As a comedian, Moshe Kasher’s favorite place to ply his razor-sharp wit is that sweet spot between high and low culture. He deems himself an “academic vulgarian,” and anyone who has seen him perform over the years knows this label is spot on. Originally from Oakland, California, the 37-year-old honed his voice in the San Francisco and L.A. stand-up circuits before writing for films like Zoolander 2 and Wet Hot American Summer and serving as a co-executive producer on Comedy Central’s Another Period, which is created by and stars his wife and fellow stand-up, Natasha Leggero.
Kasher has appeared on everything from @midnight with Chris Hardwick to Drunk History, which means he’s already clocked time at the network that will be home to his own upcoming show, Problematic, premiering tomorrow. The postmodern talk show leans into its talk-show forbears (think Phil Donahue) but with an eye for modern internet culture. Kasher will be leading weekly explorations of topics as diverse as “The Dark Web” to “How To Topple A Leader.” In anticipation, Kasher met up with Playboy.com to talk about tackling the news, being a Hollywood idiot on election night and his dream of becoming America’s daddy.
How did the idea for the show come about?
I have a podcast—like all Jewish male comedians—called Hound Tall Discussion Series. It’s kind of like a TED Talk meets Mystery Science Theater—a panel of comedians riffing over an expert giving a talk in his or her field of expertise. They get interrupted and made fun of and wonder why they agreed to do the podcast. Then Alex Blagg, who is one of the co-creators of @midnight, said “I want to develop a show with you.” We started stand-up together in San Francisco way back when. He stopped doing stand-up because I was more talented—even back then he knew. So we came up with this idea that there needed to be a show that occupied the intellectual space between @midnight and The Daily Show—a show about internet outrage topics; a show that would somehow grab the inflamed rhetoric of the internet and bring into into the real world. If @midnight is the fluffy surface net, then we want to be the dark web in terms of content.
As it’s a weekly show and you haven’t started taping episodes, can you tell us what it’ll look like?
My goal has always been that I want this thing to be loose and conversational the way television used to be. In fact, Playboy After Dark was one of the aesthetic spiritual guidelines for where we wanted to go. So like Phil Donahue meets Dick Cavett and Playboy After Dark, with some breath and then digitized for the millennial generation. Our main spiritual godfather is Phil Donahue.
So will you be walking through the studio audience taking questions, mic in hand?
Oh yeah. Straight up. I’m super excited. We always knew the audience was going to be a part of it. We were trying to do these big old field pieces and commercial parodies, and what we realized in the end was that the alchemy, the magic, was what was happening in the studio. Not only is it nostalgic; it’s also never been done before. So it’s both calling back to the ‘80s and also, when you add comedy to in, that’s a first—to have a serious, substantive conversation that’s hearkening back to 1980s daytime talk, but I’m still going to be making fun of your outfit.
Did you grow up watching those ‘80s talk shows?
I’ve watched everybody now. I loved Morton Downey Jr. growing up, but that was a little bit of a circus. That was pre-Jerry Springer. Before that, do you know about Wally George? He’s Rebecca De Mornay’s father and he was the first wild daytime-talk shock jock. He was a crazy hyper-patriot performance artist/talk show host. I like the sensationalism of that. Donahue was dope because he was such a good conversationalist. Then, of course Oprah is like mom. I don’t think I have the capability of being mom.
If you digitize nostalgia, you get my show.
Well, you don’t know that yet.
I want to be America’s daddy, is what I’m saying. [Laughs] But I want something that feels both nostalgic and hyper modern at the same time. If you digitize nostalgia, you get my show.
You also brought in an experienced news producer.
Yeah, that was important to us. I don’t want the showrunner to be a comedy person. I’m not worried about comedy; I got this. So let me find someone who’s a news master. We got Meaghan Rady, an NBC news person who has worked with Tom Brokaw forever and is just in that zone. Half of our producers are comedy and half of them come from the news realm. We’re trying really hard to make things feel fresh and different because I think talk, in particular, has become very staid and similar and uninteresting.
You guys created this show before the election. Now that we’re here in spring 2017, how has it affected the show?
It’s pretty wild. It’s the only bright side. The election night was hilarious because we had this pool party and we just invited all these fucking Hollywood idiots, me included. We’re all on fucking pool rafts with a big screen TV in my yard and it could’ve been a one-act play. We got Mexican food because we thought that was funny. “Oh, haha, now that Trump’s going down.” And it was just these elite Hollywood buffoons experiencing the crashing realization of, “Oh my god, we’re not in control.” And then from the depths of that, popping my head out of my own bubble, the one bright side was like “Well, the show just got a lot more interesting.”
So how do you approach talking about politics, given the results of that night?
For me, the challenge is fighting Trump off. I don’t want Trump to be the editor-in-chief of this show, and I think that a lot of people are allowing that to happen. I don’t blame them for it and I don’t think it’s a bad thing; I think there’s just a saturation for me. Obviously, there’s no possibility to do a show like this and not have him be all up in that shit. He’ll be there whether you like him or not. So I push back. This is not a political comedy show or a news cycle-driven show. This is a show about culture and society. As opposed to talking about the political story, I want to talk about the tectonic plates upon which the political story rests.
Have you always sought out these kinds of topics?
Yes, but I don’t consider myself an intellectual; I consider myself a person. I love intellectuals but I don’t consider myself one. What I have always been interested in and good at is having a conversation with any person in any area of expertise. I am innately interested in where people are coming from. I don’t know everything. There are certain topics I know more about than others, but I’m a generalist, not a specialist. Although I’m actually a hyper-specialist. I’m very good at having a conversation and just making it stupid. That’s what I’m good at.
Read our 2016 interview with happy couple Moshe Kasher and Natasha Leggero here.