By Graeme Wiggins
For a long time stand-up comedy pretty much looked and sounded a little homogenous. Stand ups all kind of looked and sounded the same. There were outliers for sure, but they were a rarity. Comedy in 2018 has come a long way from its earlier days as an old (straight) boys club. With the release of his album, Model Minority, Joel Kim Booster brought yet another fresh perspective to the newly diverse comedy scene. Korean by birth, adopted and homeschooled by religious, white parents in the Midwest, and now an out gay comedian, he brings a distinctive new voice to the table. Model Minority is an introduction to a unique and hilarious comedian and how became who he is.
There seems to be a new broadening of horizons in comedy, moving from the settled, standard outlooks that seemed to dominate in the past. Netflix’s The Stand Ups series, for example, features a diverse array of talent that’s refreshing, if only for seeing something different. For Booster this fresh feeling is due to the nature of comedy: “I can get into arguments with other comedians about this for a while, but I think that the one thing that really the foundation of comedy is surprise. No matter what style it is the punchline is supposed to be shocking one way or another. I think if we keep just recycling these ideas that reinforce tropes that I as a gay person or person of colour experience out in the world, it’s not as funny. It’s just sort of boring.”
Booster argues it was only natural that eventually the gatekeepers would start to allow new perspectives to enter the arena, if only for their bottom line. He argues, “I think it’s just a broadening of the market. For so long, in the 80s and 90s comedy clubs that a lot of people of colour or gay people certainly, or women ever felt welcome because they knew stepping into those places often times they were going to be the butt of the joke in a boring way. I think the industry at large is realizing or waking up to is that there is a whole untapped audience that they could be making money off of that are desperate to see themselves represented in comedy or just see a different perspective.”
As to the backlash from the comedians who think this ruins the supposed meritocracy of stand up, Booster will have none of it: “The thing is that comedy is subjective like every other art form, so it’s frustrating to me when we get in these conversations where I hear my peers say that pushing diversity for diversity’s sake is bad for comedy but what does that even mean? If someone is laughing at their jokes then it’s fine. There’s room for all of us because we have audiences. I mean, Chris D’Elia is not my cup of tea and he has a huge audience that loves him. And that’s great for them. I’m so glad they found him, and that the people who like me found me.”
Now that Booster has found that audience, and introduced himself with his first record, he’s at an exciting new stage of his career, one that opens up more possibilities to his writing. He explains, “ It’s also exciting because my first album, so much of that, talk about introducing myself, so much of it was based around this is who I am, this is my story, how all of my identities intersect, and affect how I exist in the world. Not to say that none of that is in my new material but it is a little bit freeing to have all of that out there. Anyone coming out to me show now, knows that I’m gay, knows that I’m Korean, knows that I’m adopted, all of that; so I don’t have to works as hard to set up that context for jokes about my existential crisis over killing a spider or cumming. I feel freer to write jokes where that’s all running in the background but I don’t have it all in the foreground.”
Booster will be headlining Celebrities as part of their 2018 Pride Celebration. As he’s never been to Vancouver before it should be a good one: “I’ve never been to Vancouver before and I’ve never had sex with a Canadian before, so I am excited to for sure check one of those boxes.”
Joel Kim Booster performs at Celebrities Nightclub (Vancouver) on August 2 as part of their 2018 Pride celebration!comedy, Pride