‘Kasher in the Rye’
An Oakland funnyman heads to “cool, weird places.”
Photo by Art Streiber
Moving from New York to Oakland with his deaf mother and surviving off welfare, Moshe Kasher had a tough time. As detailed in his memoir, Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient, and Then Turned 16, his teen years could have landed him on Dr. Phil. Kasher rebounded nicely. A college degree and a move back to New York put him in touch with an old Oakland friend, comedienne Chelsea Peretti, who introduced him to the comedy scene there where he flourished. In 2008, he moved to LA and things really took off. One of Variety’s 10 comics to watch, Kasher is riding the wave these days. I caught up with him to ask him about his Oakland days and his new Comedy Central show, Problematic with Moshe Kasher, a talk show in which Kasher et al. promise to solve every problem that has ever existed and bring peace and harmony to the internet once and for all.
Paul Kilduff: What do people say when you tell them you grew up in Oakland?
Moshe Kasher: You would often get like a clever person from some fucked up backcountry place like Phoenix, Arizona, telling you, “I’m sorry.” That would be the most often heard refrain from white people around the country. I’d say, “Oh, I’m from Oakland.” They’d go, “I’m sorry.” Thinking they made a clever joke, and I would always say, “Oh, I’m not. I’m sorry that you grew up completely unexposed to people of color.”
PK: How was Oakland Tech?
MK: I had a nice time there. I will also say that I was hitting bottom on my life as a teenage drug-addicted loser, so I just slept a lot of the time. It’s very difficult to bully a sleeping child. I swear to God I slept my way through all of Tech. I was just passed out the whole day.
PK: What are the marketing challenges of being a nerdy guy who everybody thinks is gay but isn’t?
MK: I reject every part of your question. I don’t think I present any marketing challenges: I’m good looking, I have a keen sense of style, and a sharp brain.
PK: But you bring it up a lot.
MK: I don’t really talk about that much on stage anymore, because the world’s changed a little bit, and our ideas of masculinity and sexuality have become a little more nuanced. I’ve also become a little bit more masculine in my style of dress. But that’s because I think fashion has gone toward a little bit more of a masculine style. But that’s not that important. I’m sure your readers aren’t that interested in work-wear and how that’s changed. The more interesting point is I think that people’s ideas of what masculinity is have changed a little bit, and I think that’s a good thing.
PK: At the beginning of your concert film Live in Oakland, you say if anyone’s offended by your performance, they’re just being “a little bitch.” What do you mean by that?
MK: Well, that joke is more necessary than ever, right? That hasn’t changed. People are more offended than ever these days.
PK: What’s going on with that? Is it just the Left being offended?
MK: I think that it’s a gross mischaracterization when people pretend that the Left holds the monopoly on being offended. I feel like the Right and the Left get offended with equal measure, and they both have an enormous amount of hypocrisy where they pretend that every time they get offended, it’s because the other side did something offensive; and every time the other side gets offended, it’s because they’re getting upset about something that you shouldn’t be upset about. I think in general we’ve gotten to a point where there’s so much access due to social media connectivity, that if you get enough people screaming about how offended they are, you can affect a real change. You can get someone fired. Katie Rich on Saturday Night Live makes a tweet about Barron Trump, and the Right got hurt by her while at the very same time pretending the people at UC Berkeley that were protesting Milo Yiannopoulos’ speech were somehow the enemies of free speech. It’s like everybody’s a hypocrite, everybody’s offended, everybody’s a snowflake, and in reality, it’s just that we’ve lost an ability to talk to each other about things that we disagree with each other about.
PK: How important is it to make the late night television talk show rounds when you have YouTube and other places for exposure?
MK: I think this is a good transfer point from politics to comedy, because what’s happening in comedy and in entertainment is the same thing that is happening in politics and the rest of the world, which is that the connectivity that we experience because of the internet is shaking up everything. There is nothing important anymore. I mean you can be a YouTube superstar, or you can be a TV superstar, and there’s no real road to do it anymore. So no, I don’t think late night TV is important at all, or it can be as important as anything could be. And that’s good and it’s bad.
PK: Do you have a favorite show to appear on? Conan?
MK: I do not have a favorite. I like all talk show hosts that book me exactly equally. They can all read that quote and have me back.
PK: What’s up with your new show on Comedy Central?
MK: We’re trying to create a new category of TV or maybe resurrect an old category by combining the Phil Donahue of it all with modern comedy. I think we’re really kind of creating a new category.
PK: You’re reprising the Phil Donahue walk-around-with-the-cordless-mic thing?
MK: Yeah, we’re literally involving the audience, and I’m allowing them to stand up and have their voices heard. Much in the same way we’ve been talking this whole time about how the internet has opened up possibilities for people to get heard and to get connected to one another, I think this show is the ultimate iteration of that. Where people can actually stand up and ask their question on the air.
PK: Can you reveal any of the controversial topics?
MK: None of these are a hundred percent for sure yet, but we might talk about how to topple a leader, aka impeachment. How possible is impeachment? We might talk about how the internet is changing our brains. How technology has changed the way we think. We might talk about the dark web. We’re going to a lot of cool, weird places, and I’m really excited to be a part of it.
This report appears in the June edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.
Published online on June 23, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.