May 27, 2017

Daniel Sloss in New York Times


FEBRUARY 8, 2016

For his first stand-up shows in New York City, the Scottish comedian Daniel Sloss plans to begin his set with a joke that didn’t go over well in Indianapolis. The bit, touching on his atheism and aversion to religion, actually caused almost half of his audience to walk out. Yet he’s hoping to “try it again and explain what I was trying to say the first time.”

Mr. Sloss is clearly not afraid to test boundaries, and he’s eager to endear himself to American audiences with “Dark,” his 90-minute show opening on Tuesday for a five-night run at the SoHo Playhouse. The challenge, however, is getting people to take a gamble on a comic who is relatively unknown in the United States, he said recently over breakfast in SoHo.

An established comedian in Britain, Mr. Sloss has had a few gigs in the United States and has appeared several times on “Conan,” Conan O’Brien’s late-night show on TBS. He began doing stand-up in Scotland at 16, and within a couple of years found immense success, appearing on numerous television series (including the panel show “8 Out of 10 Cats” and a stand-up show called “Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow”).

“I got very lucky very early on,” he said. “People wanted to be the first one to discover me, to put me on TV.”

By 21, he said, his career “was just going up and up and up and up,” but he found himself bored and unhappy with his TV-safe material. He was drawn to darker, more nuanced stand-up and to the idea of “saying something I clearly don’t believe and then trying to justify it onstage,” he said, citing the American comic Bill Burr and the Australian stand-up Jim Jefferies as examples. “That’s the sort of comedy I enjoyed.”

Mr. Sloss switched gears, avoiding most British television and, in some cases, repelling the audience he had built. “I didn’t like the route it was going down,” he said. “People were coming and getting offended by what I said, and I realized it wasn’t because I was saying anything offensive; it was because I was talking to people who’d watched daytime TV, who would get offended by anything. That wasn’t the audience that I wanted.”

Turning your back on a devoted audience is an audacious move, but Mr. Sloss has quite a bit of confidence; it’s one of the strongest elements of his stand-up. His onstage persona is full of blustery bravado, but, he said, “there’s always a bit where I’m fully aware that I’m full of” it. He added: “I’m 25. I didn’t go to university. I’m not smart. I don’t read as much as I should. Let’s just take everything I say with a pinch of salt.”

In person, he is charming and chatty, dressed in jeans and a scuffed black pea coat with a missing button. He has a propensity for casual swearing and an accent that he worries Americans won’t understand. (He’s working on slowing down his delivery onstage.)

Earlier in his career, his material was slightly cheeky but not controversial, with inoffensive jokes about dating and living with his parents. His age was another selling point of his act; he seemed to have been packaged as a young, shaggy-haired comic with a boy band member’s appeal.

Now he explores more substantive topics, delving often into religion, gay rights and explicit sexual themes. He has a knack for mixing these sensitive topics with an appealing silliness, as he did in his most recent “Conan” set, which is entirely about animal sexuality and is, by turns, dirty, sweet and clever. (His insights into spider reproduction will have you thinking differently about Spider-Man.)

It was in 2013, while performing his fourth show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, that he was spotted by J. P. Buck, who books the stand-up performers for “Conan.” “I was just instantly really impressed,” Mr. Buck said in a telephone interview. “I felt that he had this relatability that would translate to a U.S. audience.”

Mr. Sloss has since appeared on “Conan” five times. “It’s rare for someone to come back that often,” Mr. Buck said. “I would say it’s a testament to his talent, as well as his work ethic, in that he has just a vast catalog of material to draw from.”

The spots also led to a development deal with Mr. O’Brien’s production company, Conaco, a process that Mr. Sloss said had been educational. He is interested in working in television in the United States, but not in committing full time to a career in here, particularly given the global possibilities for stand-up. In the past few years, he has toured continental Europe, selling out shows in central and eastern European countries like Lithuania, Estonia and Slovakia. The fans, he said, are devoted followers of American and British comedy online, and familiar with his “Conan” appearances.

Like many young comics, he has grown up in an era saturated with American comedy mythos, and he is excited by the prospect of playing clubs like the Comedy Cellar “and all these places that I’ve read about in the books and heard about in the podcasts.” But he knows breaking into the American scene will be hard, even for someone with so much success. “This is the first circuit,” he acknowledged, “that I might not be able to just walk on into.”

Scots comedian Daniel Sloss insists he won’t ditch his Edinburgh Fringe roots despite tasting US big time

JS32241814-3143437HE 23-year-old has just finished a stand-up stint on American talk show Conan – his second time in as many months – but the comic says he wants to earn laughs the hard way and will be returning to the capital fest in August. 

IT’S the morning after the night before and a hungover Daniel Sloss sounds like a frog who smokes 60 a day.

But the 23-year-old deserves to cut loose. He has just finished a stand-up stint on late-night American talk show Conan – his second time in as many months.

As well as that, he’s been doing auditions during Los Angeles’ pilot season, which could see him land an acting role and doing more stand-ups, testing the water to see if America finds him funny. They do.

