Is Not Completely Serious
by Jay S. Jacobs
“I don’t have a girlfriend in every city in the country,” Daniel Tosh explains.
But some people think: why shouldn’t he? He’s young. He’s single. He’s a hip and happening stand-up comedian. The women must be lining up, right?
“When somebody brings that up, it’s such a ridiculous statement when you think of how many cities there are,” Tosh continues, a little frustrated. “Even if you had a girlfriend in every state, you’re still talking about 50 girlfriends. That doesn’t even sound appealing to me.”
He’s right. That sounds like too much work. He would have to keep names straight, keep stories straight and buy tons of gifts. It would be a logistical nightmare.
“I mean, if we could do it by region,” he acknowledges, perhaps enjoying the idea of a midwestern girl, an eastern girl, a Cali girl and a southern girl… “Five or six [quality women]. That’s way more understandable.”
So much for all those fantasies people have of a romantic life on the road for the stand-up comedians. Tosh is the first to acknowledge it’s much more sedate than most people expect.
“Typical road comics,” Tosh admits, “we just go into Barnes & Noble and sit down and read books and never purchase them.”
Not that Daniel Tosh is what anyone can call a typical road comic (well, no one can except for himself). Riding the wave of stand-up coolness for over a decade now, Tosh has had two specials on Comedy Central, released two CDs and two DVDs – the most recent being the sarcastic, surreal and very funny Completely Serious.
It’s a long way from his early years, growing up in Florida as the son of a preacher.
“Don’t keep the reins too tight on your son or he’ll grow up to be a comic,” Tosh says. “The lesson I think every parent could learn.”
It was in that environment that the seeds of his comic future took root. As a marketing major at The University of Central Florida it became a passion, with Tosh hitting as many open-mike nights and comedy clubs as he could get into.
Tosh built a following; even getting enough of a name that he had the opportunity to host a local TV show. “That was just me interviewing hot girls on the beach and making fun of them,” Tosh says. “It worked well.”
So, what does his preacher dad think of Tosh’s act, which is very funny but can occasionally get a little racy?
“He’s no longer a preacher,” Tosh says. “His days were numbered. He’s very supportive. He digs the whole thing. He turns a blind eye to a lot of my antics. And he gets it. He’s known me for a pretty long time. I’m an idiot… and a pretty sarcastic one. So, he can handle it. Now he runs the calendar section of the MySpace page and my website. He feels like he’s a show biz father.”
Tosh finally decided to take his show on the road and has spent over a decade playing gigs in smoky comedy joints as the buzz grew. In 2001, he got the chance to play Late Show with David Letterman. Since then, he’s made the rounds of the talk shows. He also was a regular on VH1’s snarky talking heads news series Best Week Ever – an experience that he candidly admits he hated. “I did their first year that show was on. That wasn’t my world. For $500.00 an episode, I was like… this is like slavery for television. I’m not doing this.”
However, all these experiences led to a fruitful relationship with Comedy Central (“Bravo said no.” he laughs.) The cable network aired Tosh’s first half-hour special in 2003, and then released his first CD and DVD True Stories I Made Up in 2005. In 2007, his hour-long standup special Completely Serious was also released on CD and DVD.
“When I started standup comedy in the mid-90s, it was kind of a dead time of stand-up comedy. Everybody said the comedy boom had passed – whatever that meant. You know, the heydays of coke and Sam Kinison. But I did come along at a great time for television. Comedy Central was just getting flushed out. I grew up with the channel. I am their demographics. It was an easy fit with them. I really like them. That’s not say that one day I wouldn’t love to do an HBO special, but I pretty much say whatever I want on Comedy Central. They usually edit it out, but most people when they hear beep know what ‘fuck’ sounds like.”
Tosh loves performing and tries to do more than a show a day for the year. However, seniority has its privileges, and he has established himself enough as a comic that he can do it on his own terms.
