(N.Y. Jewish Week) — Many of the best comedians have had deeply troubled pasts. But Moshe Kasher, a rising 32-year-old comic and author of a new memoir, “Kasher in the Rye,” takes the old adage to a new level.
He began psychotherapy at age 4 and started using hard drugs at 12. By the time he was 15 he had flunked out of junior high three times, been falsely accused of rape, had stays in various mental institutions, and, oh yes, spent six weeks a year in the Satmar community in Brooklyn, where his deaf father, who also had Gaucher’s disease, had remarried.
“I was just in this huge identity middle ground,” Kasher, who is hearing, said in an interview, reflecting on his troubled teenage years.
Back then he lived most the year in Oakland, Calif., with his brother, now an Orthodox rabbi at the University of California, Berkeley, and his mother, a secular Jew who is also deaf. They were on welfare, and Kasher was one of the only white kids in a nearly all-black school. His mother, unsure of what to do with Kasher, had him in and out of mental institutions, rehab centers and, when he was sober enough for school, special-ed programs for the seriously mentally disabled.
“Smart-stupid; black-white; religious-secular” — either side of any of those identities never quite fit, making it hard for him to find his place anywhere, Kasher said. Drugs became his refuge. “When I found a group of derelicts in the back of school, they taught me how to smoke pot and drop acid,” he said. And suddenly, “it made me feel good.”