Moshe Kasher likes girls. He says it all the time onstage—kind of defensively, mostly jokingly. His dubious straightness, goaded by his “gay Hitler” haircut, is part and parcel of the persona, which is insistent. He talks in hysterics. It comes in outbursts, veiled in a cheeky, smarter-than-you arrogance. Kasher mouths off where others would revert to self-loathing, and his comedy is a string of what-the-fuck observations/accusations. Like when he lays down his ground rules for stand-up: “If at any point you do become offended, that’s just you being a bitch.”
But Kasher’s not without his charms, or his accolades. The West Coast-bred comedian—who cut his teeth in San Francisco and later moved to Los Angeles—won “Best of Fest” at last year’s Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival, and his new Everyone You Know Is Going To Die, And Then You Are (released late last year) was named one of the top 20 comedy albums of 2009 on iTunes. This year is just as busy: Kasher is booked pretty much through August, with numerous festival appearances as well as a possible Comedy Central show in the works. (“I’m not quite ready to fully announce it,” he says, “but it’s in development and I would be one of the stars, if all went well.”) Before his five-night stand at Comedy Works downtown this week, Kasher checked in with The A.V. Club from his hotel room at last week’s Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland to talk interview tactics, the last season of Lost, and how liking girls is more fulfilling than reading Harry Potter (probably).
The A.V. Club: How is the Bridgetown Comedy Festival going?
Moshe Kasher: I like Portland. It’s a cute city. You’ve got a lot of twirly mustaches and things—I’m into that, the hipsters. You know one of the defining characteristics of a hipster is that they claim to not be a hipster, and so nobody here is a hipster. But it’s a good town.
AVC: So does that make you a hipster?
MK: Well, come on, I mean, no—isn’t that what you’re supposed to say?
AVC: If you have to ask—
MK: Right. If you have to ask, you don’t know. And if you don’t know, I’m not interested in talking to you about it. And that should answer the question. I mean, the bands I’m into, honestly, you wouldn’t have even heard of them. Some of them are so obscure, they haven’t even been formed yet. They literally don’t know one another yet, but they’re going to get together and make really weird stuff.
AVC: Are you going to be funny this whole time?
MK: I don’t know. Do you want me to get serious?
AVC: Do whatever you want.
MK: Here’s a serious thing about me being funny this whole time: Sometimes I do these interviews and then I read the interview and it’s the most boring shit ever. It’ll be so super-sincere and earnest, you know? Like, “Yeah, I really think comedy is a thing that you got to try really hard at and I’m just really grateful that my dreams are starting to come true.” And it makes me sound so ridiculously sincere.
When you start getting known for certain things, certain people will ask you the same question again and again. Like Bo Burnham, every time he’s interviewed, people ask him, “So, did you foresee any of this happening? Did you think YouTube [would blow you up]?” It’s literally the same interview he’s giving again and again. But, for me, I’m such a complex person with so many different facets and so much depth that asking me the same question twice seems almost unfair to the reader. I’m going to die a mystery already, so you want to find out as much about me as you can while I’m still here.
AVC: What is your least favorite question to answer?
MK: “Why are you such a faggot?” That’s a tough one. No, I guess the comedy questions are always, “How did you get started?” And it’s not even that that’s a bad question, it’s just so boring. The real question I get the most is, “How do you describe your comedy?” People always ask, “What style are you? What do you talk about?” I don’t know how [to answer that]. Either you don’t know how or you have to use ridiculously pompous words like “edgy.” Describing yourself as edgy is one of the least edgy things a person can do. Like calling yourself a hipster, because then you have to say, “I recognize I’m shallow and desperate for attention.”
AVC: Do you read a lot of reviews about yourself? It seems more fitting for you to ask writers to describe your comedy, instead of vice versa.
MK: Yeah, I guess that’s true. A good description I saw recently on the Comedy Central Insider Blog called me “one of the more breathless, blitzkrieg-style comedians around,” which I thought was a neat description. That was cool. That described in some abstracted way what I do. But I’m getting to a point where I’m trying to stop reading reviews about myself, only because it’s a no-win situation. If they say something nice, you get a little ego pump. But people on the Internet are straight-up cruel, and I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable reading the ridiculous cruelties that people spit out on the Internet. I just can’t deal with it.
