Daniel Sloss: It's only a story



Good afternoon, everything all good? (Audience) Yeah! Lovely. We're all storytellers at different points in our lives. We've all told stories in different ways in different scenarios. Whether you've been a parent telling a child a bed time story in a desperate bid to make them go to sleep, whether you've been a friend telling a friend about another friend's drunken antic at the weekend to make yourself seem slightly less embarrassed. Or whether you've been at a party telling a story to try and impress the red-head in the corner and you regale a tale about this time you were very witty and snappy, and this verbal encounter you had with another person. But you weren't really that funny or snappy in reality, you only thought of comebacks on the way home, but she doesn't need to know that. She's on her third martini, she's ready to go. We all tell stories in different ways as well. When my dad tells stories he's straight to the point. It's all the facts, no frills. This happened, this happened then this happened, therefore this happened. Moral of this story is: Don't drink tequila with your mother otherwise you happen. (Laughter) When my mum tells a story, she likes to have all the extra details, all the back stories, all the character biographies and by the end, it's been like a nine-hour version of Inception. You're not sure what's happened you just know apparently someone your mum works with is a bit of a cow. (Laughter) When my grandparents tell stories they tell stories the way old people tell stories. They're very humble, don't like to brag. It's always stuff like: "Oh, and then I got my medal from Winston Churchill for saving all those orphans, but enough about me, how's school? Children are the opposite. When my brothers tell stories, they do the thing all children do which is they have so much enthusiasm and excitement that they promise a story that's never going to live up to your expectations. "And then what happened?" "And then we went outside." "And then what happened?" "Then Matthew was here." "Then what happened?" "Then he farted." "Great." 90% of stories my brothers have told me has always ended with an unpleasant bodily function. Everyone is a storyteller, even in the media: television, newspapers, tabloids, podcasts, music, artists. Everything's a different way of telling a story. I tell stories differently as well. I'm a comedian. I tell stories that are punchy, jokey, all the way through in order to keep an audiences ever-shortening attention span solely focus on me. I tell true stories, I tell exaggerated stories, I tell stories that are completely and utterly made up. Total lies. Like, I'll have been sitting with my friends, having a drink, and one of them'll say something like: "Ah, wouldn't it be funny if this happened?" And I'll think to myself: "Yeah, that would be funny." And then I shamelessly take it down in my iPhone. Take it home. Write out. And somehow integrate myself into this story so I'd become a hero, so I can then go out on stage in front of a room full of strangers, in a desperate bid to get them to like me. (Laughter) Because that's all a comedian is. We're desperate storytellers. All we do is go out to a room full of people we've never met and beg them to like us. So if at any point you're wondering why I agreed to do this talk, that's why. (Laughter) And also because my mum told me that if I turn down the opportunity to do a TEDTalk, she'd put me up for adoption. I'm 22 years old, I don't know how she'd go about that, but it's best not to argue with her when she's been drinking. You see that? That was a perfect example. I made that entirely up, just so half of you went: "Ha" (Laughter) I was willing to fabricate a story about my mother being an alcoholic with an emotional problem who was willing to disown me as a human being just so 50 of you went: "Very good." (Laughter) That's what I mean by "desperate storyteller". And the thing is we're the only storytellers, though, that really get in trouble for our stories. Every few weeks there is something in the newspaper about this comedian that said something awful or offensive that's offended one member of the audience who, by the way, nine times out of ten, is an idiot. And then they talk about it on the news and everything. They get scientists and doctors to come on and analyse the joke, interview the traumatized audience member, and then they all sit down and discuss, at length, a joke which lasted one minute in an hour-long set and we all sit patiently and wait for the officials to tell us whether we were offended or not. And then at the end of it, they decide that we're offended. Perhaps the comedian shouldn't talk about rape or murder, those sort of things on stage, that they shouldn't be broadcast in a household and we all feel quite good about ourselves. Then switch over to Eastenders or True Blood where there are scenes of murder, sexual audacity, drug abuse, racially