Joel Kim Booster on His Upcoming Netflix Special and Making History With Fire Island

The comedian reflects on trying to represent his own POV, not just "the universal gay experience"

Joel Kim Booster Interview
Joel Kim Booster, illustration by Steven Fiche

    This article is part of our coverage of the 2022 Netflix Is a Joke: The Festival.

    It’s really about to be Joel Kim Booster’s time — as he tells Consequence, “June is going to be a big big month for me.” The comedian wrote and stars in the groundbreaking Hulu romantic comedy Fire Island on June 3rd, will appear in the Apple TV+ series Loot, premiering June 24th, and Netflix just announced that his first-ever hour-long comedy special, Joel Kim Booster: Psychosexual, will debut on June 21st.

    It’s a lot, and a situation which he says is a bit of a “monkey’s paw situation,” because of his dedication to stand-up; right now, he’s in a “rebuilding phase” with his work on stage after filming Psychosexual: “I’m just sort of writing a lot of new material and testing out a lot of new stuff. It’s really fun — I feel like I’m 25 doing standup again. It feels really great… It’s messy, but sometimes you’re getting the most real version of some of these stories and pulls from my life, before they’ve been shaped into, you know, a joke.”

    During Netflix Is a Joke: The Festival, Booster will be participating in a number of shows, including the all-LGBTQ+ Stand Out showcase on May 7th and a sold-out show called The Joy F*ck Club on May 8th.


    What exactly is The Joy F*ck Club? Below, transcribed and edited for clarity, Booster explains, while also discussing why now was the time for his first hour-long special, what it’s been like going between acting and stand-up, why Fire Island is such a personal film for him — and why he doesn’t feel like he’s in competition with his former boss Billy Eichner’s own upcoming rom-com debut. (Though Fire Island is coming out first.)

    To start, tell me a little bit about what The Joy F*ck Club show is.

    So The Joy F*ck Club started because I was doing another comedy festival and I was looking at the lineup and I noticed that it was like me, Bowen [Yang], Ronny Chieng, Patti Harrison, Awkwafina, and Irene Tu — like a million Asian comics in San Francisco. And I was like, it is crazy that there is no show that is just an all Asian-American lineup when this festival had access to [us], so I contacted the festival and I was like, Hey, have you guys thought about doing an all-Asian show? and they were like, “You know, we hadn’t thought about that. Would you like to do one?” And so that is like the genesis of The Joy F*ck Club.

    It started out as just like more of a straight stand-up show, like a showcase basically, but it really has evolved since then into being a real exploration of what it means to be Asian-American. And I say that like very specifically, because I think like for Asian people in this country, we still have a lot of really deep connections to our own diasporas and our own individual cultures, like Korean culture, Chinese culture, Japanese culture, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.


    I’m really interested, I think, especially because of my background as a Korean adoptee with a white family, in exploring what it means to be Asian-American. Like what brings us together racially as a racial group in this country, and what culture have we created specifically in America that is ours. And so like, every show is sort of a deep dive, and it’s a conversation with the audience too, of figuring out what is Asian-American culture, you know? Like what is new Asian-American culture? That sounds very serious, but we explore those themes through stupid games and audience participation.

    What’s the format here?

    The format is a little bit of a variety show. I come out you know, and I talk to the audience and I do a survey of sort of like what’s going on for us culturally at that moment. I haven’t done this show since before the pandemic, so it’s a little bit more fraught to do that now, but I’m excited to see what it brings up for my audience.

    And then, you know, I usually start with a game — I don’t want to spoil any of the games, because part of it is the surprise of it, but they’re really silly. They’re hyper specific. My first big writing job was on Billy on the Street and it’s still one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had. And I really pull a lot of that sort of head space — that part of my brain that did really well on Billy — to write the games for Joy F*ck Club.


    That’s amazing. Can you give an example of a past game you’ve done that you won’t be doing for this show, but that would be a good example of what you’re talking about?

    Yeah, so a past game that we’ve played has been “Is This Bad High School Theater or Actual Yellowface?” and I basically flash a bunch of pictures from different high school theater productions across the country over the years. And the contestant has to guess if this is a picture, a still from just a poorly costumed production of like The Music Man that is like confusing to look at, or it’s actually a high schooler wearing yellow face — a white student playing [the lead in] The King and I, or something like that. It’s a lot harder than you would think.