'Off the Cuff' Podcast: Comedian Ari Shaffir On Trading the Synagogue for the Strip Club

Ari Shaffir - H 2015
Courtesy of Comedy Central

Ari Shaffir - H 2015

The once-Orthodox and now sacrilegious stand-up tells #THRpodcasts why "everybody's got some dark shit. Comics just tap into it."

Comedian Ari Shaffir wasn't always the irreverent skeptic audiences know him as from his stand-up specials, podcast and now new late-night series This is Not Happening on Comedy Central. Raised an Orthodox Jew, it wasn't until studying at Yeshiva University that Shaffir realized that religious conviction didn't really jive with the rest of his world views.

"There's nothing else in my life that I will even entertain a conversation about when there's zero proof for it," he says. It was a sharp 180 from there when Shaffir transferred to the University of Maryland and went from god-fearing to pot-smoking.

"My father said that I was lower than a dog, because even a dog believes in God," he recalls. "I wanted to check his math."

After graduation he moved to L.A. to pursue stand-up, which, spiritual upheaval aside, he insists does not come from some deep, dark place in his soul (as it is assumed with many in that profession.)

"I think everybody's got some dark shit. Comics just tap into it," he explains. "Everybody tries to paint us as these fucking depressed characters. We're at the same level everybody else is but we just don't hide from it."

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After fourteen years trying to hustle in the L.A. comedy scene Shaffir moved to New York two years ago where he's settled in to a nice career that includes creating two stand-up specials for Comedy Central, hosting a topical podcast called Skeptic Tank and now This is Not Happening, which features stand-ups telling true-life stories in places like the L.A. strib club Cheetah's. ("I hate strip clubs," he swears. "It's such casual nudity.") He tells us that despite the recent success with his television projects he wouldn't be doing any of it if it wasn't all for the purpose of supporting his stand-up, which he refuses to take notes on from the network.

"As long as you have your own apartment and you can pretty much make rent for the next year, you're golden!" he says. "Then you're doing your art. That's all it's supposed to be about."

Listen to Shaffir's full interview in this episode of Off the Cuff, and be sure to subscribe to #THRpodcasts on iTunes for all the latest episodes.