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Comedian Daniel Sloss talks joking about his disabled sister and his NYC debut

Written by
Louise Schwartzkoff

Daniel Sloss is already a comedy veteran at 25 years old. He did his first stand-up gig at 16, then went on to sell out shows in his Scotland hometown at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. At 19, he became the youngest comedian to perform a solo season in London’s West End. His provocative humor and barbed social commentary have won him regular appearances on Conan, which built a U.S. fan base that helped land his first NYC shows at the SoHo Playhouse (Feb 10–13, $26.50). He filled us in on what to expect (like jokes about his disabled sister) and why he doesn’t care if you’re offended. 

Why is your show called Dark?
Because I was sick of people claiming I was a dark comedian. I mean, I’m dark if you watch daytime television and vote for the conservatives. If you are one of those idiots who gets upset by everything, then yeah, it’s a dark show, but you have to listen to the meaning and not the words.

It does explore some difficult territory, though, especially about your sister’s cerebral palsy. How does it feel to share such personal stories onstage?
I learned from American comics that you can go there—as long as you can make it funny. Every member of my family that’s come to see it has bawled. When I was young, in interviews when I mentioned my sister, people would be like, “Why don’t you talk about that on the stage? Is it too hard?” I just didn’t think I could make it funny. I didn’t try it until I was in L.A. last year, and I got booked for a gig called RISK!, where they make you talk about something you’ve never talked about onstage. I told the story about my sister, and it got laughs. It’s given me so much more confidence in writing, because surely now I can make anything funny.

Do people ever take offense to the disability jokes?
Nobody can tell me I can’t say these things about my sister. We made jokes all the time about her disability. People say, “You can’t do that.” When I ask, “Do you know anyone disabled?” they’re like, “No, but I would never joke about it.” That’s because you’ve never fucking met a disabled person. Of course you wouldn’t make jokes about them because you don’t treat them like human beings. You think they need to be protected. They don’t.

Is there any topic that should be off-limits for comedy?
I think being offended is the weakest thing people are capable of. Being offended is a fucking privilege. How fucking arrogant are you to sit in a comedy club with 300 people and, just on the night that you decide to come, a comedian walks on stage and he or she is specifically saying something to you? There’s such arrogance that comes with being offended.

How has your comedy changed since you were a teenager?
When I started, I was confident, but it was false confidence. It was confidence that came from being young, not from being good. I wouldn’t even say I’ve matured, but there’s more substance to it now. I’m not one of those comedians who needs a fucking message, but I’m talking about things that I believe while also making sure the audience knows that mine is not an opinion that deserves to be respected. I’ve grown in confidence and style, I think. I might be full of shit and blowing my own trumpet.


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