Daniel Sloss Lets Loose On Using Humor as a Tonic in HBO Special ‘X’
For Daniel Sloss there’s nothing wrong with being offensive, it’s how you’re being offensive. The Scottish comedian’s new HBO special, “Daniel Sloss: X,” is certainly upfront about rattling sensibilities, but it’s also packed with sharp wit and by the end a particular meaningfulness. Sloss has the ease of a rowdy guy who likes to talk about everything under the sun while throwing around an F bomb here and there, waiting to see your reaction. In “X” he comments on sex education, private thoughts best left unsaid and the general idea of what we find funny.
A working comic since the age of 19, the 28-year-old provocateur censors nothing. “I hope they get an unending love for me and a desire to see me tour so I can retire before the age of 35,” is how Sloss described to Entertainment Voice his wishes for how audiences will receive the HBO special. “Just idolize me from the get go, see beyond my gaping flaws and stand by me through thick and thin, defend me so I don’t have to. So utter, utter adoration is what I want.” Indeed, many of the jokes in “X” are about finding humor amid life’s more unpleasant moments, as when a friend’s dog dies or when another friend reveals she’s been the victim of sexual assault.
“It can be offensive, it just depends on whether you give a shit about that,” said Sloss about sensitive material in sensitive times, “I enjoy being a cunt, to me it’s the funniest thing in the world because I don’t mean to be. There’s a great comedian named Shane Moss who did a podcast where he speaks to a bunch of scientists about just science shit, and he talks about the origin of laughter. And he said the lowest form of animal that can laugh is an Englishman and after that a rat. If you tickle a rat on its belly it will squeak, and that’s basically the rat laughing. So one point was why does the rat find it funny? What makes it laugh? Well, because in any other instance when a rat’s belly is exposed it would mean instant death, from an eagle, dog, etc. But in this instance it’s a safe violation of a dangerous thing, it’s a safe instance of being murdered and that’s what laughter is. It’s a safe violation.”
Through-out “X” Sloss touches on the idea of thoughts deemed unsavory making their way out, such as being clueless about how tampons work. Yet there’s never a sense of meanness to Sloss, instead he creates the sense of a regular guy trying to be honest in a world of poseurs, he even mocks guys too afraid to admit they like certain things a girl might do with her fingers during sex. “It’s the one thing Americans never seem to fucking understand, which is that the only reason the word ‘cunt’ has so much fucking power is because you can’t give it so much fucking power. I would never say ‘cunt’ around so many Americans if I didn’t see that fucking pathetic reaction from all of you. The only reason things are taboo is because people don’t talk about them. So you’re making job so much easier when you say ‘oh you can’t talk about anything,’ I think you can talk about anything.”
Sloss has a particular way of making the everyday hilarious. He shares about meeting a woman who turns out to be a pro soccer player but linger misogyny in his brain uttering he might still be a better player, he also takes shots at homophobes who sound even worse when they insist they are not homophobic. “It’s about coming at it from the right angle,” said Sloss, “You can make jokes about pedophiles. But what are you making the joke about? People who were victims of pedophiles or pedophilia itself? What’s your target and why? You’ve got comedians who say ‘I can say anything,’ and you can but sometimes I’m going to question why you’re saying it. If your defense is ‘it’s just a joke,’ it’s a valid defense but it’s a weak one. We can all make jokes, but our job is to be better at it.”
One of Sloss’s real gut-busters in “X” has to do with his take on sex education and how it can feel designed to make reproduction seem gross or unappealing to teenagers, who will of courses get curious and do more of it. “The only reason these things have power is because people don’t talk about them. For example the only reason people don’t talk about death, which is the only fucking thing we all have in common, is because we’re awkward about it. I don’t see why we don’t talk about it when we all have it in common!”
“The way I do is standup is personal stories, I like writing the jokes and then perfecting the show,” said Sloss about his routine in preparing material. The real challenge then comes in presenting it. “One of the cons in standup is that you have to convince the audience that this is the first time you’ve said this thing. The last thing you want an audience to see is that this is the 270th time you’ve done this fucking performance. It’s so much easier to have a genuine performance if you’re passionate about something. For years I did jokes I didn’t give a fuck about and it bored me. It lacked passion and I’m not that good of an actor.”
Onstage and in person, Sloss revels in the idea of comedy giving voice to that attitude of being the one at the dinner table who says what everyone else is afraid to. “I trust the audience 25% of the time. My regular stance, and it’s a horrible, horrible fucking line I shouldn’t use, but I do, is I’ve been a comedian for 20 years, you’ve been an audience for 30 minutes, I’ll tell you what’s fucking funny. I’m a firm believer in that, and I guarantee you when I’m onstage I’m the biggest comedy fan in the room. I’ve been watching standup since I was 5 years old man, I watch everything on Netflix, I watch everything on HBO, I know what’s funny.”
“We need to remember our job is to challenge ideas. It’s easy these days to be a political comedian,” said Sloss about how culture is affecting comedy these days. “I don’t care what side you’re on, right-wing or left-wing, and it’s not to slam political comedians, some who are very good, but it’s easy to plant a flag these days and say ‘Donald Trump’s a fucking dick.’ Some comedians are creating their own fucking echo chambers which is the one thing we were never meant to be.”
In a way comedians who carve out a specific space for themselves and develop mass followings threaten to become the very citadels they are meant to laugh at. “We’ve become our own fucking demigods, it’s hard not to become addicted to that power, god knows I fell for it for years.”
“Daniel Sloss: X” premieres Nov. 2 at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.