Having been tweeted about by George Takei I think maybe we can all accept that Daniel has won the interwebs. However, he’s off to the USA to see if he’s funny over there. And then he’ll be home for Christmas, ready to start the New Year with writing his new 2014 show “Really?!”. Really? Really. Tickets are already on sale (discounted, if you use the magic “LOL” code). All information on the gig list tab.
Ahead of his November tour, Daniel Sloss reveals there’s much more to him than the ‘young hair and jeans comic’ stereotype might suggest
Almost everything I read about Daniel Sloss refers to him as a ‘young comedian,’ as if the number of monotonous days clocked up on planet Earth have some bearing on the validity of what he’s doing. Surely, if someone is talented enough to be the epitome of industry success, then age is a secondary detail?
On an otherwise unremarkable Edinburgh Wednesday, I camp out in one of the city’s trendier coffee shops, waiting to meet him. A comic whose career has gleefully whizzed past all of the industry benchmarks in record time: panel shows, Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, Russell Howard’s Good News, five sell-out Fringe festivals, a live DVD and even his own TV show. This is an impressive legacy for anyone; not just someone that’s only just turned twenty-three. But again, does that even matter?
I sit at a sturdy wooden table, drinking in the smell of roasting beans, and the sound of screaming steamers and thirty conversations. Daniel walks in, spies me awkwardly poking a notebook and comes to the rescue, with a hug and a much-needed coffee. He fires into a banana and a smoothie and we talk about life in “the world’s greatest job.”
For every frighteningly talented person lumbered with youth, there are those who delight in picking holes. People who can’t ignore the prickling desire to buff the shine off of achievement. Is it genuine dislike? More probably they see a reflection of themselves not having done ‘enough.’ The criticism doesn’t seem to faze him, though.
“It’s not the case – I just couldn’t give a fuck. I don’t let reviewers into my shows anymore. Why would I care what the one person who didn’t pay for a ticket and came to a show thinks? I would rather sell that extra ticket to someone who actually cares. When the people who pay for tickets don’t enjoy my show, that’s when I’ll listen. As long as the people in front of me are laughing, that’s what matters.”
It’s a self-assured opinion that catches me off-guard, even more-so because I spend a substantial amount of my time reviewing shows. Am I the devil incarnate? I want to know more.
“It’s easy to get very angry, but a lot of the time reviewers don’t realise the damage they’re doing. If you give me a one, two star review, I couldn’t give a fuck. But you’ve got other people who paid up to fifteen grand to come up, and if you just go and give them a three or a two, that could be the turning point when they decide not to be a comic, and I think that’s a horrible, horrible thing to do.”
It’s unexpected to see someone who so openly delights in comedic vitriol being so vocal about the industry as a whole. With six years on the circuit, he’s in a far better place to pass comment than a humble observer. I ask him how it was growing up with an audience and if the ‘young comic’ label is haunting him.
“I wouldn’t say it’s haunting me. I never begrudged it. It’s annoying when people say ‘he’s a young comic that’s funny.’ No, you’ve said that the wrong way – I’m a funny comic who just happens to be young. Funny should always be the first thing I am. I wasn’t a great stand-up when I was younger; I got very lucky in my career, because comedy is about box-ticking – absolutely – and I ticked a box. That’s why I got on television. It wasn’t because I was the best. I wasn’t even fucking close to being in the top 100 on the circuit, but I was young, and I was Scottish, and Kevin Bridges is young and Scottish… I ticked a box. I was confident, I was young – I was arguably attractive so I was going to get the young female audience, so they put me on telly, and that’s when I went ‘Aaah… I don’t want to be this…’ The fact that I started young has given me the success I’ve had, which has developed me into the wanky cunt that I am today, who just so happens to be able to write a good dick joke.”
We spend a good five minutes discussing the masturbatory predilections of comedians, and the validity of wank-jokes as pieces of genuine observational material. They’re souvenirs of a life spent hopping between hotel rooms on your own. I wonder if being a comedian has immunised him from having to grow up quickly?
“No, it’s made me grow up substantially, because I’ve got so much life experience now. I’ve travelled the world. I’ve met people I never expected to meet. I’ve done things I never thought I would do. It really makes it impossible to be racist, or homophobic, or sexist because it’s one of the most diverse jobs in the world. I’ve gotten more life experience now than most people under thirty-five, purely because they’ve gone from high-school to university, to a job, to a wife, to kids. I’ve sat on my ass and lived in my own head for six years . And I hate the term ‘self discovery,’ and that sort of hippy wank, but when you’re just in your own head constantly – and you smoke the amount of weed I do – then you discover things. Intelligence isn’t necessarily about what you know – book smarts – it’s your reasoning and your ability to work things out. ‘I’m gonna go find myself… oh, it turns out I’m lazy.’
