Not Afraid of the Dark

Daniel Tosh brings his razor-sharp jabs to Spokane on his college tour

click to enlarge Smart and stupid at the same time.
Smart and stupid at the same time.

The premise of Daniel Tosh's Tosh.0 may not be revolutionary. Making fun of video footage is tread made bare by the likes of America's Funniest Home Videos, Talk Soup and its offspring, The Soup. Even mocking viral videos isn't particularly unique, considering the failed Web Soup hosted by Chris Hardwick and whatever you want to call Rob Dyrdek's Ridiculousness.

But Tosh's skill at walking the line serves to re-season the formula. Rather than pulling punches for the sake of Standards and Practices censors, Tosh favors loading his gloves with brass knuckles. A provocateur, he'll go for the jugular with ripping takes that demand wide-eyed glances to your couch partner.

Tosh.0's brilliance is often found in the "Web Redemption" segment. The show is somehow able to convince the idiots of self-harm stunt videos and the weirdos of viral oddball found footage to come on his show and attempt to redo what made them "web famous."

Classic web personalities like the "Tron Guy" and David from "David After Dentist" have gone along with Tosh's ideas for upping the ante of their shtick or story. Perhaps what works so well is that Tosh works within viewers' rooting interests. He doesn't simply mock guests brazen or thick-headed enough to go on, further cementing their persona of "that guy from the video." But when it comes to making fun of jerks, Tosh doesn't hold back.

He often performs sketches riffing on a clip featured on the show. He once mercilessly mocked now-Florida Atlantic University head football coach Lane Kiffin in a sketch where he played Kiffin hosting a public access show. "It turns out he's as bad at being a husband as he is at being a head coach," Tosh said about the newly divorced Kiffin.

Tosh's show is successful and funny due to the work of his writers, and his sensibilities as a stand-up comic. The 41-year-old has been a professional comedian since his college years, performing in the "New Faces" showcase at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal in 1998.

His stand-up is even more unreserved than his show, going further into uncomfortable places, due to a lack of demands from advertisers. His exaggerated persona is heightened further with observations on how great it is to be rich, or how awful it must be to live in a flyover state. He also has a bit on how strong the mentally handicapped are.

Tosh found himself embroiled in controversy in 2012 during a set at L.A.'s Laugh Factory when he decided to joke about rape as a way to deal with a heckler who had objected to his engaging in rape jokes. The moment came while Tosh was making a George Carlin-like argument that humor can be found in anything, no matter how terrible or dark.

It comes with the territory of playing the risky game of dark comedy: When playing with razor-sharp jabs, you might cut yourself on occasion. Regardless, Tosh has moved on, since releasing his fourth stand-up special, People Pleaser, which came out last year and featured the same relentless darkness we've come to expect from him. ♦

— Tosh.Show On Campus • Thu, May 4 at 7:30 pm • $25/$45/$55/$75 • Star Theater at Spokane Arena • 720 W. Mallon • • 279-7000

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