"My flatmate Jean first told me about the tax. I was eating some cereal, being a typical bloke, and she said, 'You don't know how bullshit this whole thing is.' I said 'nope'. And then she explained it."
From this unpromising start, Daniel Sloss developed an excellent standup routine on the longstanding absurdity of tampons being classed as a luxury item at last year's Edinburgh Fringe.
"For me it wasn't about making a statement," he says, "it was really about me not been able to understand why they weren't free." It's an important point and one which perhaps explains the success of the routine. After all, it could have come across differently had Sloss decided on a current issue in a more deliberate, 'educate the public' way. "I didn't think doing that routine would affect any decision, but I really did love watching the reaction — particularly of men in the audience — who had maybe thought 'well this really doesn't affect me' and seeing the penny drop."
Daniel Sloss famously started standup while still in his teens. He's still sometimes described as "hormone ridden" and "half-Xbox". But he's 24 now and with eight years of professional experience it's maybe time those of us commentating on comedy dropped all that. His comedic style and outlook has naturally evolved: "I released a DVD when I was 21," he says, "which was from all the material I'd done in the first two years of my career," then he adds, spiritedly, but with the voice of man who's just been reminded of his teenage love letters, "It's OK..."
"What I did like about after I'd released that DVD was I could concentrate on completely new material, which had a little more point to it... People kept telling me my shows were dark but at that time I didn't think they were at all." Most recently — with a show where he talks about death and God along with tampons — Sloss has embraced the label: "With the latest show I just thought I'll call it Dark. Then people will know what to expect from the poster." But now he says, people still come up afterwards and say with surprise, "'ooh, it was a bit dark...'!"
Sloss now prepares for his New York debut with a week’s run at Soho Theatre, and he faces a 'kill your darlings' style challenge as he curates four years worth of material — including much of Dark — into one show. But he knows there's one group a comedian can trust with such difficult choices: "I'm attached to some bits more than others, but being in front of an audience is the best way to write for me — and the best way to edit — because that's where you get a genuine reaction."
He's already established something of a following in America appearing four times in one year on Conan O'Brien's eponymous show. Sloss has enjoyed these appearances for the opportunity to perform as the thing he actually does: "In America, they tend to say 'oh you're a comedian come and do standup'. In the UK it's a bit more difficult because it's 'oh you're a comedian, come on this panel show' or something entirely different. It's about being a personality rather than a comedian."
His weariness of comedy on UK TV has recently prompted him to make an online sitcom MUFF Productions, an anarchic series made of pure fun with Tom Stade and a whole motley bunch of comedians. What is interesting about Sloss is he clearly could've gone down the TV personality route despite trying to tell us: "I have no personality." He sells out the Edinburgh International Conference Centre during the Fringe, his face looks out at the city from gigantic advertisements on the side of double-decker buses and his teenage start to comedy makes him an ideal poster boy for more popular styles of standup. But Sloss seems instead to be much happier going down the indie path, doing his own thing, and not using his success to impress TV executives who, "haven't been in a comedy club for 10 years but tell comedians what's funny.
"I just want to do stuff that's fun."
Daniel Sloss: Dark Revior runs at Soho Theatre, Mon 25 - Sat 30 Jan, 8.30pm, Tickets: £10 - £15.