Daniel Sloss looks like the water boy at a tiki torch rally. You’d never pit the Scottish comedian for a male ally in the war against toxic masculinity just by looking at him, but he’s made it the focus of his new show, Daniel Sloss: X. Sloss, who has made waves in the States with his two-part debut Netflix special Live Shows, frequently admits that his opinions are works in progress and that he combats his ignorance through the novel act of ‘reading.’ One of these researched opinions is that people who were bullied a lot growing up were improperly trained to negatively react to jokes. Through friendship, the Roast Battle champ learned how to take a joke from people who love him.
Laughspin’s Billy Procida sat down with Sloss for an episode of The Manwhore Podcast shortly before running his new show—now touring worldwide—at the SoHo Playhouse in New York City. The two discussed today’s popular roast battle culture and why scientists were tickling lab rats. In the full episode—available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other major podcast apps—the two comedians went on to discuss toxic masculinity, liberalism, and how he still believes in true love.
If you get the opportunity to see Daniel Sloss: X live, I cannot recommend it enough. X will unfairly be called ‘the male Nanette.’ But X is much more than that. It’s a man celebrating manhood while also demanding that men do better. It is absolutely brilliant and hysterical and could be the comedy special everyone is talking about when it inevitably hits streaming platforms.
The following has been edited for content and clarity. To hear the rest of the conversation, listen to Ep. 255 of The Manwhore Podcast at the 28:55 mark.
I forgot if it was Dark or Jigsaw where you talked about having supportive parents and I thought, “How dare he?”
Yea, my parents are disgustingly fucking supportive.
You started crazy young, no?
Me and my dad will argue whether it’s 16 or 17. I’ll say 17; he’ll say 16. I did do a gig when I was 16, but I don’t count it as a gig because it was 11 or 12 people and it was part of a comedy course thing. I don’t agree that that was a comedy show. Whereas the first one I did when I was 17 was at The Stand comedy club in Edinburgh, which is a real comedy club, so that’s where my heart lies. And at this point, I think regardless of if I started at 16 or 17, that my career has been fairly fucking impressive. It no longer matters which age I started at.
Yeah. I saw your show Daniel Sloss: X with a comedy buddy. We heard ’17’ and thought, “This motherfucker.” Do you get a little bit of that from fellow comedians when they find out?
I did a lot when I was younger. It was that kind of jealousy I find you get amongst comedians a lot of the time. It’s my favorite type of jealousy—I do it all the time. If somebody ever comes up with a joke that I think is genius, I’ll go, “Oh, fuck you for coming up with that!” There was a lot of that friendly sort of banter from older comics. “Fuck you for starting so young. I wish I had.”
It’s a way of saying, “You’re incredible for how young you are.”
It was always complimentary. And look: I enjoy ribbing, man. I love fucking making fun of people and being made fun of. I love that sort of shit. So I never took any of the insults fucking personally.
So you must dig the roast battle culture that’s been growing over the years?
I am the only undefeated roaster from the UK TV series. There’s only been three seasons now. In the first season, I beat Desirée Burch. In this last season, I beat Phil Wang. Undefeated. It’s the one fucking thing where I went to my agent and said, “Get me on that fucking show.”
I’m not good at panel shows because I enjoy watching panel shows so I just laugh when I’m there. I’m not political. I’m not a voice on politics, so I don’t respect my own opinion on politics. So I wouldn’t offer it out there for people to hear. I think it’s unnecessary information for people to have if they knew my political affiliations seeing as they’re grounded in almost nothing. So, panel shows I’m just not that good on. And these other shows that you get in the UK where they want you to come on and be a personality. I’m not good at those. I’m a comedian. I don’t want to be known for, “Let’s hear his thoughts on anything.” No. I’m a fucking comedian.
Whereas with Roast Battle, that is me to a fucking T. I’m a big fan of horrific insults, really trying your hardest to upset your friends with jokes is absolutely what I was put on this planet to do.
Here is one of my many, many shit opinions that aren’t grounded in any evidence, but it’s an opinion-in-progress sort of thing. People that get offended by jokes don’t have any friends. I believe that if you get offended by comedy, it’s because you didn’t have friends growing up. Which is sad, and I understand that, but part of comraderie—especially male comraderie—is just insults all the fucking time. And that does come from toxic masculinity, but for me, I don’t think it’s a dangerous form of toxic masculinity. If everyone knows it’s a joke, if everyone knows it’s done as banter—and we do. Men aren’t as fucking dumb as we claim they are. You can see when somebody takes a joke badly as a man. “Oh, you took that a little bit personally.” Me and my friends, we know we have some friends more sensitive than other friends. So we’ll take the fucking pedal off because they can’t give as good as they get it sort of thing.
I love verbally abusing in text all my fucking friends. It keeps you grounded and it’s a great practice for joke writing as well. I just think, if you didn’t have any friends growing up, you didn’t get insulted. You never understood that insults didn’t have to be personal and cruel. They could be personal and cruel, but the intent to hurt wasn’t behind it. People who have no friends, whenever they hear an insult, they’ve only heard it from bullies. So they always associate insults as bullying as opposed to, where I was raised with my family, insults are compliments. Insults are funny little things to sort of, not necessarily keep you in line, but everyone’s fair game.
Like in my family, I would never shout at my mom or I would never shout at my dad because they’re my parents. But the one bit that was allowed to transcend age was jokes and making fun of each other. As I said: it’s an opinion in progress.