“I live on the beach in Hermosa Beach, California,” Tosh says. “My days of killing myself on the road are kind of behind me. I still do just as many shows now, but when I’m home, I live three blocks away from the Comedy & Magic Club, which is a big comedy club in Hermosa Beach. I can usually just go down, walk in and they’ll put me on every show. I’ll just go up and work on some new material. Then I usually head up to Hollywood at night and do the Improv and a handful of other clubs in LA. When I’m home, I kind of just bounce around between the clubs at night. That’s not roadwork and it’s not tiresome at all. I enjoy it, trying to work on new jokes. I’m only going onstage for maybe 10-20 minutes at a time.”
Still, when he’s not hanging at Hermosa Beach, he has a ravenous following on campuses all over the country, playing gigs in university towns all over. He does have a theory as to why college students have embraced him and why they relate to him.
“Probably because I date them,” Tosh acknowledges.
Well of course that isn’t true. He can’t date all college students…
“I do have a woman preference. That’s my type,” Tosh admits.
However, besides his pro-woman stance, maybe it goes even a little deeper.
“Probably because I still dress like an idiot and dress like a college kid,” Tosh says. “I don’t say they can relate to it. I don’t know if anybody can relate to half the stupid things I’m saying. But, I’m not up there talking about my wife and kids. Maybe because I don’t have them; but I don’t know if that is ever really the style of comedy that I like. There are so many great stand-ups out there, but I’ve kind of always had a very casual style about doing stand-up that it didn’t really feel as traditional as the older stand-up was. It just went over really well with the college kids. This guy is just talking. It’s not so cheeseball.”
Another reason that he goes over so well is that Tosh also has an admittedly pathological need to keep his material fresh. He refuses to be that guy who won’t let go of a joke long after it has lost any meaning.
“I don’t think anything is beneath me or above me. I’m not going to have an hour on anything. Right now, I’ve got Michael Vick jokes. But, when it runs its course, I’m not the guy that’s like: No, but I really want to hang on to this monologue…”
Like – for example – Jay Leno doing gags about the judge at the OJ trial, years after the story’s sell-by date?
“I forgot about Ito,” Tosh admits, the wheels turning in his head. “Now it might be retro.”
Which brings up references. Tosh enjoyed peppering his act with quirky subjects like jobs, race, religion, reading The Kite Runner or Googling Asian ass porn. (“I’m not sure [what that is],” he admits. “I’ve never actually searched it. That’s the beauty of my style of comedy. I don’t have to live it to write it.”) It’s just something that the audience can recognize and react to.
“You like to imbed your act with a lot of references that the joke itself will go over for everybody, but there might be parts of the joke that just a handful of people get,” he says. “I kind of enjoy doing that in the set. I mean, if you watch a Dennis Miller show, I don’t even know if Dennis Miller gets [most of his references.] So, I’ve never really wanted to do that in my show. I wouldn’t even be capable of doing that. But, I definitely like to do things that starts to single out a handful of people. It makes it fun. A lot of my jokes, while they’re not biographical at all, people who know me kind of know where jokes came from. There is a lot of hidden meaning behind stuff – which is kind of fun to do as well.”
Maybe it’s simpler than all that. It is just hugely important to him that his comedy stays fluid and unexpected. Tosh acknowledges that maybe he doesn’t need to turn the material over as fast as he does for the actual live performances. However, he does – and that is the way he feels most comfortable.
“Just for my own sanity – I can’t stand saying the same stuff over and over,” Tosh says. “Like, when I’m at shows and people are screaming out jokes that they want to hear. If I’ve done 45 minutes already, I don’t have a problem doing some personal requests for the audience. But it is a bizarre world where people want to hear jokes where they know how they’re going to end.”
And sanity is a trait that Tosh has – in spades. There is always a bit of misconception that comedians can use humor to mask other, darker emotions. “I guess we’re not all completely suicidal,” he says, just a touch sarcastically. Daniel Tosh has heard all of stories about stand-ups being angry or unhappy or trying to find validation – and he doesn’t buy it for a second.
“Most of my comic friends are complete pussycats,” Tosh says. “I always like to self-analyze myself. I can over-analyze all the little things that make me go insane and can set me off. [But] the major things in life, I’m very good with just going with the flow. Then again, I do live on the beach in California.”
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 9, 2007.
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