Subculture Vulture

A Memoir in Six Scenes

About the Book

A “hilarious” (Dax Shepard), “surprisingly emotional trip” (The Chainsmokers) through deep American subcultures ranging from Burning Man to Alcoholics Anonymous, by the writer and comedian Moshe Kasher

“Part history lesson, part standup set and, often, part love letter . . . Kasher’s ability to blend humor with homework works almost too well.”—The New York Times

After bottoming out, being institutionalized, and getting sober all by the tender age of fifteen, Moshe Kasher found himself asking: “What’s next?” Over the ensuing decades, he discovered the answer: a lot.

There was his time as a boy-king of Alcoholics Anonymous, a kind of pubescent proselytizer for other teens getting and staying sober. He was a rave promoter turned DJ turned sober ecstasy dealer in San Francisco’s techno warehouse party scene of the 1990s. For fifteen years he worked as a psychedelic security guard at Burning Man, fishing hippies out of hidden chambers they’d constructed to try to sneak into the event. As a child of deaf parents, Kasher became deeply immersed in deaf culture and sign language interpretation, translating everything from end-of-life care to horny deaf clients’ attempts to hire sex workers. He reconnects and tries to make peace with his ultra-Hasidic Jewish upbringing after the death of his father before finally settling into the comedy scene where he now makes his living.

Each of these scenes gets a gonzo historiographical rundown before Kasher enters the narrative and tells the story of the lives he has spent careening from one to the next. A razor-sharp, gut-wrenchingly funny, and surprisingly moving tour of some of the most wildly distinct subcultures a person can experience, Subculture Vulture deftly weaves together memoir and propulsive cultural history. It’s a story of finding your people, over and over again, in different settings, and of knowing without a doubt that wherever you are is where you’re supposed to be.
Read more
Close

Praise for Subculture Vulture

“You’ll probably learn something—unless you’ve lived an identical life to his, which seems statistically impossible—and laugh in roughly equal measure . . . Kasher’s research shines through, revealing detailed histories that might surprise readers . . . Kasher’s ability to blend humor with homework works almost too well.”—New York Times

“Moshe Kasher’s travels through recovery are laid out beautifully, honestly, and effortlessly. I don’t know that I’ve read a more succinct description of the entire experience from soup to nuts. With equal parts authority and humility, Subculture Vulture is an elegant and a hilarious reminder that none of us really know anything for certain.”—Dax Shepard

“An electrifying, hilarious, and surprisingly emotional trip through the worlds Kasher has inhabited, including the one we share: the world of electronic dance music . . . He takes us on a trip through the rave scene of the nineties and you won’t feel like you ‘had to be there,’ because you’ll feel like you are.”—The Chainsmokers

“[Kasher’s] engaging writing style .  . . he’s a wry, affable tour guide. It makes for compulsive reading.”—Datebook

“[Kasher] blends his per­son­al nar­ra­tive with cul­tur­al his­to­ry and criticism, cre­at­ing a lay­ered, mul­ti­di­men­sion­al sto­ry that’s not just about him. . . . His hon­esty is dis­arm­ing, and his sto­ry is a tes­ta­ment to the con­stant growth we expe­ri­ence through­out our lives.”Jewish Book Council
 
“Whatever your situation, you’ll think anew about the groups you belong to and come away with a new comprehension of those you don’t, as Subculture Vulture provides a brightly paved and wildly winding path to understanding.”Joyzine

“This book is a godsend, with edgy humor cleverly woven into the captivating tapestry of Deaf history, all seen through the unique lens of a culturally Deaf individual who also happens to be hearing. Prepare to be enlightened and entertained simultaneously.”—Nyle DiMarco, activist, actor, producer, and New York Times bestselling author of Deaf Utopia: A Memoir—and a Love Letter to a Way of Life

“Kasher has the rare gift to simultaneously celebrate a community while also making fun of it. His writing succinctly captures the insanity, the joy, the ridiculousness, and the radical act of fully embracing these worlds.”—Nick Kroll

“A deeply felt meditation on, well, all of Jewish history and Kasher’s place within it . . . It’s thoughtful and funny and, in places I didn’t expect to be, just plain wise.”—Nathan Englander, Pulitzer Prize finalist and bestselling author of What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

“Kasher’s thoughtful account of the world of comedy is inspired and funny, and the accounts of those early open mics rang very true for me, even though I bombed a lot less than him.”—John Mulaney

“This will resonate with readers who’ve felt alone in an overwhelming world.”Publishers Weekly

“Vivid and great fun.”Kirkus Reviews
Read more
Close
Close
Excerpt

Subculture Vulture

Introduction

Part of growing up is realizing that you haven’t been walking a straight road to where you are now, that it’s been a labyrinth the whole time. It’s only in hindsight that you see how twisted the path has been.

I wrote my first memoir in 2009. A chronicle of addiction and ridiculousness that ended when I was fifteen and left rehab for the last time. I was a kid.

That was almost thirty years ago and now I’m a grown-up, I guess, despite the fact that my generation was the first to stop growing up altogether. Since that book came out, I’ve thought a lot about what happened next. How did I escape the chaos that was my life? How did I go from there to here? This is my attempt to turn that chaos into a story.

But it’s not one story. It’s six.

I’ve lived a lot of lives and yes, I do wonder if it’s possible to write “I’ve lived a lot of lives” without you rolling your eyes and dismissing me as a pretentious f***. I sure hope so, because . . . I’ve lived a lot of lives. I have spent my life being seduced by the charms of groups, of subcultures, of tiny communities.

I have at times been a professional raver/DJ/ecstasy dealer; a boyking of Alcoholics Anonymous surrounded by throngs of other confused young people getting sober; a Burning Man attendee and then employee stuffing the psychedelic sausage; a conflicted but proud Jew attempting to make sense of the ultra-Hasidic world I’d been raised in; an American Sign Language interpreter who was at once both insider and outsider in the deaf community; and what I am today, a stand-up comedian, which is the thing that eventually became my living and the reason I have enough cultural cachet to be writing a book at all.

Each segment contains a ramshackle history of the worlds I have inhabited, starting at the beginning and examining how they came to be. I actually did a lot of research to tell these histories, but I am not a historian so don’t expect any groundbreaking discoveries about the author of the Bible or the guy who invented trance music. At a certain point in each of these histories, I intersect with the world I’m describing and tell the story of how these communities became a part of my DNA.

Laid on top of one another, these six stories become one: They become my story. The history of me.

Laid on top of one another, they become, once again, a labyrinth. So let’s start in the center of the maze, where the way out seemed the most opaque. Where the path forward seemed the most twisted. Where I despaired of ever finding my way again. Let’s start where my last book ended. The day I got sober. Freshly broken, fully lost, and sure my life was over. It had just begun.

About the Author

Moshe Kasher
Moshe Kasher is a stand-up comedian, writer, and actor. He is the author of Kasher in the Rye. He has written for various TV shows and movies, including HBO’s Betty, Comedy Central’s roasts and Another Period, Zoolander 2, Wet Hot American Summer, and many more. His Netflix specials include Moshe Kasher: Live in Oakland and The Honeymoon Stand Up Special. He’s appeared in Curb Your Enthusiasm, Shameless, The Good Place, and other fun things. He co-hosts The Endless Honeymoon podcast with his wife, Natasha Leggero. Kasher lives in Los Angeles with Leggero and their daughter. More by Moshe Kasher
Decorative Carat