Daniel Sloss On Why India Can't Get Enough Of Dark Humour
Daniel Sloss On Why India Can't Get Enough Of Dark Humour

A year after selling out India’s venues in just fifteen minutes, Scottish comedian, love-guru and dark humour honcho Daniel Sloss returns for yet another Indian tour

I’ll be honest — I really, really don’t give standup comedy the attention it deserves. I’ve bailed on countless requests from friends, fast-forwarded through every Netflix special I’ve been asked to watch… it goes on. Call it a weird sense of humour, but I find comedy specials way more interesting when they’re about reflecting society back at itself — a process that often feels more terrifying than amusing. Unfortunately, George Carlin died a while ago — and so, comedy continued to elude me. That is, until I came across a suspect reel of a really pissed-off Scotsman.


I soon sat through the first entire comedy set I’d fully watched in years. It was serious. Dark. Pretty messed up… almost anthropological. Daniel Sloss’ brand of comedy stood out as something of an evolution of the tired old tropes from the 2010s — ditching the musty routines of Chappelle and Ansari and diving into stories a bit more personal, a bit more introspective. It was less about laughing at the f**ked-up world and more about laughing at how f**ked up it made us. Somehow, only the latter felt better afterwards.


We caught up with Sloss on the eve of his return to India, pairing with old friends from comedy collective DeadAnt to usher in 20,000+ seats across 8 locations. It’s the biggest comedy tour we’ve seen in the country — and we hope you’re as ready for it as he is. Excerpts:


Daniel Sloss by Troy Edige CAN'T MAIN TOUR IMAGE + POSTER + PRESS 1 - Portrait 9M.jpg
Credits: Troy Edige


Welcome to India! You have a busy two weeks ahead of you — how does it feel to set off on a two-week tour here?

This is how I like to do it, man. If it was a shorter tour, I’d have come earlier, but I got a kid now and I don’t like being away from my son that much. We’ve been away a lot this month; Turkey last week, and somewhere else the week before. I’ll be enjoying two days off while in India, but this is how I like to tour. You go in, land, do the show. I don’t like waiting around!


I would have been back sooner if we’d been able to get it working — we struggled to find the right people for a bit. Now that we have them, we were able to add not just extra shows in Mumbai but expand it to other cities too.


How do you prepare for an Indian audience? You kind of have a primer already.

It’s very similar to the rest. I just have the make sure that I set my accent to a speed they can understand, and make sure that I’m giving people time to laugh. One of the things I’ve noticed is that because people are sort of translating the show for themselves, you need to allow them to laugh. You can’t talk over the laughter. 


As an audience, India is just very fun, very loud, very responsive and very excited!


I think there’s something to be said about dark humour working well in India. Any thoughts on that?

Especially for the younger generation, yeah — the under-30s. Dark was about a dark sense of humour, Jigsaw was about not settling for a relationship where you’re worth less… I think it had this unintentional extra meaning in a country which still has a lot of arranged marriages… it was relevant to people in terms of what they want for the future.

And then, of course, X, which is about rape and sexual assault — unfortunately, a very prevalent thing all over the world. Purely f**king accidentally, I think I seem to have hit on these three points that resonated with every Indian under the age of 27.


There seems to be this common element between your sets, where you use comedy as a sort of coping mechanism for trauma. How do you approach writing a set that way? Does it just come out of you spontaneously?

It's about making sure you come at it from the right angle, especially if grief is involved in anything. Then ensure the jokes you're making are about things outside of the grieving person. Don't make fun of victims of a tragedy; instead, focus on things outside of it. For instance, if your friend is grieving, my approach to talking about sensitive subjects is trying to make the person affected laugh at this.

I think one of the most powerful things in the world is being able to laugh in the face of grief. That's the most human you'll ever feel after any form of grief is the first time you laugh; it's a very profound and important moment. You can say horrible things while being compassionate; things work together. You don't have to just have one emotion involved, in the same way sweet and sour work as a combination. As a white person talking to an Indian about flavour, I'll stop this conversation as quickly as possible.

But what I mean is, you can say mean things, talk about really horrible things in people's lives, and shine a light on some of the darkest parts of the world, but you can do it with passion, understanding, and the intent to make the right people laugh at it.

This is what bad comedians get wrong. They go on stage and make jokes about religion, abortion, the Holocaust, 9/11, whatever their taboo subject is, and they just do it in a sort of empty, vapid way. They talk about making fun of the whole thing. You can do that, but if it doesn't involve skill, don't expect everyone to love it.


I spoke to a comedian once who said that if you make exclusively offensive comedy, only assholes will be laughing — and only assholes will come to your shows. Thoughts?

The one thing I really appreciate, which stands out as some of the best feedback I've received as a comedian, is that my audience tends to be genuinely good people most of the time. One of the top compliments I get from venue staff, including security and bar staff, and those working in theatres, is about how nice my fans are. They often tell me my fans are like the Japanese soccer fans who clean up the stadium afterwards.


I believe it's because my comedy doesn't resonate with the so-called ‘jocks’ of the world or the popular kids. It's tailored for introverted individuals, the kind of people who might struggle with self-love and benefit from an angry Scottish man's encouragement to snap out of their funk. I've met my fans; they're unique in their way. I love them, but they're not your typical crowd. They’re all f**king dweebs, right? I love them *laughs* but they’re losers.


What’s the thing you’re the most excited to experience on this tour?

Excited to see the country, man. You know, we were there for just three days last time. We got to see a little bit of Bengaluru; got to see absolutely-f**king-none of Mumbai. Saw a little bit of Delhi… I want to see more.

