I was first introduced to Daniel Sloss by a long-term boyfriend over six years ago. Funny that he sent me that recommendation on a night when I was desperately seeking some laughs because Jigsaw, one of his two specials on Netflix, had already become infamous for the number of break-ups it’s caused; the running count to date is 1,20,000. It’s also caused 300 divorces and many more cancelled engagements. A few months later, it caused ours, too.
I won’t say it came out of the blue, but the man-made pertinent points, ones that, over reflection, needed action.
And I will refrain from any further details of the special for two reasons—one, this article is not about that special; and two, over the years of me vehemently recommending it to almost everyone in my life, I have never given away the details, because Sloss is someone you have to hear yourself for the real effect.
But it may be safe to say that I am a Sloss fan. So, when I heard that he was including India, and specifically Delhi in his next tour as part of the Laughing Dead Festival, I was, well, let’s say, ecstatic.
And I was not disappointed. Nothing about the insanely long lines, glitchy audio, or cut-down set because, of course, things were delayed, which took away from the night I heard Sloss live.
His latest, Can’t, which sounds deceivingly similar to another word that “you can’t use publicly without being shunned”, in the Scotsman signature style of dark comedy is a dialogue on yet more topics “you can’t talk about”. Having spoken about death, disability, cancer, toxic relationships, paedophilia, rape, and 9/11 without falling prey to the cancel culture, this time the comedian opens with uncanny sensitivity as he relays his journey of becoming a stand-up comedian under the wings of this mother, a scientist, who made sure that there was no getting away from the grind of a nine-to-five, even for Sloss as a comedian.
Of course, you wouldn’t expect Sloss to stay sentimental for too long.
He quickly veers into this envy for (and I cannot remember how he did it so smoothly) “the greatest form of entertainment, which is illegal”—the Colosseum from Ancient Rome and the gladiator fights that took place within it—and the modern take on it—US reality TV, with a detailed recap of the emotional sadism of Temptation Island.
But as he snubs the Tories, speaks of the smugness of the Left, or takes a jab at the late Queen, what becomes clear is that Sloss’ ability to test the boundaries goes hand-in-hand with probing intelligence. “The secret to dark comedy is empathy,” Sloss says. Everything and anything can be joked about, is Sloss’ belief, and it is evident in his next segment, which goes into the difficulty of childbirth—not for the mother, but the father—with excruciating (for some) detail of the birth of his baby boy.
And all this while, what is especially endearing is Sloss’ acceptance that there will be people who will hate the show tied closely to the disdain of his younger self for the somewhat mellowed older version of himself.
We didn’t get to hear the finished set as it was cut short due to time constraints, and for that, I may always going to hold it against the organisers, but it will be easily overridden by the gratitude that BookMyShow organised the India Tour and made my dream of seeing Sloss live come true because it was nothing short of stomach-aching joy. And, I’m happy to report, no break-ups or therapy is needed with this one.