Joel Kim Booster
Earnestness is perhaps the latest trope in comedy, and its sudden freshness has served as an anecdote to mean-spirited irony and vapid self-obsession. Joel Kim Booster is probably as earnest as they come, with his stand-up constantly exhibiting unrehearsed and off-the-cuff qualities. It’s possibly due to the Chicago-bred comedian’s Midwestern nature, but Booster’s work thrives because it’s so unpretentious and, at the same time, fearless.
His material often touches on emotional vulnerability, but never in a way that feels manipulative of his audience’s likely shared experiences. Yes, there’s talk of being single (or, lately, becoming single), both well-worn territories for most comedians. But Booster’s comedy stands apart because there’s an inherent sweetness that is inescapably charming and sincere; his unbridled honesty feels less like the set-up for a punchline and more like an act of selfless catharsis the rest of us are lucky to witness in real time.
When was the first time you remember making someone laugh? What happened?
I was young—like 4 or 5—in the midst of a “sleepover” with my older brother and sister (we would get to sleep in my oldest sister’s room on Friday nights, which always seemed like a big deal) and I remember telling them that I “liked naked boys more than naked girls” and we laughed and laughed and laughed, and I’ve pretty much been using my homosexuality as a punchline ever since.
What is the toughest part about being on the comedy scene in Brooklyn today? What is the best?
The answer is essentially the same for both parts of this question: there’s too fucking many of us. It’s tough because it can be difficult at times to feel like you’re doing anything interesting or worthwhile in a sea of interesting and worthwhile comedians doing work you can’t help but feel is just better than whatever shit you happen to be doing. That being said, it never feels like a zero sum game. As overwhelming as it can feel sometimes, there always feels like enough space for everybody, and aside from the odd troll or villain, everyone is genuinely very supportive. I’ll be the first to admit that the schlock I churn out—while very funny— isn’t exactly groundbreaking. But it’s nice to be surrounded by all these monsters who are pushing me to be better.
Who do you find funny?
In no particular order: Jacqueline Novak, Cher’s Twitter feed, Melania Trump, Kelly Ripa, Moshe Kasher, Jessi Klein, Ali Wong, Phoebe Robinson, Carly Fiorina falling off a stage, Ana Fabrega, Aaron Jackson, Solomon Georgio. There are lots more I bet!!
What was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?
I don’t know—but I can tell you about the last time I cried so hard I laughed. I was at work, dealing with a breakup pretty openly as a sort of coping mechanism, when my boss out of nowhere improvised a sea shanty about how he had a big dick, and would never leave me til’ I was dead, or something along those lines. I immediately burst into tears, and then started to laugh and—oh boy I’m just now realizing how strange this story sounds out of context, but trust me it was all very sweet and after everyone realized I was crying real tears, I got a big hug and it remains one of the best things that’s ever happened to me at work.
What are your goals for your comedy career?
I want to get famous enough to get asked back to speak at my college’s commencement ceremony. I was very close to doing it at my own graduation, but lost the election to Brynn Traughber (narrowly, I have to assume). My entire career has been one big long con to get on that stage and do the speech I wrote six years ago.
And finally: What is your favorite knock-knock (or otherwise goofy) joke?
A friend told me this joke a while ago, and it is breathtaking in its length and stupidity. For whatever reason it has stayed with me and makes me laugh. I’m going to tell a slightly abbreviated version of it here: There was once a rabbi who traveled to an island full of strange creatures known as The Trids. One night, after following them to a secret ceremony, he watched as all the Trids lined up to receive a kick from a giant foot (?) anyway—they seemed to really enjoy it, so the next morning he asked one of the Trids if he could take part in the ceremony himself and the Trid replied, “silly rabbi, kicks are for Trids!”
I don’t know if he wrote this joke himself or heard it from someone else, but I’m now realizing that a lot of the humor derives from the teller being incredibly pleased with themselves over the joke.
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