Sketchfest Q&A: Moshe Kasher

From SF Weekly

January 19, 2010
By Irene McGee


SF Sketchfest brings together amazing comics in from all over the U.S., but the best news is we also get a couple of locally-grown superstars this weekend at the Punch Line when Brent Weinbach and Moshe Kasher take the stage (Thursday 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. joined by comedian Josh Fadem). Both Weinbach and Kasher got their start in the Bay Area and have since become award-winning comics whose careers have reached critical tipping-points. We were lucky enough to grab these two for Q & As about their funny profession. Below is Kasher’s interview.

Kasher has performed on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham, and at The Montreal “Just For Laughs” festival, Jamie Foxx’s Laffapalooza, and Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival (where he won Best of Fest). Most recently, Kasher’s album Everyone You Know is Going to Die, and Then You Are was one of the top 20 comedy albums of 2009 on iTunes.

How did you get your start in comedy?

I’m from Oakland and I started doing comedy around 2001. I moved to L.A. about a year and a half ago, but I was a Bay Area comedian up until I moved down here. It was great starting in San Francisco. I really think it’s is the best place to start in the country. The expectation of quality is high, and you can’t get away with crap because there are great comedians. There’s great comedy history, and great comedy clubs. You’ll sink or swim on a higher level of expectation. The Punch Line is one of the best clubs in the world. It’s an intimidating place if you’re a younger comic, but the community is so lucky to have a place with such a high threshold and standard. When you jump through all the hoops and figure out how to get work at the Punch Line and Cobb’s, then by the time you travel to L.A. and New York you’re not scared. Now you have the chops to get noticed. If you start in L.A., you’ll get noticed, but you won’t be as good. Plus, the Bay Area is the best place on earth.

Did you have a day job?

I did have a day job. I was a sign language interpreter from when I was 17, but I don’t do that anymore. Both of my parents were deaf. I grew up in a deaf household. I don’t do any jokes about it really, but yeah that was my day job.

You’ve been getting noticed a lot more lately. Is it true that you are a Youtube success story?

I mean 300,000 people viewed a clip I had on there, so it’s not a crazy viral success story. It was on the homepage of Youtube. I don’t think the video alone was the thing, but I think they put that on there because I was starting to get a little bit of traction. I had just won The Best of Fest at the Aspen Rooftop Comedy festival. From there I was invited to go to the Montreal comedy festival, which is one of the most prestigious comedy events in the world, and I was put in the best of the new faces show and did well there. Then I got a spot on Live at Gotham on Comedy Central and that was great. Finally, at the end of the year my new album came out and it was one of the Top 20 comedy albums of 2009 on iTunes. Then, to top it all off, the next week iTunes announced their “Top New Artists” in various genres and I was the “Top New Comedy Artist of 2009.” It’s been quite a year.

Wow that’s an amazing year. But has the success been overnight?

No, I worked hard for years. What’s funny about being the best “new” comedy artist on iTunes–and I realized this about all those other music categories too–none of us are actually “new” artists. We are all people who have been grinding long enough to get noticed and we just got discovered. So I’m not really a new artist–I mean I’ve been doing this for years–but I’ve come into my own.

Actually, people sometimes after a show will want advice from me, because they want to get into comedy. Surprisingly, my advice is always the same – which is, don’t [do it]. I do not recommend comedy to anybody, but then again, I guess if you can’t say no and you have to do comedy, then you need to do it all the time. That’s what it requires. You have to be on stage three, four, five nights a week.

Tell me about the show this weekend. Are you excited about it?

Totally, it’s going to be a phenomenal show for anyone who hasn’t seen Brent. He’s just a weird, abstract, comedy through the looking glass, Andy Kaufman type of comic. Whereas I’ve got an alternative angle, but I do a more classic stand-up comedy act and I do crowd work. Josh is a physical savant. He does physical comedy but not in some hammy way. He’s just the best there is — nobody else is like him in terms of physical comedy and he has great jokes. You have a great combo of three off-beat comedians with three totally different angles.

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