Product Review: “Moshe Kasher: Live in Oakland”

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2012 was undoubtedly a watershed year for Moshe Kasher. An Oakland-grown street punk, turned decorated stand-up performer, Kasher dominated the year beginning with the release of a memoir — Kasher in the Rye — and concluding with a weekend at his home club, the San Francisco Punch Line. In the midst of his accomplishments he released “Moshe Kasher: Live in Oakland” through Netflix, his first stand-up offering since 2009’s “Everyone You Know Is Going To Die, And Then You Are! (Unless You Die First)”. And while the ambitiously long-titled primary offering represents a career on the rise, ‘Live in Oakland’ demonstrates a relative apex, Moshe Kasher 2.0.

Oakland’s flexing, flashing, and fluxing mythos makes a perfect bed for the eponymic ode. Filmed at the New Parish, a handsome arena that comedy can’t quit, located down the street from Stork Club, house of Kasher’s “Smug Shift” co-produced with Brent Weinbach. Kasher’s youth springs further north on Telegraph Ave. and branching narratives thread throughout the region. It’s impossible to imagine Moshe Kasher — sleek, bespectacled, gentrified wardrobe — without the Bay Area’s multicultural, multi-dimensional, cross-cut, motley identity, further reflected in the evening’s audience and ornate backdrop of shimmery, industrial fireflies.

Characterized by committed energy and street-wise wit, the humorist wastes no time, diving headlong into hedonistic histrionics. In the first act, religion and non-religion are spiked with apathetic dismay. He pays forward his annoyance with the “religious loser community” and the “atheist loser community” for their crimes of pretentious meddling in the comedian’s life/Youtube glory. Still, in classic satirical poise, Kasher plays along with dogmatic prevalence as irrefutable consequence, reveling in religion’s absurdity in a nonchalant poof. “Rules are rules,” his response to his father going to hell for being Jewish. Smile. Wink. Everything is joyfully jabbing in the weaving, ironic iconoclasm.

Kasher is a remarkable storyteller. Much of the special is dealt in hilarious turns of fate, social ills and neurotic follies, tangentially evolving from interstitial observations. In laymen’s terms, the jokes and bits float heavily, some aided by turns of absurd, some crystallized by a baiting line and saving tag, some fortified by the passage of time and postscript analysis. Conversely some jokes go nowhere, a small vignette of the comedian’s psyche (e.g. his anecdotal deluge of Star Trek). Live in Oakland isn’t a homecoming of a prodigal son, it’s a celebration of charismatic authority. Presumed beta-man contrasted with confidence, deflecting insults and skirting blunder, all in defiance of definition. The world says, “gay, feeble, nerd” and Kasher says “fuck you” and “fuck me” and “fuck everything” and “Don’t worry, I’m just fucking with you”. Throw in some gesticulation and social consciousness and you’ve got a modern hero. Kasher isn’t just tap dancing, he’s fire breathing, shooting electricity out of his fingertips, hovering above the stage; whatever the atomic number for comedy is, Moshe Kasher is clearly in his element.

It’s potentially discomforting to watch Live in Oakland; a progressive or conservative unease may open an ulcer of indignation. For all of the grossly inappropriate assertions, spiteful retorts, or playful political incorrectness, Kasher provides a perfectly pitched preamble.

“I do not give a fuck if you get offended. But that won’t stop people. They’ll still sort of come up to me after the show, wasting their energy needlessly… If it makes you feel any better, I was just kidding. The whole time. I was joking around. That’s my job. I’m a joker… If any point tonight, you do become offended, we’ve now established that that’s just you being a bitch.”

Check out Moshe Kasher: Live in Oakland for an hour of superb comedy with gift of gab, hella insight and a rousing conclusion too good to spoil. Available now digitally through Netflix Streaming and on CD/MP3 through New Wave Entertainment