Problematic with Moshe Kasher
Season 1, Episode 1
I'm not racist! I'm not racist!
Comedy Central is no stranger to comedian led half hours that are essentially bite sized talk shows. They’ve cornered the format, not changing it one bit since the days of Afterdrive under the network’s previous channel name Ha! The TV Comedy Network. It’s a safe configuration. The host comes out, they have a monologue, maybe there’s a sketch, the host talks to their guests, and then there’s the goodnights. Tried and true, yes; inventive and creative? No.
Now Comedy Central’s latest show -- Problematic with Moshe Kasher -- is just another horse in the stable. But it’s not about what it looks like. Upon watching, viewers will find a show that stimulates conversations that are oft looked over in terms of comedy. We’ll hear a story of heartbreak and subsequent triumph on Ellen or see a crime procedural dedicate a very special episode to human sex slaves. But none of these are talked about in places people watch most: comedy television.
Moshe Kasher aims to change just that with his show that takes these unjust topics and puts them on a funny platform. It’s essentially a live action form of his Hound Tall podcast on which he did talk about these terrible issues. And I’m happy to report it works well enough. When the show begins, Kasher is already on stage, eager to read his short monologue to the awaiting audience. They’re as much game as he is by the way. He delivers jokes in rapid succession -- resting only when he needs to take a breath. These quips are often funny (which is of course needed for a comedy show). But, with these shows, it can be hard to garner genuine laughs up front.
After the theme song, Kasher moves on to his first guest. He sits right next to them in the same chair with the only differentiating thing between them a chic coffee table. There is no desk and everyone is on the same playing field for and the upcoming interview segments. Set decor like this is nothing new but it makes conversation possible which is exactly what Kasher wants. The Kenya Barris interview isn’t anything we haven’t heard before (that is if you’re a massive fan and have read his interviews and listened to him on podcasts like some reviewers. *ahem*). Still, it’s welcome. Here’s where things get tricky. It’s clear that the show is taped for longer than its air time as the conversation is sloppily chopped and edited to fit into the 22 minute runtime. It’s distracting once the changes in inflection and interrupted answers are picked up.
The same could possibly be said for the second interview segment too. But Kasher’s guests are good gets so it all balances out. Nora Lum (Awkwafina) and Ian Edwards join Barris and Kasher as they discuss appropriation. It’s a spirited talk with the host introducing video elements culled from the internet. They’re also funny and add to the conversation where a completely diverse “couch” (Kasher is Jewish so he definitely counts) just craps on privileged white people who (unwittingly or otherwise) do some very racist things. An interview with MC Surge and music video lead into audience questions. This is an aspect that was sorely missing from other Comedy Central talk shows but, then again, none of them needed to have a conversation with their audience. It’s a wonderful addition if not for the hurried clip in which serious questions are asked and answered.
Should you watch “Cultural Appropriation?”
Kasher might have a gold mine on his hands. Stephen Colbert can take over the hour long late night game by focusing on American politics. Trevor Noah can rule the half hour game with worldly politics. Samantha Bee and John Oliver can equally distribute essayed knowledge. Conan O’Brien can do the remotes and sketches. Maybe Moshe Kasher can make a name for himself by talking about the things no one is talking about while also getting the audience involved**. Were it not for W. Kamau Bell and Larry Wilmore’s separate but equally entertaining shows being canceled, late night would be a much more topical place. Let’s just get the show slowed down and more confident.
**I sincerely miss Nikki Glaser’s show. It was very funny and I don’t know why it was canceled. Not Safe and Problematic would’ve been a great hour long pairing.