AVC: Aren’t hecklers just as cruel at the comedy club?
MK: Comedy is weird, man. Why do people yell out in comedy shows? It’s the only performance art where people feel that they can chime in whenever they want. I’ve always thought it’d be cool if people did that in the theater. Like, “Don’t do it Juliet! He ain’t even dead!” So, I don’t know. People yell out during my show, and I’m pretty good at dealing with that. But people are the worst, you know? I don’t know what they think they’re doing.
AVC: How do you deal with it?
MK: I usually say, “Hey, buddy, what do you do for a living?” And they’ll say, “I work at Chevron.” And I say, “I don’t come down to the gas station and knock the dick out of your mouth, do I?” [Sighs.] And then I whimper like that in an awkward way. [Laughs.] A heckler is a person without value that is wasting the carbon it took to make their body. That’s not a good part of the comedy experience. But doing crowd-work is whole different thing. Talking to the crowd, that’s fun. Sometimes people are having a little too much fun and they jump in and you have to humiliate them, but in a good, fun way. But a heckler is a person who’s actually trying to usurp your show. The way I usually deal with [that person] is I have a syringe I carry on the road with me all the time filled with this biohazard blood I get from the free clinic in Berkeley, and I just wait outside until I see them. I have this Amazonian dart gun, and I just blow that into their neck. Then I set up a webcam at their house, and I watch the different stages of decay that their body goes through.
AVC: That’s pretty involved.
MK: It’s called having a commitment to the craft. Not everybody has that kind of dedication, but I take comedy really seriously.
AVC: You’ve done a lot of shows outside of the traditional comedy club, like in galleries and at dive bars. How do those crowds take your comedy?
MK: If you have a sort of weirder, alt-ier crowd, they’ll let you do more stuff and have more fun and take it to more experimental places, which is really awesome and a really cool thing to be able to do. But also they can often be more like, “Um, I didn’t come to this comedy show to laugh. I came here to scowl and disdain.” So it all depends on the group. The comedy clubs sometimes they can be, “Well, we just want to hear jokes. We don’t want to hear you do weird tangents and be a weirdo.” But at the same, they did come to the show specifically to [see you]. They’re not there to prove to me like, “You’re not funny, motherfucker.” Which sometimes you can feel at these hipster bar shows and art gallery shows. They’re like, “What’s this guy going to do? Tell jokes at the comedy show? Boring.”
AVC: What do you think of the “indie” comedy tag that gets used so much these days?
MK: All that stuff started with Janeane Garofalo and Patton Oswalt and David Cross and stuff—that was “alternative” comedy, and what all those people were essentially the alternative to was this ham-fisted idea of a comedian from the ’80s with a shiny shirt on talking about the difference between men and women and airplane food or whatever. That guy doesn’t really exist much anymore, that’s not really what comedy is about anymore, and now David Cross and Patton Oswalt and Janeane Garofalo are big stars. And so alternative comedy, in a weird way, doesn’t even exist except by its own self-definition of being an “other,” like from Lost. The only thing that makes an alternative comic an alternative comic is that we follow Richard from the island, and Jacob. But Jacob’s dead now and we don’t know what to do.
[But] that’s what makes us alternative. Not everybody gets it, where we’re coming from. Sometimes it’s a Lost reference, and people don’t get it. Because those people maybe aren’t cool enough to have been watching Lost for the last six years, and spending hours and hours with their laptops propped up on their chest, wasting their lives away watching a show that will never answer all of the questions we have about it. I’m literally more excited about Lost than I am my own career.
AVC: What will you do when the show ends?
MK: That is a great question. This is what happened to me when I got to the end of the Harry Potter series—just kidding, I never read that because I’m not a fucking loser. But let’s say I did read it, even though I didn’t because I like girls, I would have started to experience a profound sense of loss/panic as I got to the end of the last book, [asking] “What am I going to do with my life?” But you what the answer is? Same as it always was: more masturbation.