You can hate on Daniel Sloss. It may be popular to do so. You can label him as insensitive or a jerk or whatever. He is not new to any sort of criticism. But, in spite of your criticisms, here’s the thing you may not realize: He’s in on it. He knows that people can perceive him in that light. He’s not going to lose sleep over it. He’s okay with people not liking him. Your not liking him isn’t going to phase him, really. He’s going to keep doing what he does and do it quite well, might I add. He’s not insensitive. He’s just not going to steer away from what he wants to do.
Comedy isn’t rose colored. Humor is supposed to be subjective. Some things you’ll like and will make you laugh, some things will have you going into a fit of rage. That’s just how it is. And similarly, there are going to be some comedians you like and some comedians you don’t like. Daniel Sloss is going to be one of either. But given the reaction and accolades his latest two specials on Netflix have garnered, there is power in numbers. A lot of us still like him, even if you don’t.
This past month, Daniel released two specials on Netflix: Jigsaw and Dark. For years, he has been a force to be reckoned with in the U.K., Scotland, and Australia. But this was his biggest foray into American audiences. That’s never an easy task. Just because you’re big over there, doesn’t mean it’ll work over here. It has been met with failure far more than success. But given the responses the special can boast, it all came out quite nicely.
We recently caught up with Daniel and spoke to him all about the special, transitioning to performing in America and barriers he faced because of it, language, getting offended, and so much more.
I want to talk about how the specials came together. You had a little exposure here through your appearances on Conan, but how did it come about that you’d do not just one special with Netflix but two?
Well, being a f*cking Scottish comedian, we’ve got the Edinburgh Fringe Festival every year. So we’re very much used to writing a new hour every single year. I’ve written a new show every year for the past 10 years. That’s how I’ve improved as a comedian, that’s how I work. So writing a new show has never been too much of a challenge. The challenge is getting it seen. Because you do the Edinburgh Festival, my first year of the Festival I probably performed for one and a half thousand people overall. And then the next year was about three thousand, then the year after that was about four, and the year after that… For the last 7 years it’s been about ten thousand a year. Which is obviously a great number but it’s… It gets to the point where there’s a show that you love and you’re proud of it all, then after touring, it turns into about twenty thousand people. You’re like “More people need to see this.” I can’t really tour everywhere in the world, and even if I were to, I don’t necessarily have the exposure to bring in the numbers. So Netflix was always something where I was like “It’s got to be on there. It’s got to be international.” So it was about a five year process of getting content to them, and them being like “We’re aware of you.” It’s f*cking Netflix. They’re the biggest company, they’re the best company. They were just saying “Be patient. This is how we do it. We take our time.” And it was frustrating, because every year that passed I had written another show. I’m just building up a back catalog here. So to get through was a huge sort of thing. It’s a good way to catch up. And how great when we finally got it. I’m extra grateful and f*cking gobsmacked. It went out and the feedback’s been incredible. So hopefully it leads to more. I’ve got two more ready to sell if they want them.
And with Dark, you had to revisit a show that you stopped performing a few years ago. And so when you’re revisiting a show like that you had already moved on from, how is that process? Because you’ve obviously evolved since them, as you would.
Yeah, I have. Some of it was a bit weird to go back to. We had to cut some bits out of the show. I had a ton of pro-gay material in Dark. And that was 5 years ago. So that was when gay marriage wasn’t legal in Australia, the U.K., or America. And then to go back and do pro-gay material, everyone in the audience is like “Yeah, we know. What’re you talking about? None of this is new information.” And also it’s kind of dark… I don’t consider the opening of dark to be necessarily hurtful. Because definitely making a joke about obesity. That was a joke that I hadn’t done for a couple of years because I don’t need to do that joke. I don’t necessarily believe in it anymore as much. But you know, they bought the show Dark and that was in the show Dark. It’s only f*cking two minutes of it. But going back to it, there were some jokes where I was like “This is a bit dated. This is a bit old.” But with a lot of other stuff, I got to improve it slightly. My performance was better than it would’ve been five years ago. I was better at the performance aspect and the emotional side of things were a little bit better. So it was interesting, and I’ll probably have to do it again eventually. But it’s a good learning experience and necessary.
