Comedian Moshe Kasher is a fan of New Orleans both because and in spite of a memorable show at Hell Yes Fest two years ago.
"There was some lady who was upset by something I said, so she flipped me off," Kasher says. "And I was like, 'Oh, are you flipping me off or is that the fleur-de-lis? I am not sure if that's a New Orleans greeting.'
"But that festival was a lot of fun, and that moment was a lot of fun," Kasher adds.
Kasher has been touring with Aziz Ansari, but he's taking a short break to do shows in New York and New Orleans with Natasha Leggero. They'll be joined by comedian and Reno 911! star Tom Lennon on a bill with local comedians Chris Trew and Ariel Elias.
For touring comics, every city has its tough audience members. Two weeks ago, Kasher and Leggero spent three nights headlining at Caroline's in New York City, where Leggero set off an audience member.
"I have not had this happen in five years," Leggero says. "I did this joke about AIDS. The joke was that I got a new car and they were giving out free AIDS tests at the DMV, which is true. So I said, 'The only thing worse than going to the DMV is going to the DMV and finding out you have AIDS.'
"This threw her," Leggero says. "She stood up and started coming down the aisle. I had to have her removed."
Kasher and Leggero have both been busy with an array of projects, and the quick trip to New Orleans is part business, part pleasure. After three years of touring as a headliner, Leggero won't start touring heavily again until late in the year.
"I enjoy (touring)," Leggero says. "There are lots of ways to make it more fun: going to cool cities; traveling with friends. Some people turn it into crazy vacations."
Leggero has been writing material for an upcoming Comedy Central special, playing parts on Community and Burning Love, and voicing a character on Daniel Tosh's animated show Brickleberry. Touring also is a way to get away from spending all of her time with producers, writers and industry people, she says.
"Comedy is all about input and output," she says. "You can't just do standup. You have to have experiences."
Her stage persona was honed by her living experiences when she first moved to Los Angeles.
"I always thought in my head I was this rich, successful person even though I was living among crackheads in Little Armenia and driving a car that the top would be halfway up half the time," she says. "I had a convertible with dents in the side and the top would only go halfway up. You're going through life thinking you're these things that you're not, and you're still having to champion this idea.
"That's how I started standup — talking about the things that were depressing me."
Kasher's path has been even less conventional. He grew up in Oakland, Calif., where his family survived on public assistance. He battled juvenile delinquency and mental health issues, which is covered in his recent book Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient, and Then Turned 16. In addition to touring, he's carved out a niche and fanbase via the book, a show (Live in Oakland) released on Netflix and podcasts.
"I started comedy at the tail end of the alt-comedy movement," he says. "It was when Sean Patton, David Cross and Janeane Garofalo had gotten firmament under them. ... At that moment, the Internet exploded. There were all these cool rock 'n' roll comedians and you had the immediacy of the Internet."
Kasher has embraced the Internet to the point of reading comments on his YouTube videos to mine for material. But he says he's Googling his name less often, and spending more time writing for and appearing on TV. Like Leggero, he's a regular panelist on Chelsea Handler's E! show Chelsea Lately, where many young comics get exposure while trading barbs and commenting on entertainment news.
"I knew that I had done OK my first time when (Handler) started making fun of me," Kasher says. "You know it's cool when she turns her talons on you. ... It was my wrists. I have extremely hairy wrists — and the rest of my body. I had my arms out foolishly on the table, and when she finally noticed and turned on me. I felt comfortable."
Kasher had already written plenty of jokes about his hairy wrists, so it was easy for him to take advantage of the spotlight.
Some of that material is posted on YouTube, so his fans already know it. Building a fan base that way has made touring easier. It means he can have fans even in towns with young or no comedy scenes. It allows comics to have more fun on the road, which is part of his New Orleans agenda.
"New Orleans is such a cool town," he says. "All the standups want it to be a place where there's comedy fans."