Here are two truths and a lie about Moshe Kasher:
1. He happily answers to the title of cute-ass nerd.
2. He hates homophobes, almost as much as he hates hecklersâ€¦almost.
3. He's the love child of Michael Ian Black and Patton Oswalt.
Alright, so that last one was the lie but only in a literal sense. Based on the strength of this hour-long special, I'm willing to place Kasher on the same comedy family tree that Black and Oswalt belong to. Given how much I enjoy the work of both those comics, it's safe to say that Kasher struck a chord with me in the best way possible.
By setting his special in Oakland, Kasher stacks the deck by performing in front of a hometown crowd. With that said, he still goes through the trouble of explaining his one and only ground rule for the audience. Simply put, he doesn't care who he offends and more importantly if somebody is offended, then that is their problem and not his. The disclaimer is probably wise since he proceeds to push many, many buttons over the course of the hour that follows. He kicks things off by dissecting the uniquely Christian views of heaven and hell (made even more hilarious from his Jewish perspective). Apparently, one involves rivers of excrement while the other has harps and an eternity with his momâ€¦you can decide which is worse.
Kasher follows up the heaven and hell bit by turning wonderfully self-reflexive when he discusses the reaction to it from the internet at large ("funny but wasn't that the guy in Devo") after it is featured on YouTube. This gag illustrates a key feature of Kasher's style. He manages to thread his act together in a way that feels meaningful and grounded even when he is engaging in absurd flights of fancy. The result is a strong connection with the audience that blossoms early and continues to strengthen over the course of his show. Jokes cease to be throwaway punchlines and turn into tiny glimpses into Kasher's world view.
If I'm making Kasher sound too cerebral and boring, I'm doing him a major disservice. He is certainly quick-witted and intelligent but he is also very, very silly. For evidence of this look no further than his Patrick Stewart impression that sounds like a constipated robot (yes, I know robots can't actually get constipated) or the extended finale that sees him turning into a French mime at the request of a bossy audience member (played by Kasher's comedian friend Brent Weinbach). The mime bit is incredibly odd and riotously funny, especially in the way it manages to tie in a much loved 80s movie.
For all of his smart silliness, the aspect of Kasher's act that I will remember most fondly is his ability to tell a story. I know that may sound stupidly simple but it is one of the hardest talents for a comedian to master. To commit to bits so completely that you're willing to dedicate lengthy sections of your act to them requires a little confidence and a lotta talent. Kasher makes it look effortless. Look at the way he lovingly eviscerates Ireland ("a country sized medieval themed party") with his tales of performing there. He tackles a number of his hot-button issues (anti-Semitism and bullying among them) while landing laugh after laugh. He even goes on a brilliantly profane rant against a heckler that is one for the books. I won't spoil it here but apparently the man had terrible rape balls.
Another example of Kasher's ability to weave a quality tale is his description of getting into (and winning) a fight after one of his shows. It starts with the use of a dreidel as a lethal weapon and ends with Kasher claiming victory with a flamboyant flourish (he needles his effeminate mannerisms to put a fine point on homophobia on multiple occasions). Everything in between is pure gold. Physical comedy blends with his obsession over minutiae to incredibly positive effect. You can see why he would save it for the show's finale. The fact that he then tops it with the strange little mime act I described earlier paints him as a risk-taker. If he can maintain such a consistently high quality in future shows, Kasher will surely be one to watch.
The image is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. Kasher performs in a club with a modern backdrop which pops off the screen with excellent contrast. Black levels are great and skin tones are even. Other than a few soft shots, the image is fairly sharp and free from defects. I don't think anyone will have any major issues with this presentation.
The audio mix is perfectly acceptable for the material at hand. When it comes to stand-up shows, I only ask that the dialogue be presented with clarity. This release accomplishes that capably as Kasher comes through loud and clear at all times. Audience noise is present but never to a distracting level. It helps add to the show's intimate setting.
The only extra is a CD that captures the audio mix for almost the entire show. The only part that I noticed as being absent was the final mime bit. This seems like a reasonable omission given just how visual that segment is. In any case, while the CD is a nice add-on, I would have appreciated a few more dedicated extras (like an interview with Kasher or some behind the scenes footage).
There are multiple moments during Moshe Kasher's act when he bursts out in exasperated rage by screaming obscenity-laced punchlines while holding his microphone at arm's length. My description doesn't do it justice but the loud-quiet-loud dynamic works perfectly in context. This is no accident because Kasher is nothing if not meticulous. His obsessive dedication to crafting precise moments is matched by his ability to fearlessly play the buffoon. If you're already a fan, then this show will reaffirm what you're already aware of. If this is your first exposure to the comedian (as it was for me), then prepare to be very pleasantly surprised. Highly Recommended.