Right. And as you mentioned, there are some emotional and personal aspects in the special. Did finally committing it to film give you a little more sense of closer personally?
Yeah. I mean for so many years, I’ve been doing comedy for 11 years… I had some breaks in the U.K. when I was 18, 19. But I was a young precocious floppy haired prick. My material had no substance, but that was like the last time a lot of people saw me on television in the U.K. So for the past 5 years, I’ve just been sitting back. People have been like “Oh, I’m not a fan of Daniel Sloss.” Well, I know why you think that. Because you saw my material from when I wasn’t good. So there’s like 5 years of minor frustration. I’ve become such a better f*cking comic and the only people that I was able to prove it to were the people who saw me live and on tour. And my stand up is more designed for a 90 minute show. I can’t do the dead sister bit in a 20 minute spot. It would just make the audience freak out. I can’t do the jigsaw bit in a 10 minute spot in a club. So it’s nice to just go “This is me. This is the full me. This is why I am, the way I am, this is my thoughts.” At this point, 5 years ago if people hated my stand up, it’s annoying because you’re not seeing the real stuff. Now if people hate my stand up I’m like “Fair. I mean you’ve seen the full thing, so if you hate that, then you hate me. And I’m fine with that.”
You’ve talked in other interviews about, coming to America, you have that expectation of having to start over again. But are there any positive sides to that expectation of having to re-establish yourself and start over again, given what you now know as an experienced comic?
No, absolutely not. I hate starting again. I established myself in Scotland and then I had to restart again in England when I started doing gigs there. And then I established myself in England, then I had to go to Australia and reestablish myself there and start again. And then a bit with a lot of the European ones, I’d have to go over and reestablish myself there. America’s so big that I had this thing in my head where I was like “I’m absolutely not f*cking starting again. I’ve proven myself 5 times.” Like I know you’re a bigger country, I know you’re the home of comedy, but f*ck you, I’ve cut my teeth. I’ve got my medals. I’ve done the trenches. I’ve done more hour shows than a lot of people over here [America]. And they go “Hey, do you want to come do a 5 minute spot and do an audition for the club?” No, no. I’m past auditioning. And that’s when Conan and the people from Conanco were there was a huge advantage because they let me on and they kept having me on and that sort of gave me the T.V. credits. And people just see not only am I capable of doing these spots. I am good at them and I did like 8 spots in 4 years. So I was like “I’ve got the f*cking material. I know what I’m doing.” That’s why I’m so eternally grateful to Conan. It allowed me to sort of skip a bit and just start over here. Otherwise my only other option was to move to New York and establish myself over the course of three years and I’m not going to do that because I’ve got a career in the U.K. and Europe and Australia. I already have a tough time managing my time. I don’t have the time to just spend 3 years here and go through the audiences with 5 people in it and stuff. That’s why I’m also so grateful to Estee from the Comedy Cellar. Because she knows comedy and the way she runs her club. She paid attention and she heard from other comedians that she allowed me to have a little skip up the ladder a little bit, which is amazing and not something she had to do at all. And I’m eternally grateful for that.
I want to talk about Jigsaw, which has gained traction as the “break up special” and its “break up count”. What’s it at now?
Look, the confirmed ones, and this is from ones I’ve read were about 5 and a half thousand breakups, 27 cancelled engagements, and 32 divorces. I always say that is a very, very conservative number. Some people will say “Oh, clearly they’re just tweeting you or Instagram messaging you to get retweets.” Of course they are. If you’re taking that into account, you have to take into account the following. One: The amount of people that have broken up because of my show and do not have Instagram or Twitter and therefore have not gotten into contact. Two: The amount of people that have broken up because of my show but do not want to message me because they do not want me to retweet or post because they don’t want their partner to know that it was because of my show. Three: The amount of people that have broken up with their partners and don’t know it is because of me because I got into their heads. And four: Jigsaw on tour was a slow burner. The breakups didn’t start coming in until months after. We’re at 5 and a half thousand after 2 weeks. It’s a sloooow burner. If I’m being honest, I reckon we’re at 30,000.
