Daniel Tosh became a standup comedy hit with his crude style and offensive jokes, but you probably know him from his new TV show, “Tosh.0,” where he riffs on viral Internet videos. I recently caught up with Tosh via telephone interview in anticipation of his April 24 appearance at the Arlington Theatre.
ARTSWEEK: You have a degree in marketing from the University of Central Florida. Why did you decide to work in comedy?
DANIEL: I just thought it’d be better than being a douchebag salesperson for the rest of my life.
Did people tell you that you were funny during college?
No, no they didn’t. But that did not stop me from achieving my dream, which was actually to be on MTV’s “Road Rules.” That didn’t pan out.
You got your start doing open mics; how did you build up to having your own TV show?
That’s not true, I actually started as a headliner. No, honestly it’s actually a horrible process. You just try standup, you keep doing it, and then you become MCs in comedy clubs. Eventually you get better and better, you get a special or a CD, then you start trying to sell shows to people who are interested. Comedy Central’s been very nice to me for a long time. They’ve televised a couple of my specials, and we’re doing another one right now, which is what I’m getting ready for right now at Arlington Theatre. I’ve a dozen pilots that were unwatchable and horrible and have all failed. This is the first TV show that actually got picked up and took off.
What were some of the other pilots like?
That’s none of your business. I did one for Comedy Central called “America’s Biggest Idiot” where it was just people competing to hurt themselves, but it was stupid because they couldn’t really hurt themselves. I did another one where I tried to convince a bunch of high school kids that I was a substitute teacher. That pilot was just awful. I wasn’t good, I never wanted to do it and I was just always embarrassed that I was filming it.
Were you always interested in Internet memes, or did doing Tosh.0 prompt you to research online culture?
I always liked watching a funny clip, but I’ve never been like, “Oh I gotta search the Internet and find the funniest things.” The idea of the show came from Comedy Central wanting a relevant Web site to compete with sites such as Funnyordie.com. Then we started thinking that it’d be funny to actually meet these people and hear their back stories, as opposed to listening to celebrities drone on about pointless shit. Fortunately, Comedy Central was also cool with me being super mean. They allowed me to do edgy jokes that would not have been approved on other networks. That’s where the shows come from, and we continue to change things up, and hopefully people continue watching. It keeps a lot of my friends employed who shouldn’t have jobs.
What was your most memorable web redemption?
I just did one with the guy who was stuck in an elevator for 50 hours. For the web redemption, we chose to stay in an elevator for a week. I just kept on putting random things into the elevator. At one point, I have a boxing match with a kangaroo, and he’s the referee. I love proposing insane ideas just to see what the network will say yes to. There’s this huge kangaroo in there along with massive rats and it was scary as shit. Everybody in the elevator thought they were going to die.
What is the average reaction when you request that someone come on your show and do a web redemption? Have you ever been turned down?
In the beginning, we were turned down probably like 99 percent of the time. Thank god that we got the first one to just show people that we’re not going to be mean; it’s just silly and goofy. But now that the show has been on air and people understand the segment, about 50 to 60 percent of people say yes. There are still idiots out there like ‘Boom Goes the Dynamite’ and the Star Wars kid who won’t do anything. But as long as the show is on the air, we get to keep asking, so we’ll get them someday.
Do you feel that there’s pressure for you to have a great web presence since you do a show about the Internet?
No, I don’t feel any of that pressure. I believe that less is more. My life isn’t interesting. If the show makes you laugh for 30 minutes, that’s a job well done. The days of me hitting up different social networks and trying to pander to people so that they’ll buy my CDs and DVDs are completely over. Some people like it but I’m not going to fake interest to just sell people shit. One good thing about the internet though is that it’s impossible for Comedy Central to argue with me when I encourage my entire fan base to steal everything I’ve ever made. There’s no reason to buy my DVDs when it’s free on YouTube; I just want people to watch them.
How is doing standup different from doing your TV show? Do you prefer one over the other?
I prefer standup. The show is an opportunity that came about because of my standup. The two are very separate. I enjoy standup more now because I have a TV show that allows me to not have to do standup to pay my bills. I’m doing standup now because I want to, instead of having to do it so that I don’t get evicted and blow people for money… not that I’ve ever done that.
How would you describe your standup comedy style?
Christian, like Creed but with a little less edge.
Where do you go for inspiration? How do you keep your material fresh?
Jesus. No, I just travel, get frustrated and hopefully experience things that warrant me writing bits about.
What was the weirdest thing that’s happened while you were doing a show?
I’ve had a woman throw a full fucking wine glass at me while I was on stage. But it didn’t hit me. Do you want to know why? Because I have cat-like reflexes. It’s always some drunk skank that wants attention but when that attention turns completely negative, then she’s offended.
If you couldn’t be a professional comedian, what job would you choose to pursue?
I wouldn’t hire me if I was a boss. I cheated my way through school and still just got mediocre grades. I can’t imagine I would bring anything to a company. I guess I’d be a politician.
Last but not least, since you are well-versed in all things Internet, does net neutrality stifle innovation or offer democratic freedom?
(Long pause). Sorry, I just opened a picture of my dog. She’s got a brand new haircut and it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. It’s going to be so good to see her. I haven’t been home in five days. Um, what was this last question? Sorry if I’ve ruined the momentum here. What’s my issue on what?
What is your opinion on net neutrality?
In what way, what are we talking about? What is that? It’s the political debate going on right now on whether the Internet should be organized into a tiered system or remain free. What’s the more liberal stance?
That net neutrality is good.
That it should be free for all? Yeah, then I disagree with that.
Always funny, never respectful, Daniel Tosh is the perfect comedian for the college demographic. Tickets for his show this Saturday at Arlington Theatre are on sale now at livenation.com.