By Graeme Wiggins
VANCOUVER – Comedy exists in a precarious space in the public forum. On one hand, it relies on the transgression of norms, but on the other, in today’s political climate transgression can be strongly frowned upon. Moshe Kasher is a comedian who’s made his name on walking that fine line, unafraid to move in areas that demand controversy. His old podcast, The Champs, that he hosted with Neal Brennan, talked about issues of race, while his newer podcast Hound Tall looks at various controversial topics in a town hall format. His short lived Comedy Central show, Problematic, as the name implies, dropped the viewer into charged conversations about hot button issues from novel perspectives.
Kasher’s stand up material tends to shy away from the explicitly political, focusing more on the task of just being funny. Being controversial for controversy’s sake is not something he works towards.
“That’s one of the early pitfalls for a comedian,” he explains. “Now that comedy has gotten so weird and politicized, these are some of the easy traps that young comedians fall into. It’s almost the same thing with a different melody but it’s the same song they play. One is to be politically woke without being funny, but you still get a reaction. You get what they call clapter; you make a political point, and people are like ‘Yeah I agree with that, YAY!’ Where ‘yay’ is kind of similar to ‘haha.’ On the other side of the comedic spectrum you have people who are like, ‘I know what I’ll do, I’ll just say the most offensive thing, also without being funny.’ You know, like ‘BOKO HARAM, ISIS, AIDS, 9-11.’ The crowd is like ‘I don’t like those things,’ and they react with ‘OOOOH!’ And ‘ooooh’ is similar enough to ‘haha’. My thing is all I ever want to be is funny. Obviously funny is subjective, but objectively speaking I am funny.”
While he doesn’t write jokes with the express intent to offend, no one is going to be pleased with everything. He remains unafraid to wade into potentially problematic waters. He couldn’t do it any other way: “There’s this big charge, particularly among left leaning people (I am one) but they will go, ‘Just write different stuff.’ Let’s say the charge is ‘Don’t write offensive material.’ I think that’s a stupid and reductive one. What I think is that people underestimate how difficult writing stand up is.”
He uses an analogy to make the point clearer: “Take ‘You shouldn’t be dirty.’ I don’t believe that Dave Attell could be like ‘I accept that argument, I’m going to write an hour of Brian Regan material.’ Just as Brian Regan isn’t holding himself back from a 40-minute pussy eating chunk that he knows he can write; it’s just not his brand. You kind of discover who you are as a comedian. It’s not a choice-based thing. I don’t make a choice about the things I observe in the world that I find funny. I just look at the world and write as much stuff in my voice as I can.”
It’s clear Kasher has given a lot of thought to his comedic sensibility. But he wants to make sure people coming to the show don’t have the wrong idea.
“I feel like I was overly intellectual in this interview, but my comedy is extremely immature and very vulgar. Some of that classic stuff that Brian Regan will talk about. I want people to come see me with low expectations of the sophistication they can expect to receive.”
Catch Moshe Kasher live at Yuk Yuk’s on September 28.comedy, hound tall, Moshe Kasher