invoked crimes and we all go: "This is amazing!" Why is it different? How come when a comedian says something as a joke, it's offensive? But when it's acted out in front of you, it's intriguing, it's a twist. Actors are never criticized or abused for their roles in films. Nobody came out of "Inglorious Bastards" going: "Oh, I can't believe Christopher Waltz killed all those Jewish people. What an awful man!" Nobody came out Harry Potter thinking: "You know what? I never trusted Snape. Not since he had that awful German accent and tried to kill John McClane. (Laughter) There you go. People don't get upset because they know it's fake. They know the actors on stage are just portraying characters. So are comedians. That's our job, We're storytellers but we're also so vain that we like to put ourselves in the stories. We're the writers, directors, and stars of our own show where we're just playing an exaggerated parody of ourselves. Because we're not going to be ourselves onstage. We might play a version of ourselves. But we can't be our true selves. If we were to come on stage and talk to you about our real opinions with balanced, thought-through points, we wouldn't be comedians, we would be politicians and you'd hate us even more. Right? When we come on stage, we have to find ways to make you laugh and our way of doing that is to come out and say something completely stupid and ludicrous to make you laugh. Another method of doing it is to take a completely, utterly, point that no one would agree with, something very obscure and blatantly wrong and find a way to twist it round and make it seem valid just for a second. For example, if I were to make the statement: "I don't think children should smoke." Everyone in this room would agree with it, yeah? But if i were to come out on stage and say: "I think every child under the age of 13 should be forced to smoke four packs of cigarettes a day because as my brothers are getting older, it turns out they're very close to being able to beat me in a foot race. That's a way of turning it around. You're not laughing at the fact that I'm trying to kill my brothers. You're laughing at me for being an idiot for thinking that's a good idea. OK? And that's what we do with our comedy. We're playing stupid versions of ourselves. For example, if Ricky Gervais, Frankie Boyle, or Jimmy Carr were actually as big as the bigoted, racist, fascist, homophobic, sexists that the Daily Mail made them out to be, they would probably end up working for the Daily Mail. (Laughter) They're making the stuff up to get that reaction from you. The reason I mentioned those names - Frankie Boyle, Ricky Gervais, Jimmy Carr - is they're the names commonly associated with "offensive comedy." The reason I put offensive comedy in inverted commas there isn't because I'm young and hip, it's because, basically, I don't really get the term "offensive comedy." No comedian wants to offend you, that's not our job. Our job is to make you laugh, make you think, make you smile, make you want to sleep with us so that our night in that hotel room is slightly less depressing. (Laughter) Not to upset you in any way, shape, form. Because, the thing about it is when comedians are telling these stories, it's to get any form of a reaction out of you. And Jimmy Carr, famously, was in trouble recently. He made a joke about the Paralympics. He made a joke that our troops in Iraq were getting injured but at least that would make us have a good Paralympic team. And people went mental. People were so upset. If you were to believe the tabloids, trains stopped on the track so that people could get off in order to vomit at how disgusted they were by this joke. People killed themselves, they were so disgusted by what he said. Alright? That's not the case. The only people who were not offended by that joke? The war veterans, who found it hysterical. They thought it was great. They repeated to each other. So if they weren't offended by that joke, who's got the right to be offended? People have developed an amazing new ability recently. People can be offended on behalf of other people. You can't be offended on behalf of someone. Feelings are non-transferable. You can't be a husband standing beside a wife giving birth going: "Don't worry, honey. I'm feeling pain on behalf of you." She would beat you to death. (Laughter) Nobody asked these people to be offended on behalf of them. They just did it themselves. They jumped in front of a bullet that was heading towards a tree. Alright? It was a blatantly stupid sacrifice they never needed to make. It's amazing. One of the other topics, one of the most controversial ones last year, was that Frankie Boyle made his comment about Katie Price and her family. Regardless of your opinions on the joke, which everyone will be divided on, don't pay that in context, you have to understand that Frankie Boyle made those jokes about Katie Price. Not to her. About her. He made that joke onstage