When I ask Daniel Sloss over Zoom how it feels doing press for his special Socio, which was recorded way back in June of 2019 and released in December 2022, I’m not sure what answer I’m expecting, but I certainly wasn’t anticipating him to compare the release to “taking a really big shit.” Or maybe I should have; the Scottish comedian has never been one to mince words.
“Because of contracts and rules and decisions that I made earlier in my career, it just turned into this thing where I’ve had three fucking specials filmed and hanging out of my back pocket with nothing to do,” Sloss explains. “No place for them to really go. And now we’re finally at the stage where we can start releasing them. So yeah, it feels like a weight has been lifted.”
His special X is now streaming on his website along with Socio, and Hubris is due out in the first half of 2023. Socio does what it says on the tin, with Sloss analyzing the possibility that he may be a sociopath in his typical dark, edge-of-your-seat style. He also spends some time criticizing leftist infighting, from the perspective of a self-proclaimed “bleeding heart liberal.” In the taping selected, this diatribe is interrupted by a heckler shouting about the Fourth Reich rising.
“Man, I didn’t want that in the show,” Sloss shares. “I got out-voted. I didn’t want to put that in the show because, you know, I don’t think I handled it poorly, but I don’t think I handled it superbly, either. It’s not that fucking ‘comedian destroys heckler’ sort of thing. I did the method I do whenever something fucking awkward happens, which is give them all the attention and slow way down. It’s the teacher’s method of whenever there’s disruption, just create silence and be in control of the silence and then slowly repeat things.”
In the end, the opinions of his fiancée, manager, friends, and family—who thought the heckle should stay in—won out. Socio also explores Sloss’ tendency to be logical rather than emotional, which, while exaggerated for the purposes of the show, was true for a time. Now, though, he’s a dad. Falling in love with his fiancée and raising his son have exposed him as the “softie” he’s been all along.
“All I was getting emotional about, at that time in my life [in 2019] was, ‘Oh, look how well, my career’s going.’ When I found out I was getting two Netflix specials, that’s the last time I cried when I wasn’t a dad,” Sloss says. He admits that “to be fair, I’ve always been fucking soft.”
“A lot of my stage persona is the outward bravado, and I like that. And a lot of the time I think it’s almost see-through,” he tells me. “I like playing that part and my audience likes seeing me play that part, because that’s why I get to say horrible things. Because there’s this very thin veneer where we all know that like, ‘Oh, he doesn’t actually fucking mean that, he’s just saying that because he’s an insecure little man.’”
In Sloss’ words, becoming a father has made him “a better man and a worse comic.” Still, he’s delved into dad material during his latest touring show, Can’t, despite his initial hesitance.
“I’m not saying it’s hack, but it’s just the most well-trodden fucking subject in the world, parents and kids. And not for any bad reasons, not because it’s a hack thing to do, but just because it’s so fucking relatable. For me, it’s chewing gum comedy, it just keeps your mind going,” Sloss explains. “And so I really put off writing dad stuff for ages. And then obviously, nothing was going on in my life, and I love my son and I love talking about my son and I love that I’m learning so many things. It’s funny and it’s very amusing and you learn heaps about yourself. It’s so fascinating watching a human being grow from scratch, from fucking nothing. Every part of it is so very cool. And I talk so passionately about it to all my friends and they’re like, ‘Well, this is why you have to talk about it on stage, you dumbass.’”
The other half of Can’t focuses on what you can and cannot say in comedy. Sloss takes umbrage with the numerous comedians these days who cry “cancel culture” in order to whip up attention around their releases, when in reality they still say whatever they like while enjoying plenty of success. During the interview, Sloss points out actual instances where comics are silenced, such as the risks taken by performers in countries where speaking one’s mind means risking jail time or worse. As he notes, “There are some things that you can’t do in comedy, but it’s none of the things that people are complaining about.”
“There are some things you cannot say as a stand up comedian. For example, there is a sexual predator on the circuit, and every single stand-up comedian knows who it is. None of us can say his name because he’s got such a powerful super-injunction in place that anyone who even remotely mentions it is greeted by several lawyers. That’s something you can’t say in comedy,” he shares. Sloss hopes that when that news eventually breaks, other comedians won’t feign surprise like they have when other sexual predators in the comedy world have been outed.
“I remember being in Just for Laughs when I was, like, 21 years old, and I remember hearing the Louis C.K. rumors then,” he recalls. “And then nine years later, it came out, and people were like, ‘Oh my god!’ And I’m like, fuck off, there’s no way. There’s no way. If a 21 year old Scottish comedian fucking knew about it, there is not a fucking chance that nobody else fucking did. I’m not having it.”
He goes on to say, “You couldn’t go on stage as a stand-up comedian on the BBC and say ‘Fuck the queen. I’m glad she’s dead.’ Those are the things that you can and can’t fucking say, and these things [that censor you] aren’t society. BBC will tell you what you can and cannot say. They will censor things. Channel Four will censor things. All the censorship isn’t coming from fucking woke mobs outside with fucking pitchforks and flaming torches. There’s other types of silence, you know.”
The very name of the special—Can’t—pokes fun at the fact that he’s not allowed to have the word Cunt as the actual title. While the plans for putting Can’t online are yet to be solidified, Sloss mostly just wants to make it accessible for his fans, like he’s finally been able to do with Socio.
“I think if there’s just a place where people can go and then suddenly consume it all, that’s the best way that you get a fan for life,” he tells me, “As opposed to just trying to desperately go to the best streamers, or the best networks, or wherever you want it to be… because at the end of the day, everyone else is just gonna step in the way of creation. The actual fucking censors of comedy.”
Daniel Sloss’ new special Socio can be streamed at his website here.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.