It's no surprise that comedian Moshe Kasher has a unique perspective on life that shines through in both his stand-up and written word. Before graduating high school, he was a sign language interpreter, drug addict, Hasidic Jew, and avid gangster rap fan. Both of his parents were deaf and he lived in both New York and Oakland. As a published author, Kasher explored his upbringing with humor but as a comedian he explores humor with his own brand of self-deprecation and the occasional rage-filled outburst.
You might recognize Kasher from different series on the Nerdist network and Comedy Central's @midnight, which he says is "about the most fun you can have on a late night show," but Kasher is looking to do more acting and writing in the future, including some episodes of Maron on IFC.
However, if you haven't watched the comedian's stand-up special on Netflix, do yourself a favor and clear your schedule for the next hour. Kasher's comedy is for the casually intellectual, highly sarcastic, and painfully self-aware. As a writer and playwright, Kasher says his love of literature influenced his comedy.
"My stand-up happens to be particularly literary, not in that it's of literary value, but there's a lot of big words," he says. "I kind of think of them all as the same thing. . . it's all just me having fun with language and making people laugh."
After his childhood in Oakland, peppered with times in and out of rehab and mental institutions, Kasher got clean and sober and began writing, going to college, and, eventually, performing stand up.
"I started comedy like everybody else did. I just got up on stage and, luckily, I got laughs instead of boos," he says. "I don't think my ego could have taken my first set being a bad set, and so I got trapped in the undertow that is comedy."
Thinking of humor in general, and not just stand-up comedy, as his end product, Kasher says he is more open to writing scripts, books, and, of course, more stand-up routines. While certain parts of his stand-up bits tend to draw offense, like his rant on how Ireland is a terrible place, Kasher says his goal is not to offend, but to make people laugh.
"I'm not some warrior for social justice or comedic heroism. If the joke offends people every time, I'll stop telling it not because it's offensive, but because it's not working," he says. "I like for everyone to have a good time... if they do take offense, they should know that I'm only doing this so I can work through myself"
That being said, he says he doesn't really see any use in not talking about offensive topics as a society because, as talking about his sordid past in his comedy, it helps the process of working through issues.
"I'm not a big believer in things being off limits conversation wise," Kasher says. "I think that's the enemy of actual critical thought and actual real communication."
Kasher does admit that some topics don't "make sense" for him to talk about, though he couldn't immediately think of an example. But overall most things are fair game as long as they get a laugh, which is pretty much his indicator of success.
"Everybody's an expert at stand-up comedy," he says "All you have to do is laugh and then you've determined if it's funny."
While drug addiction doesn't play a big role in his stand-up comedy, it is hashed out in his memoir. Kasher says that there are two types of comics: sober alcoholics and alcoholics, but he doesn't feel the need to get high like some comedians do before performances.
"Usually I sit back and reflect on the power of genius and how lucky I am that I've been given so much of it," he jokes.
While Kasher notes the finer points of Phoenix culture when reflecting on the city, such as heat, tribal tattoos, big biceps, flip flops, and energy drinks, he says the politics of our state are really ripe for comedy.
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"I think of your governor and sheriff and the true heroes. Those are people who are not afraid to be racist or homophobic in a world where that's really frowned upon. . . I appreciate that," he adds. "Just kidding."
Earnestly, Kasher mentions that he does love the desert and is excited for his six set run at Stand Up Live in Downtown Phoenix. While he isn't crazy about audience members coming up and offering critiques or their favorite "Jew jokes" or even their girlfriends, Kasher says he hopes to see lots of people laughing and lots of enchiladas while he's in town.
For tickets ($17 to $20) and more information about Moshe Kasher's Phoenix performances Thursday, May 1, through Sunday, May 4, visit the www.standuplive.com.