Wow. And you really get all these yourself.
Yeah. And I’m trying to keep up and I can’t do it every day but it’s a solid 3 or 4 hours of my day every morning. Waking up, going through all the Instagram messages and seeing them. It’s very hard to tell which are the fake ones or not. People are like “Oh, you can add another one to your list.” That’s very possibly, let’s say, a 70/30 percent chance of that being fake, somebody just wanting the attention. But people can doubt the numbers all they want. It doesn’t effect my day in any way, shape, or form.
Right. And personally I found that even if you are in a strong relationship, it still makes you think about everything.
Yeah, and that’s the statistic I don’t talk about much. For every one message of people breaking up, I’m getting twice as many of people saying “Hahaha, you didn’t break me and my partner up. You made us realize that we’re in love with each other.” One, you’re not rubbing anything in my face. I’m happy for you. As I say in the show “If you are in a happy relationship, congratulations and f*ck you.” This isn’t a break up show. It’s a love letter to single people. It’s saying it’s okay to be single and to be alone and you don’t have to be in a relationship to impress anyone or make anyone happy other than yourself. And the second part is I don’t talk about those statistics because they’re not funny. Jigsaw has already I think it’s caused 30 proposals. People have said “Watching it has made me realize that this person is it.” And I’m happy with that aspect, too. The show was never meant to ruin lives and I refuse to believe that it has ruined lives. The only people whose lives it has ruined are toxic c*nts. Some guy on Instagram was like “F*ck you. Your show made my girlfriend break up with me.” And I was like “No-no-no-no-no. You made your girlfriend break up with you. You’re the sh*t c*nt. You’re the abusive one, you’re the toxic one, you’re the lazy piece of sh*t. You’re the one that didn’t make her feel appreciated and took her for f*cking granted. I just made her aware that she was better than that.
Do you feel like Jigsaw is going to make it harder for you to date in the future? I don’t think it’s going to make it easier.
No, I think it does. I think it makes it much easier. First of all, my stance of relationships is now out there. I do not want a relationship at this time in my life. I just don’t. I’m going through a selfish part of my life and I’m entitled to that. None of us owe anyone anything. We live in a generation now where it’s not about f*cking love. We’re in a fun generation fully aware that we’re going to f*ck each other and we’re poly-amorous and we’re polygamy this, polygamy that, and I’m bi now. You don’t have to f*ck someone and then spend the rest of your life with them. You can have these short beautiful romances. You can have these short things where you just spend a week with each other and you f*ck each other’s brains out and you connect on an emotional level. And then you never see each other again. And you’ve just got this perfect memory. And it’s not flawed because you didn’t know the person long enough to work out their flaws. And they didn’t hang around long enough with you to realize all of your flaws. But I think it does make it easier. I’ve definitely set boundaries [because of the special] saying “Please do not expect anything other than this. If you’re looking for something more than a fun romantic fling or us f*cking each other’s brains out, if you want that, that’s fine. But I do not want that, so now we have to discuss what we want to do next. I’m not going to back down from my one and if you’re not going to back down from your stance, then we’ll go our separate ways and call each other friends.
And another thing to keep in mind is yes, it’s causing break ups. But after that break up, the next person could be that person they truly fall in love with. So you’re actually helping love more than you’re hurting it.
Absolutely. But because of my stage persona, I’m going to stick with the c*nt-y angle about these break ups.
Speaking of that word, it’s not really something that is in the special Dark, which you shot in America. But it’s all over Jigsaw, which you shot overseas. So was that something you were conscious of during filming here? “Hey, this is one word that, for whatever reason, Americans are really uptight about.”
