Daniel Sloss opened the New York City run of his most recent one-man show, “Dark,” striding onstage with two full pints. Sloss sipped from both throughout his 98-minute performance; first from the pint of beer, and then, that finished, onto the pint of water.
It could be a symbolic choice. It could be stylistic.
Pint be beer, pint be clear. The point is, Sloss is presenting two different shows in one sitting with “Dark.” The first half showcases his clever wit and ability to tell jokes while also adapting his Scottish sensibilities and accent to America, while the second half truly exploring darkness and how he found the light at a young age following the death of his sister.
Although Sloss has successfully mounted eight tours of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (already selling tickets for his ninth show, “So?” six months ahead of August) and five separate stand-up comedy performances on Conan in just the past couple of years, he’s still an unknown quantity in the United States.
So he lets us know he understands by relaying a story of his first trip to Indianapolis and learning what Americans mean when they talk about blue states and red states. What’s a red state, Sloss asks, before answering it himself: “They don’t believe in homosexuality or science. I thought that was harsh, but…” then he describes how 40 of 100 audience members walked out on him during a show in Indianapolis, and how another man in the audience showed Sloss he was armed and would shoot him if he continued with his offensive humor. “Now, the joke…” Sloss quipped.
That joke, truth be told, establishes both the comedian’s atheism and his belief in science, and how, in times of disease, it’s the doctors and not God or Jesus whom you should be thanking. Sloss is still only 25 and didn’t go to college or university, so he’s well aware of his own limits when it comes to well-educated reasoning. And yet, he also knows well enough to intelligently design a bit to include tags for the racial nature of Jesus, as well as allowing his more religious relatives to “have the last laugh, because they think I’m going to hell.”
Besides, Sloss adds: “None of my opinions ultimately matter. But you paid to hear them, so here they are!”
So sit back and enjoy a young man cope with the impossibility of rebelling against his liberal parents, expose his ignorance as well as his manhood in thinking mouthwash will freshen his penis, question the relative annoyance and problematic nature of pedophiles with vegans, and rail against the unfair state of our legislative and educational policies regarding sex.
Sloss has said in interviews (including his podcast this week with me) that Jim Jefferies is one of his comedic idols (Frankie Boyle, too, but even more personally indebted). Jefferies has a bit about taking a friend with muscular dystrophy to see a prostitute, which he turned into a plotline to help kick off his brilliant-yet-underrated FX/FXX series, Legit.
For Sloss, his connection to similarly dark material hits even closer to home, as he first jokes about his sister’s cerebral palsy, then manages to find even more jokes when she suddenly died when he was 9. Disabilities, Sloss tells us from the stage, can be funny: “You just need to be on the right side of the laugh.”
At 9, Sloss looked around at his parents and siblings and didn’t recognize his family, so he began cracking jokes. By 17, he was co-starring in his first comedy show at Edinburgh’s Fringe. Now, he’s “the wanker anchor” for friends, so they know that even amid their deepest tragedies, he hasn’t changed. They can count on him.
Laughter can exist in sadness as well as in joy, and Sloss is sure to find it. No matter how “Dark” that sadness may be.
Daniel Sloss performs Dark through Saturday at the Soho Playhouse in NYC, then two sold-out shows Feb. 16 and Feb. 23 at M.I. Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica, Calif.