It's amazing just how much mainstream popularity and success comedian Daniel Tosh has achieved in the last few years, given how dark and nasty some of his comedy can be. It must have something to do with his endlessly upbeat delivery and smartass smile; he gets away with saying terrible things because he lets us know from the start that he doesn't really mean it. And while his new album and stand-up special, Happy Thoughts, doesn't find him as dark as he's been in the past (like on his debut album, True Stories I Made Up), he still goes to some surprisingly black places -- particularly for a comic at the absolute height of his popularity. There are jokes about racism and sexism and doing terrible things to babies on Happy Thoughts that could probably end the career of a lesser comedian -- one who doesn't let us know he's in on the joke. Tosh has created a persona on stage that allows him to get away with just about anything, and that means that an unusually wide audience is getting exposed to some pretty transgressive comedy. That's a good thing.
At the same time, Tosh's on stage persona creates a chasm of ironic distance between himself and the audience. Unlike comedians such as Louis C.K. or Patton Oswalt -- guys who mine their own lives and personalities for their acts -- we know learn nothing about Daniel Tosh on Happy Thoughts other than that he's annoyed by most things and almost everything should be made fun of. Normally, that kind of worldview would put me off; luckily, Happy Thoughts is funny enough that I can overlook any of my usual reservations about that kind of thing. Joke after joke, I find myself impressed at just how acid-black Tosh can go and keep the audience with him (though, when they won't come along, he's a little too quick to deconstruct his own comedy, once again creating an even greater "it's just a joke" distance). Most of the material on Happy Thoughts is Tosh's usual brand of observational humor, though he does branch out a little into more political and social stuff this time around. His political material falls a little flat, and a long routine on the Olympics, while very funny, feels a little dated (they took place a few years ago at this point), but several of his social observations about race and gender are among the best stuff he's done. I like that Tosh hasn't tempered his comedy to make it more palatable now that he's got his own hit TV show. On Happy Thoughts, he pushes the audience to come along with him -- not the other way around. That's how it ought to be.
The Happy Thoughts DVD includes the full-length, uncut special, plus -- as an added bonus -- the censored version that debuted on Comedy Central. While I'll have no use for that version in the future, I like that both options are included if only as a curiosity; as a student of comedy, it's neat to compare the two versions side by side to see what does and doesn't make the cut. Tosh's "encore" is also included as a special feature, and it's a mess -- rambling and only intermittently funny, which Tosh himself calls attention to. Again, though, I'm glad it's there. Also included are the sets from the opening acts, Jasper Redd and Matt Fulchiron, which is a nice touch. I wish all of these features could be watched one after the other via a branching option, so as to provide a picture of a complete night of comedy. I'm not sure I'd use that option, but it should be there. The final bonus feature is a short piece called "A Day in the Life," which follows Tosh around as he works on his hit Comedy Central series, Tosh.0.
- Release Date: 3/8/11
- Running Time:: 58 minutes
- Studio: Comedy Central
- 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Dolby 2.0 Stereo (English)
DVD Bonus Features
- Comedy Central Aired Version
- "A Day in the Life" Featurette
- Opening Acts: Jasper Redd/Matt Fulchiron