“The cool thing is, I can feel myself getting better. Every time I write a new joke I think ‘Now that’s fucking good. I’m now making me laugh.’ which is nice. It sounds slightly arrogant – that’s because I really am – I can feel my comedy getting smarter. I used to be the floppy-haired cheeky shit, whereas now I’m making a point. It sounds so wanky, but it’s true; I like saying stuff that has a point. You’ll laugh harder at Jason Byrne’s show than you ever will at mine, but I’d like to think I make you think more.”
Introspection with a dash of ego; a recipe for far more charm than I care to admit. I ask if he feels he’s helped strengthen the idea of young people as credible acts.
“I hope so. I had a lovely compliment the other day – my PR came to see this year’s show and said it was the best he’d ever seen me. That meant a lot because ‘no – you know me.’ He’s seen all of my shit. The guy who runs The Last Laugh in Sheffield said he was genuinely impressed because he had me down as a ‘hair and jeans’ comic, because I was young. And I was almost at one point.”
As if provided by the universe itself, a girl materialises at our table and mumbles “Are you Daniel Sloss?” before five minutes of genuine fan-girl adoration ensue. She references specific shows and jokes, before praising his cleverness. I stifle giggles with my empty cup as Daniel chats to her with the enthusiam and grace of someone genuinely thankful for what he does. When she continues on with her no doubt vastly improved day, I ask what the future holds. Will he be back on our tellies?
“I want to do more stand-up on telly, but only stand-up. I did a lot when I was younger before I found my voice, and then had an audience turn up and I’d changed as a comedian and they got upset thinking ‘this isn’t what we saw, this is a lot darker than we were expecting.’ I only want to do it if I can be myself. I got asked to do Splash last year, and just thought ‘no.’ Let’s Dance for Comic Relief, and I said no – I’d rather less people knew me for being good, than more people knew me for being shit. I did some shitty telly when I was young, I did some stupid things, but it’s all a learning process.”
Acutely conscious of time, we make the last fifteen minutes count, jawing over vasectomies, gay penguins, dead babies and UFC before saying our goodbyes. I leave smiling, feeling that I’ve very much spent an hour glimpsing the future of comedy. It makes me excited about what’s to come.
Daniel Sloss is the laughing boy
15 Jun 2011
Is it me or are comedians getting younger? It’s 20-year-old Daniel Sloss who is making me think this. He is about to perform a couple of try-out dates at Soho Theatre, before he heads north with his Edinburgh show.
In performance, he is a confident presence, owning the space and riffing cheekily about his tender years (“I can’t do stuff older comedians do, like bragging about having sex with women half their age”). But the contrast between his on- and offstage persona is stark. The young Scot, who still lives with his parents in Fife, reveals when we meet in a bar near the Old Vic that he is a bit intimidated by London. “I don’t think I could live here, it’s too big,” he says.
Big venues, on the other hand, he doesn’t mind.
“I’d rather appear in front of 7,000 people than seven,” he tells me. Which is just as well, since following his storming appearance on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow last September, his star is on the rise and audiences are growing. He has just signed up to be a face for Yahoo! Mail, too. Comedy seems to be seeping into our culture in a way it never has before.
“There’s so much comedy around,” Sloss agrees.
“Not just stand-up shows on television but in adverts, newspapers, everywhere. People see it as a genuine career.” This, he says, is why he never took up a place at Dundee University but decided to pursue a life on stage. Originally, he wanted to be an actor, but was inspired by two comedy mentors.
The first is his father, Martyn, a computer programmer, who gave his son his first taste of stand-up. “We lived in London until I was five and my dad used to go to the Screaming Blue Murder Club in Hampton Wick before I was born. He was always telling me that he used to see Jack Dee and Mark Lamarr when they were starting. When I was 12 I began watching his comedy videos of stand-ups like Phil Jupitus, Eddie Izzard and Steven Wright and loved them. Dad worked in Edinburgh then and used to take me with him during the Festival. He’d drop me off on the Royal Mile and I’d meet him after work. We’d go to a show and the people on the door didn’t want to let me in because of my age. Dad argued with them until they gave in.”
Sloss’s other great inspiration comes in the unlikely form of Frankie Boyle. “When I was 14 he did a corporate gig that my mum attended in Stoke.