Tickets for his sixth Edinburgh Fringe show have also been announced. It is likely that, for the third year in a row, he will sell out the 10,000 tickets.

When we speak, he’s in LA, just managing a hangover after celebrating his second stint on Conan O’Brien’s show. It’s something of a first. Conan has been a mainstay of American talk shows, firstly from 1993 with Late Night and then, since 2010, with his own show, Conan. Having a comic back after only two months is a first for Conan in his 21-year talk show career.

As you read this, Daniel will be thousands of miles away again – this time working in Australia.

He said: “I never thought I’d get this far in my career, ever. Everything from here on is a bonus.

“It’s not about cracking America and being this new thing. I didn’t want a famous overnight career.

“I want to emulate the careers of Billy Connolly, Louis CK and Bill Burr, who grafted for years and years.

“The reason they have the respect of other comics and comedy fans is because they worked so hard and not because they had one great gig and became a sensation overnight.

“I really want to make sure I do it right, make sure I do the Fringe every year and get better and better, rather than sitting back and coasting.”

The last six-and-a-half years have seen Daniel hardly draw breath.

At 16, he performed his first five-minute stand-up at The Laughing Horse in Edinburgh and began writing material for Frankie Boyle’s slot on Mock the Week.

The next year, aged just 17, he did his first joint Edinburgh Festival Fringe show and by 2009, he had sold out his first full Fringe show, going to London and becoming the youngest comedian to take a show to the Soho Theatre.

In 2010, he starred in his own BBC Three sitcom The Adventures of Daniel and, at 21, recorded his own live DVD.

Such is his fame now that he’s been asked to do diving show Splash! and Let’s Dance for Comic Relief – both of which he’s turned down.

While doing so well so young has allowed Daniel to move away from his parents’ home in Fife to his own house in Edinburgh and to make comedy a career, it also tarnished him with a teenage comic tag he has had difficulty in shrugging off.

America has no such baggage.

He said: “It’s untouched snow for me. I can reinvent myself.

“I got TV when I was very young – 18 or 19 – and talked about my life then. But it was at 21 that I found my voice and became darker and ruder.

“The problem was that people who had seen me doing my young and friendly stuff thought that was still me.

“It’s not. I think I’m beginning to shed the young comedian impression that’s followed me in the UK.

“But in America I don’t have that. They have no back reference for me. I walk on stage and you can see the looks in their faces – is this kid going to be funny?

“Well, with six-and-a-half years under my belt, I think I’ll be fine.”

Since signing with the prestigious CCA in Los Angeles in 2012, Daniel has been doing gigs in LA, Denver and Indiana.

He said: “I want to do more here and see what happens. I love stand-up and do it all over Europe and in Australia but hadn’t done it in America.

“It’s where a lot of my favourite comedians are from. I went over to see if I was funny and, thankfully, I am.”

He was first asked to appear on Conan last December when the show’s talent executive, JP Buck, saw Daniel do his Edinburgh Fringe show. Two months later, he was asked back.

Daniel said: “The first one was nerve-wracking. It was the first time I’d been on American television but I’ve done enough gigs on telly in the UK that I can handle it.

“My only complaint was that it was only four-and-a-half minutes’ long. I’d love to have done an hour.

“When they asked me back, they asked if I had another five minutes.

“In America, comics build up from five minutes to a strong 10-20, so they didn’t think I’d be at that stage yet.

“When they asked if I had another five minutes, I said I’ve got five hours.”

As well as stand-up, he’s also trying to get acting work in Hollywood. His management see auditions as a way of getting Daniel’s face in the minds of casting directors for future shows.

A stumbling block is Daniel’s awful American accent.

He laughed: “When they asked if I could do an American accent, I told them I wasn’t going to insult them by even trying. I then suggested they could make the role Scottish.

“But I have to work on it. I don’t want to be that person with an atrocious accent, offending everyone.”

The star will be back in Scotland from July for Daniel Sloss – Really…?! at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. It’s likely to sell out and Daniel admitted he is one of the few comedians coming to Edinburgh who actually makes money.

He said: “I live in Edinburgh. All the other comedians are paying extortionate rents but my mortgage stays the same. And I’m Scottish and the Scottish audiences are immensely supportive of their own. I do sell out all my shows and I’m one of the few comics to make money at the Fringe.”

But don’t expect to see him driving around Edinburgh in a flash car. He still drives his mum’s yellow Ford Ka (he doesn’t want to buy his own).

He laughed: “I am accused of being thrifty by my friends. But I might not always be earning what I am now, so all my money goes into my house.”

Well, if he’s not living it up, surely he’s enjoying the comedy groupies?

Despite it being Valentine’s Day, Daniel is a man on only one mission – to have a long and strong career.

He said: “I don’t have a girlfriend. I travel lots. I don’t see the point in having a long distance relationship.”

As it’s been pointed out many times before, comedy is a serious business.

Written by Rick Fulton

First Published by the Daily Mail, Feb 14th 2014