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.