Mums being mums, she went up to him and said, ‘My son is really funny’, even though I hadn’t done a gig. He was nice and gave her his email address. I started asking for advice, and he offered me work experience: I sent him jokes and he ended up using some on Mock the Week.” Cheap labour? “Not at all.
I can’t remember the jokes but I’ve got the cheque for £300 on my wall.”
Soon Sloss decided to try stand-up himself. He still rates Boyle, although even he thinks he can go too far: “Oh man, he does have a sick sense of humour. Some of the gags he would tell me offstage were even worse than the ones onstage. But, like all comedians, I think funny is funny. When someone makes a joke about rape, no one thinks they think rape is funny. No one sets out to offend for the sake of offending – except, well, maybe Frankie recently.”
Sloss remembers his live debut at 16 at Edinburgh’s Laughing Horse Club with embarrassment. “I was terrible. It was just five minutes of masturbation gags. I’ve learned to spread them out during my set.” His mum, Lesley, helped. “She told me off for waffling but the only reason I did that was I was so grateful anyone was there. I’m still bewildered that people pay money to watch me.” She also offered practical assistance. “I was too young to get into some clubs so mum bought me a fake ID. At no time did I ever use it to buy alcohol, of course …”
These days, Sloss’s material reflects his life.
Parents, shaving, girlfriends. He is set to move in with his girlfriend, Alison, who is training to be a doctor. “I’ve had to promise not to do any more jokes about her.” Which means retiring one of his best lines – “She’s funny, smart and way out of my league. Those aren’t her words, those are her dad’s.”
The next test is how his material will evolve. He would like to do more satire but the nearest he gets at the moment is making jokes about 9/11 – not the Twin Towers tragedy but the fact that he was born on September 11, 1990. He remembers his 11th birthday, mainly because he was camping on a school trip. “I did wonder why the teachers were all so quiet, though. My friends and I were too busy talking to listen to the radio.”
You can’t fail to warm to Sloss. After our interview I point him towards Waterloo station but he says he has to go to another meeting. “It’s in somewhere called, erm, Covent Garden.” He may not know his way around London but as far as stand-up is concerned he seems to know where he is going.
Daniel Sloss previews his new Edinburgh Festival show at the Soho Theatre (020 7478 0100, www.sohotheatre.com) on July 29-30.
THREE MORE HOT YOUNG JOKERS
The 24-year-old Glaswegian with the solid physique is so relaxed onstage, cheerily sending up the boozy image of his home town, you’d think he was a veteran. Which, in a way, he is – he started gigging at 17 and has heaps of experience. He is regularly described as the new Billy Connonlly, which could be a burden, but Bridges lives up to it, combining a gift for storytelling with knock-out punchlines. While other youngsters don their skinny jeans and go for the youth niche, Bridges has Peter Kay-sized mainstream appeal.
One-line wonders: “I saw a sign that said, ‘Have you seen this man?’ so I phoned up and said ‘No’ … I’m not a grass.”
See for yourself: He’s not touring now but his DVD, Kevin Bridges … The Story So Far (Universal), showcases his live prowess.
At only 22, Whitehall’s seamlessly slick style, somewhere between Russel Brand and Michael McIntyre, is rocketing him to the top. He attended The Harrodian School in Barnes alongside Twilight’s Robert Pattinson and his father, Michael, was a respected showbiz agent. Whitehall is set to star in a new C4 student flatshare sitcom, Fresh Meat, created by the team behind Peep Show, but is best experienced live, musing on everything from terrorism to facing his mother across the breakfast table after being accused of snorting cocaine by a tabloid.
One-line wonders: “I’m quite posh. I get a lot of stick for it. Sticks and stones may break my bones but, whatever, I’m with Bupa.”
See for yourself: November 11, Hammersmith Apollo, W6, 0844 844 0444, ticketmaster.co.uk
Robert “Bo” Burnham should be easy to hate. The 20-year-old from Massachusetts is good-looking, his comedy songs have had more than 80 million Youtube hits and he has already worked with hit movie director Judd Apatow. In fact, Burnham is easy to love because he is so funny. He made his name by putting clips on the internet to amuse his brother but he has proved himself to be a formidable live performer, playful, thoughtful and consistently witty. His inspired self-referential current show embraces Eminem-ish raps, Shakespeare spoofs and humorous haikus.
One-line wonders: “What do you call a kid with no arms and an eyepatch?
See for yourself: June 18, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, W12 (0844 844 0444, www.ticketmaster.co.uk