There’s no kind way to put this, so there’s no point in sugar-coating it regardless of how many frat bros may disagree: Daniel Tosh isn’t funny. Even if you find his Comedy Central show, Tosh.0 to be the apex of humor, that doesn’t mean that Tosh himself is humorous. And if you’ve ever seen his stand-up, you would know this. On stage, Tosh is a sort of high-pitched, squeaky-voiced version of Dane Cook, and like Cook he delivers spasmodic gyrations in places where there should be jokes. His routine is not good.
But clearly in Tosh.0 he’s found his stride thanks to his — and his staff’s — ability to find funny videos online, curate them, and present them to an audience of viewers eager to see the next poor bastard on the internet making a fool of himself. Tosh may not be funny, but he knows one timeless axiom: No one ever went broke overestimating the public’s appetite for schadenfreude. When Tosh presents an outrageous video and then cracks a joke that he or the writers for his show crafted, all he’s doing is kicking the extra point after someone else just scored the touchdown.
I use the sports metaphor because Tosh is currently involved in one of the lamest media pissing contests in recent memory. For some reason, ESPN’s SportsCenter recently decided to unveil something called Awesome Video Segment, which is largely modeled on Tosh’s “web redemption” bit and even used Tosh’s signature question, “Are you ready to give it another shot?” So unique is “give it another shot,” the exact phrase return a mere 9.24 million Google results. For a little perspective, “Daniel Tosh” yields 380,000 results.
Tosh responded, blasting ESPN by parodying its Sports Science segment in a somewhat funny bit. And while ESPN can certainly be ridiculed for appropriating the idea for the segment, at the end of the day Tosh hasn’t a leg to stand when it comes to accusing others of stealing anything. After all, the whole reason Tosh is famous is because he figured out a way to repackage other peoples’ viral videos and blast them out to a broader audience. Basically, Tosh was Upworthy before there was Upworthy.
More than this, though, Tosh’s brand of humor is often controversial, but for all the wrong reasons. Whereas legendary comics like Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, and Louis C.K. have challenged conventional mores by holding a mirror up to their audiences and daring them to look long and carefully at what they otherwise might not, Tosh is a protector of the status quo. His targets are almost exclusively the powerless, the stigmatized, the personae non gratae of society. While he might piss off a few social justice warriors with the occasional rape joke, he could never be accused of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.