le Loup’s fake assistant that stands out. BYE, FELICIA!
Titus decides that the one-man show about a small town gay moving to the big city to make it big has been done to death and so decides to mine his past lives for inspiration. The resulting show ‘Kimono You Didn’t’ sees Titus performing a one-woman show as geisha Murasaki, one of his past lives (the other include a pug and the first openly gay slave).
The show draws criticism from anti-racism campaigners who object to Titus’ racially insensitive “yellow face”. “They named me one of their Top 5 Hitlers of all time,” he screams, “REAL HITLER WASN’T EVEN ON THE LIST!”
The angry activists show up to picket Titus’s show, but Murasaki wins over the audience with a hauntingly beautiful rendition of the Lullaby of Takeda. Cry, Felicia!
His Barely Contained Fascination with The Bunker
Titus’ barely-contained fascination with Kimmy’s bunker experiences are a regular source of comedy gold in the show’s first season (“Where did you go to the bathroom? Did anybody try to eat anybody?”) It eventually culminates with Titus offering to accompany Kimmy to the trial…so he can see the trial without ads.
Bye, les Felicias.
Season 1-3 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt are available on Netflix now.
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