Pure Tosh – Arlington-bound comedian Daniel Tosh pushes all the right (and wrong) buttons

For a just-out-of-beta release, “Tosh 2.0” is performing well, with no reported bugs or viruses. The Comedy Central show is hosted by comedian Daniel Tosh, who plays the best of the Web’s viral videos every week and riffs on them. Shot weekly in front of a live audience, it is currently in the middle of its second season, with a third to come. Like many Comedy Central hosts, Tosh has a busy stand-up life outside the tube, and he brings his audacious tour to the Arlington on Saturday.

Tosh has played Santa Barbara before, but typically at UCSB and in small venues. That he can now book the Arlington shows how fast his star is rising.

Since appearing on “Late Show with David Letterman” in 2001, Tosh has staked out a patch of comedic land that some have dubbed sophomoric. If it’s taboo or politically incorrect, Tosh goes after it, raising the ire of the left and the right.

But to take Tosh too seriously would be to fall into his trap — like John Henson, who has influenced the clip-and-commentary style of his TV show. He wears several layers of insincerity under his hoodie and T-shirt. If anything, he enjoys making the white, affluent members of his audience very uncomfortable.

“When I started off, I always seemed to be performing in California, or in Orange County, or I would do winter festivals like Aspen,” he says. “And you’re just in front of these fairly obnoxious rich audiences who on almost any level probably can’t relate to me. I’ve enjoyed, more for myself, pretending that I was one of them, versus the reality of my life.”

One might even argue that it’s precisely that he can seek out material that 10 or 20 years ago would have been verboten for a white comedian to suggest that we are in some sort of post-racial society. At least in terms of jokes, Tosh feels. And a quick search of blogs finds just as many gay fans as there are those calling him homophobic.

“I think it’s a good thing,” he says. “The fan base that comes to see me now is a generation younger than me, which has grown up in a society where things are as equal as they’ve ever been, so pushing it now tends to be more accepted than ever.”

Tosh was born in Germany but grew up in Florida, the son of a preacher. He started his stand-up career when he was an undergrad at the University of Central Florida. He soon moved out to the West Coast, living in a small studio in the Palisades section of Malibu.

“I grew up surfing East Coast Florida as a little kid,” he says. “It was the surfing more than stand-up that was my life-after-college dream.”

He now lives in Hermosa Beach, mostly for the surfing. It is, he says, one of the areas of his life that doesn’t cross over into comedy.

“In general, I don’t have any surfing material,” he says, “mainly because I find the culture of surfing a bit ridiculous. It’s not how I eat, sleep and breathe.”

Tosh has shown his skill at hosting, at riffing on the spot on the street and in interviewing. In 2008, he got to sit down with George Carlin, one of his heroes.

“It was semi-awkward,” he admits. “The funny thing is, I hung out with him three or four times before that and it was way looser. But once he knew I was recording him, it became a little more serious.

“He’s pretty remarkable. ? He’s so scripted in his style of stand-up; he verbatim writes every word out. ? I couldn’t get through two minutes of my stand-up if it had to be memorized.”

But, like Carlin, he works and works his material each tour in order to finish with a taped show. This Saturday’s Arlington gig is close to his June taping, so he says to consider this the best time to see him live. Or, rather, consider yourself warned.

DANIEL TOSH
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Arlington Theatre, 1317 State St.
Cost: $32
Information: (805)963-4408, livenation.com

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