Yeah, yeah. It’s exactly that. Dark was filmed in America and Jigsaw was filmed in Australia. That’s why the word c*nt is in Jigsaw because in everywhere else in the world, first world countries at least, it doesn’t have the same impact. Jim Jefferies has spoken about this in much greater depth with much more nuance than I’ll be able to. The problem over here is that the word c*nt you think it means vagina. When you say the word c*nt, I don’t go “Oh, a vagina.” I’ve never said to a girl “I’m going to have sex with you in your c*nt. I can’t wait to lick your c*nt.” So that’s why there’s this extra impact if you call a woman a c*nt, it’s a sexist term for whatever the f*king angle is. Whereas in Scotland, you’re either a good c*nt or a bad c*nt. Everyone’s a c*nt. It’s just a word. I’ve called 6 year olds c*nts, and their parents have been like “Yeah, yeah.” My mom calls me c*nt. It’s just not the same. But the reason I don’t say it too much in the special Dark is because I don’t have the extra 10 minutes to justify it to the audience. I will in the future, absolutely. I’m aware that I swear like an absolute motherf*cker and that ain’t going to change anytime soon. I love swearing. I think it’s big. I think it’s clever. To anyone that says they think it shows a lack of vocabulary, my rebuttal is “Is it? Because I now use 20 more words than you do, you stupid c*nt.” There’s no way it’s a limited f*cking thing. I’m aware that I can swear too much. I’m aware that it can be quite jarring. But it’s my accent. It’s just who I am and it’s how I was raised. And I also think it’s such an easy way to beat out the weak in my shows. If you’re offended by swearing, the rest of my show is going to kill you. So if I can upset you with my language, boom. You’re out of the f*cking special and I don’t need to worry about you anymore. If you’re offended by my swearing, you’re offended by the lowest level of my show and I’m glad you’re out of it. I’m glad you’re not interested.
In Dark, you talk about a negative reaction you received in Indiana. Was that just the one instance, or has people walking out been a common occurrence here?
No, no. Even then, I get so many lovely messages from people from Indiana saying “Please come back. Don’t hold that against us.” I absolutely don’t. That man is not representative of Indiana, he’s not even representative of America. You get those types of people all over the world. Maybe not as religious because the rest of the world isn’t as… I say the rest of the world, obviously there are some countries… but the first-world countries are not as insane about religion as you guys are. And I’m aware that some of my stuff offends. Offense is not my intention but if I hate you, you’re goddamn right I’m happy I offended you. If you’re a piece of sh*t like Mickey’s dad, f*ck yes.
And also the people who get offended by comedy, do you really, really think if I wanted to offend you I’d do it in a stand up special? If I wanted to offend you, I could make you f*cking cry. I’ve got that in me. I’ve got that kind of brain. Don’t come at me “Oh, you’ve offended me.” Bitch, you’ve ‘aint seen nothing you. You saw me at 10 percent. And I would never want to be that mean in real life. I’m capable of doing it. I’m very aware that I could be quite a mean person. I was raised in Scotland, where insults are apart of your every day life. It’s how you get your point across. And obviously you say you never want to upset people, but sometimes there are some people that you want to upset. I’m very good at it. I can upset people. I don’t want to, but it’s just when people are like “Oh, I was offended.” If you were offended when I wasn’t trying to offend you, how hard do you think I could offend you if I actually tried?”
And some comedians I’ve spoken to feel like audiences are almost looking to be offended.
There’s such an entitlement now to being offended and it comes from fear. If a comedian offends you, in that moment they have power over you. They make you feel bad about something. And that’s why 99 percent of people want you to apologize. They don’t want you to apologize because they think you mean it. They want you to apologize because they want you to bend the knee. You had power over them, and now they want to have power over you as revenge. And it’s pathetic, and I won’t do it.
Right, exactly. And so many times you’ll see it work and people actually go back and apologize.
I guarantee you in my career, it’s happened before and it’ll happen again because I’m a deeply flawed human being, and by that I mean I’m a human being. We all are. I am going to say wrong things. I am going to have wrong opinions. I’m going to speak out of time. I’m going to do something ignorant. I’m going to upset some people and when that happens, I will listen to the people who it will directly effect and no one else. Only the people who I directly effect I’ll listen to them explain to me why what I said was either ignorant or hurtful. I will apologize to them as individuals, but really I will just thank them for the perspective. I’ll take them on board, and I’ll improve, and I’ll become a better human being because of it. But I’m not going to apologize because you want to have power over me. That’s the reason most people want the apology. If you want me to apologize because I actually upset you with my language, I’m not an asshole. Of course I’ll do that, because it was never presented as meaning to. You apologize when you didn’t mean something. If I said something that upset you, it came across that way, I’m an idiot and I apologize I made you feel that way. But I will only do that to an individual. And I’ve done that before. People have come up to me after the show and said “This bit offended me.” “Oh, I haven’t even taken that into consideration. Thank you for the perspective. Thanks for that.” And face to face they’re much nicer. Because face to face we’re both humans. It’s a discussion. It’s much easier to have empathy when you can see the person in front of you. As opposed to when it’s posted online and it’s “F*ck you. I hope you die.”
