Culture is changing. The way we interact with culture is constantly evolving, leading some to consider that we’re in a society where political correctness is running amok. But is it that the culture is being dominated by political correctness or are we make progress as a society in how we approach various issues? That’s the central question behind Problematic with Moshe Kasher, the new Comedy Central series where comedian Moshe Kasher examines various issues that are considered, well, problematic. In its inaugural episode, Problematic proves itself a show eager to dive deep into issues with a comedic lens, though it’s much more illuminating than funny. That shouldn’t be viewed as a negative, as this is the first installment of Problematic in its six-episode first season and there’s plenty of room for the show to find its balance of comedy and politics.
The first topic covered on Problematic is cultural appropriation, something that’s become a more prominent topic of discussion with the recent controversies surrounding the casting choices of Iron Fist and Ghost in the Shell. Moshe Kasher starts out by framing the topic through his own experiences by recalling his youth in Oakland, California and how he as an awkward Jewish kid appropriating black culture. Kasher sneaks in some good jokes into his insightful observations informed by his own experiences and really sets the tone for Problematic as an exploration of topics that may be intimidating and confusing for those unaware that these are issues that greatly raise concerns for a number of people of varying cultural identities.
Opening up the discussion, Kasher first sits down with Black-ish creator Kenya Barris to discuss how white people have consistently appropriated black culture throughout the years. The jokes and humor aren’t always there but their conversation is quite informative. What becomes apparent is the notion that cultural appropriation is problem when it’s the dominant culture taking bits and pieces from a cultural minority. The two establish that there’s no defined line that can be crossed and it’s more a matter of respect and understanding the roots of some culture. The example frequently cited in the episode is the difference between Eminem and Iggy Azalea, with the latter being an Australian inflecting an accent that seems to be straight out of Atlanta and the former respecting hip hop’s roots in black America.
The conversation expands when Kasher and Barris are joined by writer-producer Ian Edwards and actress-comedian Awkwafina. Moshe Kasher does an admirable job in balancing the informative discussion but still keeping it amusing, allowing his guests to get their own jokes in while making their point. The host never steps over his guests to make his jokes over them and Problematic feels like a free-flowing, funny discussion of cultural appropriation.
Moshe Kasher continues the discussion with a one-on-one segment with MC Serch, a white rapper of Jewish descent from the group 3rd Bass. Through the conversation with Serch, Kasher dives deeper into white people rapping and whether or not that’s a problematic use of cultural appropriation. This concludes with Kasher and Serch rapping a verse about the lessons learned over the first episode of Problematic. The rap works in conveying much of the point as to the nature of cultural appropriation, though I do take exception to their inclusion of Elvis Presley as the king of appropriation. (The legacy of Elvis Presley is much more complex than that.)
Problematic with Moshe Kasher gets off to a strong start and hopefully will only get better as its host and his crew become more and more confident in their approach. Most of all, it’s admirable that Kasher is taking on intimidating and tricky issues through a comedic lens, something that is much more difficult than it would seem. Even if Problematic isn’t exactly hilarious it’s a work of public service that might help somebody out there look at certain issues in a different light with its amusing, informative discussions. Right now, we could use a little bit of understanding.
Problematic with Moshe Kasher premieres April 18th at 10pm only on Comedy Central.