When a stand-up projects themselves as “dark”, they’re second-guessing the audience’s temperament, seeking to reinforce their self-image by alienating some of the squarer public.
Edinburgh-based Daniel Sloss has achieved considerable popularity for a 25-year-old and can afford to dispense with a few easily offended types. But he brazenly admits that one such keyboard warrior, who complained about a religious gag on his last tour, has gifted him his opening routine. Mercilessly mocking the man’s letter, he highlights a curious symbiosis whereby the offender and offended depend on each other for validation.
Disingenuously denouncing the BBC for only permitting him to do his safer material and thus misrepresenting him, and affecting shoulder-shrugging stupidity about politics, Sloss can comes across as bratty and posturing, his cynicism and braggadocio feeling like an impersonation of older, more self-assured acts. Despite achieving so much commercial success, he’s still settling on a consistent persona, veering between cocksure arrogance and thoughtful, if rather polemical feminism, with the awkwardness of a comic still trying them on for size.
All of which, happily, fails to prepare you for the affecting, genuinely dark final third of this show, in which he wittily venerates the healing properties of comedy with little of the self-conscious grandstanding that came before. If most of this show is almost a send-up of a “dark” comedian, then the transformation is masterful. Regardless, it reaffirms his potential as a storyteller, suggesting he may well eclipse his teenage promise.