And bullying does exist. And that’s the fucking problem with it. The thing I’ve always said—not something I’ve always said, it’s a scientific study I first heard on Shane Mauss’s podcast (which is great if you ever get a chance to listen to it)—and it’s where laughter comes from. The lowest form of animal that can laugh is the English. But after that, it’s rats.
Basically, scientists worked out that if you scratch a rat on its belly, it lets out this sort of shrieking noise. It’s the rat laughing. The reason it’s laughing is because, normally, if a rat was on its back and something were to attack its belly, that’s the most dangerous position a rat can be in. Right? That’s a fucking eagle; that’s a dog; that’s a cat that’s about to fucking kill it. Whereas tickling a rat on the belly is a safe violation of the thing. Normally this thing is a horrific death thing, but this is such a minor version of that thing that it’s funny. And that, to me, is what most comedy is. It’s a safe version of the horrible thing.
People always say to you, “Do you find the Holocaust funny?” You go, “No. I absolutely don’t find it funny. But I find jokes about the Holocaust funny.” Those are jokes about the Holocaust. There’s such a difference between me laughing at the thing and me laughing at jokes about the thing.
My favorite quote from Jim Jefferies is, “There’s a difference between things that I think and things that I think are funny to say.”
Exactly that. I say things that I absolutely do not mean. And the reason I say them is because wouldn’t it be funny if I held this opinion? That’s it! It’s a safe violation. People who deny the Holocaust happening are the worst people in the world. I find it an abhorrent, horrific opinion to have. Anyone who holds that opinion truly needs to be punished—well, let’s not get into how I think they should be dealt with. That’s not necessary. But I think it’s a horrific opinion to have. That being said, if somebody’s playing a fucking character—they’re playing an idiot, that’s a horrible opinion to hold, so I’m going to pretend to hold it for the sake of this joke. That’s a safe violation of the horrible thing.
So with bullying, as I understand, when I say ‘no friends,’ I didn’t mean for that to be, “Oh, you’ve got no friends!” I just mean in the sense if you don’t have friends who fucking pick on you, if you don’t have friends to teach you that—the way I found out all my flaws was from my friends making fun of them. And it wasn’t cruel. My friends would go big nose, big lips, stupid voice—whatever. Then when people started to actually insult me for them, I was like, “Oh, I don’t give a shit.” I’ve heard them from friends. Nothing you can say can actually hurt me.
It’s like that Tyrion line on Game of Thrones: If you know what your weaknesses are, no one can hurt you. I think your friends teach you to do that. That’s why I think sometimes I’ve had this argument with my girlfriend on several occasions: the reason [she’s] more sensitive is because [she] was raised around girls and girls are nicer to each other. They can be bitchy, but girls are nicer. Again, all opinions in sort of progress, but I just think camaraderie and stuff sort of teach you to not take jokes as seriously. My friends have said horrible things to me, truly horrible disgusting things about my sister. And I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I thought they meant that. Because there’s no part of me that thinks, “Oh, you meant those words that came out of your mouth.” That’s what blows my mind about people who go to comedy shows. They just sit there and think, “He means every single word he’s saying. I’ve come to see a comedian tell jokes. He must mean every word.”
There’s a point in my show where I say I’m talking to a female friend of mine and I say, “Why don’t you speak when spoken to? How about that?” Because that’s a horrific opinion to have and I don’t hold it. So isn’t it funny if, for a brief moment, I pretend to be the asshole that has that opinion? That’s the joke to me.
That’s when we get into the problem of when does my responsibility end to explain that to my audience. I love Jim Jefferies. I think Jim Jefferies is one of the best comedians. I think Jim Jefferies is a highly fucking intelligent comedian. His gun control routine is second to none. Over the years, the way Jim Jefferies is able to dissect an argument and defeat it at every single step of the way while still keeping you laughing is something I think a lot of comics should aspire to—I think he’s a genius. Having said that, I do think some of his fans are idiots. And they’ll hear him occasionally make a joke where he’s making fun of women and they just take it at face value. “Jim Jefferies hates women.” He doesn’t. I know Jim. He absolutely does not. But that’s what they take it as. It’s always a difficult thing of how much do I have to fucking explain to my audience which bits are jokes and which aren’t.
Are there any comedians that broke your heart when you found out that that benefit of the doubt may not be deserved?
[Louis] C.K. broke my heart, man. I enjoyed his stand-up for years. I really, really did. What he did—I’m also not a big fan of the way he dealt with things. That broke my heart. But, then again, how much is on—oh, no. It is on him. I was about to say, “How much of that is on him?” It is on him. Using C.K. for my next point is a bad example, is all I mean.
I like how your opinion is in progress even just in this moment.
Yeah, man. That’s the thing. That’s why I don’t like commenting on a lot—people always ask me for these opinions. I’m like, “I don’t know yet.” It takes me a while to arrive at a fucking conclusive opinion. I really do like to consider all sides and hear it from different fucking people before I fully cement where I am.
Very unAmerican of you.
People don’t want that anymore. They want a bite-size clip of your opinion. Nothing’s black and white. Everything is fucking grey, man. Everything is so complex and you have to, like, really think things through. If I’m going to firmly stick my flag in the ground somewhere, I’ve got to know who my fucking teammates are. I’ve got to be able to defend my point at all times—because I don’t like losing arguments, man. I don’t. I want to make sure I’m always right. Up until now, I’ve always been right.