Daniel Sloss in India: The art of dark humour


You know you’re attending a Daniel Sloss show when before you even see the comedian, you hear him swearing as he greets the audience from backstage. But the audience present doesn’t mind. They, in fact, are here for Sloss’ no-filter, no-holds-barred jokes and attitude, and they get just that in his 90-minute set Can’t, produced by BookMyShow. As part of the India tour, Sloss is touring Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai, marking his final stop at Laughing Dead Comedy Festival.

Fun fact: If you replace one letter in the title of his show, you’ll know one of Sloss’ choicest cuss words. And he spares no one in his set as he showers this and many more such endearments on everyone.

The 32-year-old comedian is Scottish, so expectedly, many wisecracks are aimed at the neighbouring Brits. But which Indian in the audience is complaining, especially when Sloss himself takes a dig at the colonising country’s history? Desis are made fun of too, especially for the classic Indian head nod and the Bengalurean urge to drive like we believe in reincarnation. Stereotypical? Yes. Objections? No, especially not when Sloss delivers them in his inimitable style and continues to remind the audience how happy he is to be in India.

In an Instagram AMA (Ask Me Anything) before his show, Sloss spoke about how his Netflix special Jigsaw, which released in 2018, received an outpouring of love by Indians. Plans to perform here have since then been on the cards and almost six years later, finally materialised. That tickets sold out almost instantly, and the audience’s resounding cheers every time Sloss made a throwaway reference to his older specials are testament to his popularity here.

His brand of humour, a sometimes inky black on the spectrum of dark, may not be for everybody. In the past, there have been jokes on sexual assault, disability, toxic relationships, abusive relationships, and more. Some could take offence and Sloss addresses this in Can’t, pointing out how the difference between offending someone and hate speech is empathy.

There’s also talk about how comedians now feel they can’t joke about everything (Indian comedians know all too well). Sloss strikes up a conversation with the audience, curious about whether they think cancel culture exists in India, and if society is becoming more sensitive.

And this is one of the many spots where the show shines; the audience isn’t just at the receiving end of some well-performed sketches and jokes. This segment, and the introspection Sloss weaves into it, could make someone think twice the next time a comedian is pulled up for a joke. Sloss makes you laugh, but you go back home thinking hard, perhaps more about this than anything else.

The comedian started out at 17, but is not the same person he was back then. He’s softer now, he admits, especially after the birth of his one-year-old in 2022. This is evident in his jokes too, says Ekasmayi Naresh, a PhD student present at the show.

“Daniel Sloss is known for his dark humour. His previous works Jigsaw and X were sharp and biting. Here, the bite was replaced by something lovable,” she says.

Case in point: The jokes a plenty on parenthood and the birthing process, and the glimpses fans got to see of Sloss as a father.

“It was wholesome and you don’t expect that when you go for his shows,” adds Naresh.

Sloss’ 90 minute set was preceded by an opening act by Kai Humphries, who effectively set the ball rolling. The audience’s laughter rung all the way to the end of the night, erupting in a loud cheer when before signing off Sloss announced being back again this year. And by the sounds of it, fans ‘can’t’ seem to wait!

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