Exclusive: Moshe Kasher Interview (Part 1)

The following interview took place April 4th 2012 at Vitus in Oakland on Moshe Kasher’s book tour. Moshe is a comedian based in Los Angeles, born in New York and raised in Oakland. He’s hilarious, and if you need to catch up, click: here

Courting Comedy: Is 2012 “The Year of Kasher”? Can you without ego or embellishing say, “Yeah, this is my year”? 

Kasher: Well, this is the year that the Mayan calendar comes to a close, right? So I feel like, if and when that does occur, probably my book (Kasher and the Rye) and my stand up special will be eclipsed by the end of the world. If not, this has been a good year. I can’t complain. 

CC: You fucks with the Champs, with Neal Brennan and DJ Douggpound. If you had to choose any black celebrity, who would it be. And it can be anyone, like ‘Pac in ‘95…

Kasher: Oh, they don’t have to be alive?

CC: Alive or dead. Pryor…

Kasher: Martin Luther King?

CC: Martin Luther King, Jesus…

Kasher: Jesus wasn’t black, so let’s start there… 

CC: [Laughs]

Kasher: Oh man, that’s a difficult question… Malcolm X!

CC: Malcolm X?! 

Kasher: That’d be the best interview. I just feel like Martin Luther King would be a little stuffy and Jesus-based but Malcolm X would be great. I don’t know if he would appreciate us interviewing him, but we would have fun. 

CC: Probably after the trip to Mecca. 

Kasher: Yeah.

CC: Bearded Malcolm X.

Kasher: Post-racial acceptance Malcolm X. Either [him] or Jaleel White.

CC: [Laughing] Really?

Kasher: I just want to hear about Stefan Urquelle. ‘What was it like?’

CC: What was the formation of “The Champs”? Because there were talks of you doing a podcast with Ali [Wong] and Baron [Vaughn] and then out of nowhere there was “The Champs”.

Kasher: Right. Baron and I talked about doing a show together with Ali. And it was nice, the beginning part was nice but then Neal Brennan approached me, pretty much at the same time. I thought it would be cool to work with Neal; thought that would be fun because of what he’s done in comedy. He and I clicked really well, and also the idea of us doing this show where we have black guests seemed cool because both Neal and I, (and Douggpound to some degree) have this weird, strange relationship with black culture: Douggpound is this DJ character [that is] a very hip-hop-based stand-up persona. Obviously Neal has worked in “black television” his whole career; he didn’t just do Chappelle Show, he also did In Living Color and a bunch of other projects like that. And I used to be black. 

CC: Of course.

Kasher: So we thought [The Champs] would be neat. And then we also thought we’d have this big group of guests who have never been approached. I would say 85-90% of our guests have never been asked to do a podcast before. 

CC: Yeah, Lexington Steele has never been on Comedy Bang Bang. Even though it would be very appropriate. 

Kasher: It would be awesome. He invented the “Bang Bang”… The thing we were worried about, of course, is the obvious worry that it would seem fetish-y or weird. And I think we avoided that but it remains to be see in what people say. 

CC: You’ve had Bobby Lee and Sasha Gray [on the podcast]. Is there any other melanin-challenged future guests, specifically Jacob Sirof? Any chance of him getting on “The Champs”? 

Kasher: [Laughs] That’s very interesting, you’re shelling for Jacob Sirof right now. We do have another non-black guest coming up; its a very big scoop… Sasha Grey, we thought was okay because we had Flying Lotus on the same episode. So we didn’t break our rule, we just invited an extra. We try to avoid white [people], when possible; we try to fully avoid white. It’s actually been difficult to book black guests week after week.

CC: Are you just not in the right area or do you not know enough people who want to do it? 

Kasher: I think if I did that [format] in any way, if I had any parameters, it would make the podcast booking that much more difficult… It’s just always a struggle to book people, period. 

CC: What was it like being apart of that wave from 2000-2008? Did you expect everybody to “break” as much as they did? Was there anybody that you expected to break a lot more out of your group?

Kasher: I was the last one to really get traction of the whole group. So I was mostly focused on myself and why I wasn’t hitting. It was special and we knew at the time. We thought, “Wow, what a crazy, talented group of people this is”. And we were aware of it when it was happening.  Jasper Redd, he was the first one to really get heat, and then Brent Weinbach and then Louis Katz; things started to roll… it was a pretty neat time. 

CC: Which did you prefer more: Brainwash or the Luggage Store?

Kasher: The Brainwash. That’s where everybody starts… The Brainwash has been responsible for more careers and more people that shouldn’t have had careers, continuing long past the point of needing to… You’re gonna get “A Lot of Love”. Is he still doing that? A lot of love?

CC: Yeah, he’s still doing that. Was there ever a rivalry, specifically with you and Brent. The Smug Shift dichotomy has a very “Big Boi/Andre 3000” vibe to it. Was there ever a competitive rivalry of “I have to work harder because I’m surrounded by such great people”.

Kasher: I never had a rivalry with Brent. Brent took me on the road for a long time; I would open for Brent at clubs. I just appreciated that. There wasn’t a rivalry; like I said, I was the last one to really get traction but I think I was the last one to really figure out my voice. 

CC: Were you vastly different in 2001-2002?

Kasher: Oh, I was very different in the beginning. I did a lot of, like, “black stuff” back then. I had shed that childhood-wannabe image as a teenager. When I started doing comedy I started putting that on as a show; I wasn’t trying to be sincere about it but I was certainly doing it. And I still do it to a small extent on stage [now] but it’s mixed in with a sort of effeminate thing that I do [and] this fast-talky thing. I realize now that it’s probably a defense, you know what I mean, to put that [persona] back on.

CC: What kept you from embracing “the nerd”? You have a lot of nerdy references in your act that you call out as nerdy. What stopped you from going down that niche of being the “cool nerd”?

Kasher: I always say, “you don’t pick your voice, it happens to you”… There’s a story about Michelangelo, [where] somebody came up to him and asked how he created “David”; how did he make something so beautiful and perfect. [He said], “I just got a big block of marble and I chipped away all the parts that weren’t “David”. And I sort of think that’s what we do as comics. You get on stage and you just chip away everything that isn’t your voice until what you’re left with is what you’re left with. 

All photos by Sam Ardrey