Comedian Joel Kim Booster is returning to Chicago for his stand-up tour at The Den Theatre for four performances May 10-11. The out funnyman has appeared on Conan, The Late Late Show with James Corden and Logo's Comedy Cabaret.
In 2017, he recorded a stand-up special for Comedy Central's The Half-Hour and an album called Model Minority. Booster also has writing credits on Netflix's Big Mouth and The Other Two on Comedy Central.
Windy City Times: I haven't talked to you in forever!
Joel Kim Booster: It's been a million years.
WCT: You have come a long way. We judged Windy City Gay Idol together at Spin Nightclub. That dance club is no longer there.
JKB: What is it now?
WCT: A ramen noodles restaurant [Furious Spoon].
JKB: Wow. I haven't been back to Chicago since November of 2017. I'm excited to come back.
WCT: I never knew you were adopted, like me.
JKB: Yes, I was raised in Plainfield to white parents who were very religious.
WCT: How did you become a comedian?
JKB: I was in Chicago doing theater and got tired of that. Someone suggested I do stand-up. It snowballed from there.
WCT: Did you feel you had to leave Chicago to [advance] your career?
JKB: For me personally I did. I had visited friends in New York and was doing some stand-up and I met a producer that suggested I move there. A month later I picked up my stuff and moved to New York. New York City is the best place to do stand-up and get good at it in the world.
WCT: So then you moved to LA and landed TV shows. How was that?
JKB: It was always the goal. I am lucky to work in this golden age of comedy right now. People want to see comedians on TV and working in their writer's rooms. It was a natural progression of my career.
WCT: Do you sense that the world of comedy is growing more diverse?
JKB: I think the audience has widened. There used to be one audience for comedy that happened to be straight white guys. That audience still exists, but it has broadened. As more diverse comedians have forced their way in front of their eyes, audiences have shown up for them.
WCT: What topics are discussing on this tour?
JKB: It's a hodgepodge. My first album and first special were about my background and identity. I have moved away from that. Not because it's not interesting, but I had already laid out the foundation. This is about my life now and not about my childhood. I am fascinated with sex and how we relate to it. It is more broader in scope than what I talked about in my first special.
WCT: Do you like being on the road?
JKB: I do. I am at an age where I don't have anything tying me to home other than friends. I like going to cities and seeing different gay scenes. I like experiencing different areas in the world. I don't feel guilty about not being at home other than killing a bunch of plants!
WCT: What's one thing you miss about Chicago?
JKB: I miss the accessibility of the art scene. The storefront theater scene there is where I fell in love with performing and storytelling. I miss the gorilla nature of taking a 45-seat theater and telling massive stories with people that are not being paid a lot. The people that were there that loved the work were my tribe and family in Chicago before I moved to New York.
WCT: I remember you being into RuPaul's Drag Race. Who do you think will win this season?
JKB: That's tough. I don't feel passionately about any of them. There are ones that I think are good that I don't like and there are ones that I like that aren't doing very well. [Laughs]
WCT: What did you think about Kim Chi as contestant?
JKB: Kim was a very important voice on the show. After JuJubee and Manila we hadn't seen an East Asian queen go as far as she did. She never tried to be anything other than herself and really won America over.
WCT: How was working on Hulu's Shrill?
JKB: It was a great experience. I couldn't say anything but delightful things about the cast and crew.
John Cameron Mitchell is my husband on the show. Hedwig was incredible, but when I was working summer stock theater in southern Illinois the only DVDs I owned were Wet Hot American Summer and Shortbus. Both of those movies were formative for who I am now in terms of my comedic voice and my interest in sexuality. To play his husband was a big full circle moment for me.
WCT: Maybe there will be a season two?
JKB: It was picked up for a season two a few days ago.
WCT: What else are you working on in the future?
JKB: I have a Comedy Central show with Patti Harrison called Unsend that people can watch. I just shot a pilot with Kat Penn for NBC. I am doing writing stuff and touring. That's pretty much it!
On Thursday, May 9, Booster makes an appearance at Macy's, 111 N. State St. first floor, at 5:30 p.m. to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.