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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Daniel Sloss enlightens in the dark with ‘X’

Claire Kopischke

Comedian Daniel Sloss strides onto stage in Sydney, Australia, to begin his new comedy special and invites the audience to “get comfortable ... and if you’re not comfortable don’t worry about it too much — I’m about to provide plenty of material that’s going to make most of you very f-----g uncomfortable.” The foul-mouthed, brutally honest, politically minded Scotsman makes good not only on this promise but also on his audience’s expectation of fast-paced, high-quality comedy.

Sloss’ new special “Daniel Sloss: X” premiered Nov. 4 on the streaming platforms HBO GO and HBO NOW. Following his two specials on Netflix titled “Dark” and “Jigsaw” respectively, Sloss uses “X” to take a comedic look at toxic masculinity, godfatherhood and sex education. These 90 minutes of hilarity are not for the sensitive of heart: HBO’s “mature” rating applies to almost every full minute of the racy special. Unlike some comedians, often reliant on storytelling and long setups with one major payoff, Sloss barely lets his audience recover joke to joke, slamming punchlines in such quick succession that laughs run together. That is, of course, until the show comes to a screeching halt.

Daniel Sloss describes his routine as “about 70 to 75 minutes worth of jokes ... and then at the end once I’ve legally fulfilled my contract of being a comedian ... a sad 15-minute TED Talk.” Among other subjects often considered untouchable by comedians, the conclusions to Sloss’ comedy specials have centered around his experiences with grief, toxic relationships and in “X,” sexual assault. Embracing the label his material has branded him with, Sloss is a self-professed “dark” comedian, refusing to shy away from life’s most brutal truths in his comedy shows. “I am a f-----g silly moron,” he says in this special, “but sometimes I think about serious things, and it feels disingenuous to not tell you about everything that’s on my mind.”

Compared to his more mainstream contemporaries like John Mulaney, Sloss can seem didactic and bleak. What is most unique about Sloss as a comedian, however, is his uncanny ability to turn his darkest experiences into genuinely funny and stirring routines. Unlike many current shock-based comedians and “realist” entertainers, Sloss is not a cynic — he gives his darkness a purpose. Audiences can expect to leave “X” feeling both lighthearted and compelled to action. “You have to actively be good and get involved,” Sloss insists in “X.” “I know how it can be done because I f-----g failed at it.” Sloss’ darkest moments become a message to the audience to take action and make the world a better place. In each special his ultimate message is the same: Laughter brings us up and together. If we can laugh at the things that hurt us the most, we can heal from them.

“X” is Sloss’ most refined comedy special to date; he follows a clear and hilarious narrative, finishing with an especially compelling and universally important closing monologue. Perhaps as an effect of his reputation preceding him, Sloss’ jokes are less shocking (though no less dark) in this special. If you are expecting the Sloss of “Dark,” you will be surprised at the relative convention of “X,” but just as entertained. The strength of this change is that it drives home Sloss’ point at the end; because he is, as he says, “getting [you] on my side with jokes [you] agree with,” you are more likely to leave his show with a changed point of view. If you are looking for a side-splitting and socially relevant evening in, be sure to watch “Daniel Sloss: X” and if you are so inclined, be sure to check out the running “Break-Up Tally” from “Jigsaw” in his Twitter bio. Though you may be uncomfortable, you will undoubtedly be entertained.

TV Special: “Daniel Sloss: X”

Steaming on: HBO

Written and Directed by: Daniel Sloss

Watch If You Like: Bo Burnham, Ali Wong, Trevor Noah

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5