I think it's an important thing to see and that's rare for me to say because I'm the worst tourist in the f**king world, man. Like, I've been to New York 14 times and I have never seen the Statue of Liberty. ‘Cos, who gives a f**k? I couldn't imagine anything more boring. That's the type of person I am. When I'm in France, I don't see the Eiffel Tower, I couldn't give a shit, right? For me going to a new place is about the food they eat, the drink they drink, and the comedy I get to do in the evening. Whereas in India, I do want to see the actual cities. I want to see some of the temples. It's just so very culturally different to where I grew up.




Outfits like DeadAnt have been involved in the Indian comedy space for ages. How was your experience working with them this time, and how do other international comedians view India?

Last year, we toured with a different company, and it was a successful run. On the last day, we participated in the Dead Ant Comedy Festival with Ravina, and it was incredible. We had the absolute f**king time of our life, so much so that at the end of the show, I promised I would return. I aimed to be back before the end of 2023.

I typically book my tours six months to a year in advance due to my busy schedule. However, in India, the entertainment industry often books events just a month ahead, leading to scheduling challenges. I felt frustrated because I had promised my Indian fans I would return by the year's end, and it seemed we couldn't make it happen.

I was in constant contact with my agent, expressing my frustration. Eventually, I took to the internet to voice my concerns and seek help from my fans to find someone who could organize a tour. Ravina, whom we had just worked with and who had successfully managed the festival, reached out. Given our positive experience with her, we decided to collaborate again.

This time, I wanted to explore more than just Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi. I wanted to see more of the country and didn't mind starting with smaller audiences, similar to my early tours in Europe before the Netflix and HBO specials, where my audience gradually grew from 70 to 2,000 people. I believe in building relationships with fans by returning to the same places and expanding those connections.

Now, with a budding relationship with the Indian market, I'm excited to return on every tour. It's a significant opportunity, and I'm surprised more British and American comedians haven't tapped into it. I'm happy to lead the way, and they can all suck my arse as I run ahead!


You’ve been touring for so long… surely there’s a fan interaction that really stuck with you? Could be something great or even something terrible.

I’ll answer on both ends of the spectrum.

On the positive side, after ‘Jigsaw’ came out, I've met fans who broke up with their partners because of the show. Whenever I ask them if they're better off, the answer is always yes. Many have shared that the special helped them leave toxic or abusive relationships, and those stories have deeply impacted me. Additionally, after performing ‘X’, I've heard from many survivors, both female and male, who discussed their experiences with me and expressed gratitude for the special. These interactions were very important to me, as I had doubts about addressing topics like rape and sexual assault from my perspective. The positive feedback was validating and helped ease my complex feelings about the show.

On the negative side, there was an incident in LA, shortly after my Netflix special was released. After a show, while meeting fans, a girl asked for five minutes of my time. Considering the long line behind her, I explained that I couldn't talk long as I had to meet other fans too. She said she'd be quick and then mentioned having a voice in her head for the past two months. A voice that told her what not to do, what to do… what to watch on television and that she looked beautiful today. I was like… “Okay, that’s pretty cool.” Then she says, “Two days ago, the voice told me that it was you. Does that make any sense?”


Right there, I’m like, “No. I’m not a spiritual person in any f**king way, shape or form… I don’t believe in the afterlife or souls — and certainly not in casting my f**king thoughts into it! Do you want a photo?”


Man. She was devastated… oh my god. I thought it was a little f**king quirky thing, but when I revealed to her that I was not the voice in her head? She was visibly crushed. She didn’t want a photo… she didn’t want an autograph. She just slunk off into the night… I took god away from her I guess, I don’t know. What the f**k do you even do after a thing like that?


So… you’re now a proper family man. Does that change anything about all the opinions you had about relationships, back in Jigsaw?

So, my wife and I watched Jigsaw together the other day… we were trying to come up with f**king clips to put on social media. Because that’s the game now, unfortunately.

People who have misunderstood Jigsaw have called me a hypocrite, ever since I got into a relationship with my wife. Watching it back, man… the fact that I am still 100-f**king-percent correct at every single step during that special.

At no point do I say that I do not believe in true love. In fact, I explicitly say that I believe it’s possible to fall in love with someone and spend the rest of your life with them and be incredibly happy. I believe it because I’ve seen it. I just don’t believe that most people have it because they’re desperate for it and they’re lying to themselves.

My wife and I met when neither of us was seeking a relationship. It was an inconvenient time for both, but we found joy in each other's company without any serious intentions initially. Over time, we fell in love naturally. My wife accepts and loves me wholly, including the parts of myself I dislike. She sees these traits as integral to who I am, despite acknowledging I can be incredibly annoying at times, which is normal in any relationship. I've never felt the need to compromise who I am, and I wouldn't want to change anything about her. It took me until I was 29 to find this kind of relationship without actively searching for it. I believe in my views more than ever now.

For reasons known only to herself, my wife loves me for who I am. I’ve never had to compromise any part of myself — even the parts of myself that I hate, my wife loves because those are what makes me, me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m so f**king annoying and she’ll complain about me because that’s what happens in a relationship.

But no man. I’ve given up nothing — I am who I am, she is who she is, and I wouldn’t change her for the world. Spending seven years out of relationships allowed me to understand what I wanted in life, of what I was looking for in a relationship. We’ve had healthy communication from the get-go… and also man, I was a dirty slut in my twenties *laughs* so I’m not curious about anything. I’ve been on many, many dates and met many, many wonderful women… but my wife is the best of them.


That’s beautiful, thanks for the answer. So… do you have a message for the literal thousands of people waiting for you in India?

Yeah, look… I’m not going to say I’m excited as you are because you’re all f**king mental! But I’m excited to be back. And as I’ve said, this is the second step in a long, awesome journey. 


Daniel Sloss’ ‘CAN’T’ tour kicks off in India this evening across New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Goa, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. Book your tickets here.


Image Credits: Daniel Sloss

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