September 16, 2008

Spotlight On: Comedian Daniel Tosh

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Daniel Tosh — who will be performing at the State Theater this Saturday at 8 p.m. — is a funny guy. The comedian has risen to the rank of Comedy Central elite with his own hour-long specials, and has recently appeared as a panelist on Best Week Ever. Last wednesday, I was able to get him on the phone to talk about jobs, belligerent fans and movie cops. Check it out:

The Sun: Hey, how’s it going, Daniel?
Daniel Tosh: Good, man. How are you?
Sun: Awesome. So you did a Comedy Central special last year called Completely Serious. I watched it the other night. I enjoyed it. You’re a funny guy.
D.T.: Well that’s very nice. Thank you. And what I’m doing now is gearing up for the next hour special, so I’d say that 90-percent of the show is new material to people who have already seen Completely Serious, or the album I released before that, True Stories I Made Up. I would probably make 100-percent of it new, except for there’s a weird thing where people like to see old material from time to time. So occasionally I’ll do an old joke from time to time. I think people just like to — I’ve always found it weird when people say, “Do that joke?” but they know how it’s going to end. That’s a weird phenomenon.
Sun: So how’d you get started in comedy. How’d you know that performing was something that you were interested in pursuing.
D.T.: Well, almost by necessity. I have no real skills. [laughs] I just didn’t want to die. I just never really did well in the work place, so this was a very natural thing for me. I started when I was in school in Florida, and I just kinda gave it a shot. Had no real knowledge of what it was, or how to do it. But I just got up on stage for a few minutes, and it wasn’t the worst thing ever, so I just kept pursuing it.
Sun: What were some of the jobs you held before you went pro in comedy?
D.T.: I waited tables for a long time. You know, did telemarketing. A bunch of scams, things like that. I worked at a surf shop. I worked at a movie rental place. Anything. I worked at BestBuy one time. That wasn’t a good job. I worked at one that wasn’t even open yet. I just basically came in and alphabetized CDs.
Sun: Oh, that’s terrible.
D.T.: [laughs] I know! Well, what are you going to do. My resume wasn’t knocking open any doors for me.
Sun: What was the worst job you’d say you held?
D.T.: Umm, I sold knives door-to-door for a little bit.
Sun: Wait, was it CutCo.?
D.T.: I assume it was.
Sun: Really? That’s hilarious. College kids I know from back home show up at my doorsteps selling CutCo. knives all the time.
D.T.: Yeah. Well, actually, I kind of feel like I scammed them, in the sense that I never really gave a presentation. I just lived in a dorm in college, and did one presentation to like a dorm-full of people. It was like, “OK, everybody sign off for one. I’m gonna make a little money and get out of here.”
Sun: You said you were a telemarketer. Could you give me a little telemarketing riff?
D.T.: No, but I did just blatantly lie. It was such a scam. It’s sad that telling potty jokes in smoky bars for the past 15 years of my life has been the most honorable thing I’ve ever done.
Sun: [laughs] There are career fairs happening all over the place now, and a lot of Cornell seniors are starting to scramble for jobs in finance or Teach For America or whatever. You ever have any of those kinds of ambitions — the life of a professional?
D.T.: I went on one [interview]. After I graduated, I was like “I might as well try to make real money and do comedy.” And then I went on one real job interview. It was with a marketing firm, and before the interview they gave me a DVD to watch, just to familiarize myself with the background of the company. And, no shit, I fell asleep in the middle of the thing.
Sun: [laughs]
D.T.: And I was so embarrassed that I just basically got up and left. I didn’t even stick around for the interview. I wondered if they even cared.
Sun: So I was looking through YouTube for some of your old routines, and I saw a video — a Q and A session you did with a bunch of people in the audience for your Completely Serious special — and there was a clip in there of two drunk guys in the front row causing problems.
D.T.: Yeah.
Sun: You threw them out! You gave them the boot. That was really cool. You were laying down the law. Is that something you have to do often?
D.T.: Not as much any more. For the most part, during shows its people that are fans. I’m not somebody that wants — I don’t like that frat party-type atmosphere. That’s not what my show is good for. You actually have to listen. So when I get people just screaming or drunk, I like to handle the problem immediately. This time it was bizarre because it was my special, but if I’m at a normal venue kicking people out … that’s pretty common. I’ve had it all. I’ve had crazy drunk chicks throwing glasses at me on stage. There’s very few things that haven’t happened.
Sun: [laughs] Damn.
D.T.: Oh! I had a guy last week — a woman in the front row just started screaming “My husband’s dying!” — and he started projectile vomiting. She thought he was having a stroke. Not funny. It turns out he was just trashed. That is funny.
Sun: [laughs] Oh, wow.
D.T.: But that’s a showstopper. It’s hard to keep going when a wife is screaming for an ambulance.
Sun: Jesus.
D.T.: [laughs] I know, right? I basically walked off stage and let them handle the problem. Afterwards I just had to go back on and be like, “OK, the chalk outline’s still fresh, but let’s get going. If anybody else wants to die, please step back to the lobby.”
Sun: Is there a set way you typically deal with people being ridiculous in the audience?
D.T.: For the most part I wing it. But, I mean, if I do have a standard response to something like that, it’s “Please, God, stop talking.” A little more direct and obvious.
Sun: On a related note — based on your style of law enforcement during your shows — if you were one fictional cop, who would you be?
D.T.: I’d like to think of myself as a Jason Bourne-type character [laughs].
Sun: He’s kind of mysterious. Is that how you are?
D.T.: Ha. No, no. I just like the idea of a lot of people trying to take me down, and me being able to pull it off. I have no idea. Or Neo from The Matrix. I am The One.
Sun: Alright, alright.
D.T.: God, I didn’t think I’d ever say in my life, “I want to be Keanu Reaves.”