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The life and crimes of Moshe Kasher

Moshe Kasher is on the phone from Northern California, where he is performing at a comedy club popular for being home to the first video-game console.

“I’m serious: This venue held the first Pong video game,” Kasher says of Rooster T. Feathers Comedy Club (where there is often “a line of virgins lined up to touch the Blarney Stone,” he says). “It’s in Sunnyvale, Calif., right next door to Apple. It’s like a perfect storm of nerds.”

It might seem that the slender, bespectacled comedian, a regular on “Chelsea Lately” and Chris Hardwick’s “@Midnight” and an author who grew up in the Bay Area, is in his element.

But in his wild teenage years, Kasher did everything he could to prevent the wave of yuppiedom that would turn his Oakland neighborhood into another Sunnyvale with “throngs of white people doing white people things, such as inspecting rare cheeses and riding in packs of thousand-dollar bicycles with penis-silhouette-enhancing spandex outfits.”

That’s Kasher being polite in his 2012 memoir, “Kasher in the Rye,” which recounts a childhood growing up on food stamps on a rough side of town with a deaf single mother. It is subtitled, “The True Tale of a White Boy From Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient, and Then Turned 16.”

Kasher escaped the drugs, fights and petty crimes to earn a degree in religious studies from University of California-Santa Barbara, and became a scriptwriter (NBC’s “The New Normal”) and a standup comedian. He’ll perform Thursday through Sunday at the Fort Lauderdale Improv.

The story of how Kasher snapped out of it does not have the “A-ha!” moment of a Lifetime movie, but may be more entertaining and valuable for its authenticity. And Kasher is working on a sequel to the book.

“It’s a Hollywood screenwriting notion that change comes because of one epic, soul-crushing event ... What’s more common is that the slow decay of the nonevents of your life build up until you can’t take it anymore,” he says. "The pitch of unease becomes louder and louder until you have to find a way to blot out the noise or you change the channel.

“I used to say this a lot in 12-step groups -- when I was getting arrested all the time, those were the fun years. By the end of everything, there was nothing happening. There was no police involvement, no incarceration. It was really about staying in bed all the time and going nowhere.”

So he cleaned up, got his GED, and a job as a sign-language interpreter (both his parents are deaf). He’s only had two other jobs: rave DJ-promoter (he worked Burning Man for several years) and comedian.

“It’s almost a cliché,” he says, “but it’s certainly true for me that being funny was a way to make it through a somewhat unfunny childhood.”

Moshe Kasher will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, 7 and 9:45 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Fort Lauderdale Improv, 5700 Seminole Way, in Hollywood. Tickets cost $17 and $20. Call 954-981-5653 or visit

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