Jumping around a bit. One of the really cool things you do is this meta-breakdown into your writing process. You break everything down within your story and sort of invite the audience in, moving the curtain back ever so slightly. And that’s something I really enjoy seeing onstage, and you seem to pull off quite well. Is that something you’ve been doing sort of all along?
It’s when I started writing material. People have reactions to certain words and certain subjects. I do a lot of jokes in my show and there’s a lot of serious bits. I can see the audience getting upset or sort of being caught off guard by a comment, and what I’ll do is I’ll then explain it and be like “Do not take all of those words as gospel.” Sometimes I’ll say something that I 100 percent disagree with. And the reason I say it is because I find it funny. But the whole joke is “Wouldn’t it be funny if this was my opinion?” It’s a horrific opinion to have, so what I’m going to do is pretend I have this opinion so I can highlight the ignorance in it. And sometime people are like “Oh my God, he said it.” No, understand this. It’s not necessarily explaining jokes. It’s just putting them in my shoes, putting them in my position; My comedy isn’t gospel. It’s just a bunch of my experiences and the conclusions I’ve drawn from it. And you’re right to disagree with that because you’ve had different experiences. Your mind works a different way and you might end up at a different conclusion. That’s allowed to happen. We don’t have to agree with everything. What a boring world that would be. So I’m going to do something to put you in my position so you can understand how I arrived at that conclusion. And that can be funny.
When you were starting out, you were 16-17 years old and have been in this game for 11 years now. When you were starting, you were quickly labeled a “prodigy” At the time, did that add pressure on you? I imagine it’d have to.
Well, yeah, I think for a bit. Don’t get me wrong, there was an advantage for a while where I looked so young and then I walked onstage and people thought “Well this is going to be sh*t.” And then I wasn’t and it was more impressive because of my age. There was a bit of pressure when people said prodigy and stuff and it’s like “Why have you put these expectations on me that I haven’t put on myself? In what world do I owe you anything? The only people I owe is my family. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing and improve on it every day. You can label me a prodigy when I’m 40 years old and you talk about me in the past if I do become brilliant and one of the greats. You can go “He was a prodigy at 18.” But if I f*cking fail at 30, you’ll be like ‘Ah well.”
What would you say that you want your legacy to be?
I want to be considered one of the greatest stand-ups of all time.
I feel like that’s really important to say, because most people could easily write that off as being cocky or full of yourself. But I think that’s truly everyone’s ambition but nobody wants to say it.
Yeah. We live in a world of f*cking humbleness. “Oh, thank you very much.” No, f*ck that. I grew up watching comedy and I grew up watching the best of the best. And when people ask me who are my favorite f*cking comedians, the ones that inspired me and improved me as a comic. Through watching their stand up, they made me a better comic. Those are the ones I remember and love. So why would I not strive to be said in the same sentence as that? Do you think there are NFL players that are like “I don’t want to be remembered.” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to be the best. The problem lies if you don’t get that, you’re bitter or resentful. So don’t have that. If I’m not considered one of the greatest comics ever, then fine. I tried my f*cking hardest and I’m not ashamed of the legacies that I have. If I’m some peoples favorite comic or they’re like “Oh, Sloss is good,” that’s still deep. But I want to just improve as a comic. It’s for me. I don’t want to settle at any point. I don’t want to go “I’m done. I’m as good as I can be.”
Daniel Sloss’ most recent two Netflix specials, Dark and Jigsaw are currently streaming on Netflix.