in front of a room full of people who were fully expecting him to make that sort of comment. It wasn't until the newspapers phoned up Katie Price and repeated that joke to her several times in order to get a reaction. That's when she knew about it. I am fully aware that there are many people out there in the world who don't like me, who say mean things about me everyday, but I'd rather not know. OK? If you came up to me and you told me that there was a man I'd never met before who was saying horrible things about me and you then listed the awful things he said about me to my face, you're the bad guy. That person has the right to say whatever he wants about me. I've never met him but he can say what he wants, that's his right. It wasn't until you told me that I knew it was going on. You've turned it into a personal attack. Mostly when comedians are making jokes about these celebrities and celebrity culture, it's no different from stuff you hear from friends. The banter we have every day with our mates about some celebrity on television that we don't particularly like. Are you trying to suggest that celebrities don't know they're ridiculed by the general public? That Katie Price thinks that Frankie Boyle is the only comedian that doesn't respect her life choices? No, of course. We're just individuals, willing to risk going onstage, saying what everyone else down the pub is saying on a Friday night. It seems the general public can say whatever they want about celebrities but comedians can't, and that's hypocrisy. That's not fair. There is a market for shock comedy. A huge market, OK? But there's also a market for legging sadomasochism and Justin Bieber. All arguably more offensive than anything anyone's ever said. I'm not trying to say that you shouldn't be offended or upset by things. I'm in no position to tell you what should or shouldn't upset you. That is your right to react however you want But, we comedians also have a right; a right to say whatever we want to make our audience laugh and get the reaction that we want. We're fortunate enough to live in a society where there is loads of comedy nowadays. Comedy's bigger than it's ever been. So if you don't like one style of comedy, you can go see another one. Everything's catered for. But we should be allowed to do whatever makes our audience laugh. Not people that weren't there, the audience that paid to come see us, that traveled around the world and countries sometimes to come and see us do what we do without having to worry that there's someone in the audience who might take one of our jokes out of context and then repeat it. Because most of the time the jokes are taken out of context. You know, you're only given the brutal punchline. You're only told the joke by a news presenter with her sour face just repeating it. That's not how it was delivered. You're not given the context, you're not given the setup, you're not given the atmosphere, you're not even given the audience reaction. And that's not fair. You don't take other storyteller's stories out of context. If I were to tell you when I was five years old, my dad would tell my a story about a mass murderer who would disguise himself as a close relative in order to get close to a young girl so that he could have his way with her, and just before he managed to do that, he was brutally murdered. Everyone would agree that my dad's a dreadful man. But if i point out that that's the basic story line for 'Little Red Riding Hood,' a lot less people are phoning child services. OK? You know how it was intended to be delivered and you expected that way. Alright? A story is just a story, and a joke is just a joke. You knew the stories that you heard as a kid weren't true. Right? There was no monster under the bed, no Boogie Man in the corner. Your granddad wasn't really ripping off his thumb and taking the pain exceptionally well. He was just doing it. Please apply the same logic to our stories. We're saying these jokes as jokes. There's very rarely malicious intent behind it. There may not be jokes that you like, but what we're doing is taking a concept and we're exaggerating it, lying about it, turning it in such a way you weren't expecting it. And sometimes, we turn it in a way that you don't like. But that's your problem. The world doesn't revolve around you. Ignore it. Move on. Forget about it. Alright? You seem to assume that comedians haven't gone through any hardships. Whereas most of the time it's a hardship that's caused us to get into comedy. Our reaction to our hardships was to make light of the situation and get over it, as opposed to going round the country making sure that nobody ever mentions it ever again to hurt my delicate soul. So that's my point, that's the point I'm trying to make. If at any point you've [dis]agreed with anything I've said, don't worry, it was just a story, I made it all up. Thank you very much. (Applause)

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