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Joel Kim Booster
Photograph: Courtesy Joel Kim Booster

Joel Kim Booster on dating fans and his new comedy album Model Minority

Prolific stand-up Joel Kim Booster tells us about his Comedy Central special and how he handles life on the road

Written by
David Goldberg

When it comes to hustling, nobody does it like Joel Kim Booster. You can often see the sharp and shady stand-up—who just released a Comedy Central special and the album Model Minority—at multiple venues every night, making merciless observations on race, politics and the secrets of his sex life. We asked the very funny New Yorker to share the gritty details of life from gig to gig—including his favorite fast food restaurants between sets and what it’s like meeting fans on the road.

If I'm in New York I average out at about two shows per night. This is including nights where I'll only have one and nights when I try to cram in three to four. Those nights are usually a mess and end with nearly everyone being mad at me for screwing with the timing of the show. There are some moments in my career when I'm not working on a ton of material and let myself relax a little bit. With the album and the special dropping back to back like they did, I'm currently panic-writing new material, so I'm grabbing at all the stage time I can get.

It all depends on how much time I have to get to my next show, and where the show is at. This city is complicated, because taking a cab is not always the quickest option. Especially if I'm schlepping from Brooklyn to Manhattan, which happens frequently. Not to be a bitch, but I'm lucky to be at a place in my career where I can afford to take a Lyft if I have the time and I don't want to deal with the train. Sometimes I just like to have uninterrupted access to 4G so I can watch Instagram stories.

I don’t find myself going over my sets very often in the cab the way an actor would with a script. I try to avoid saying what I do to any cab driver, ever. I love New York because drivers are generally uninterested in you beyond a simple How are you doing? In L.A., it’s a nightmare, because everyone wants to chat, and if you tell them you’re a comedian they will quote Uta Hagen to you; this happened to me twice in L.A. Usually I just tell them I work for a men’s sock company (my last day job), which kills the conversation immediately.

Oh god, it’s never anywhere good. Embarrassingly enough, I eat at Subway a lot. They are everywhere in the city and rarely ever have a line, and as far as fast food goes, I feel like I can control how healthy I eat if I go there. I Eat Fresh probably three times a week, which is like three more Subway sandwiches than most New Yorkers eat a week, but what can I say, I'm a suburban midwesterner with suburban midwesterner tastes. Some things just don't go away. I tend to eat a lot of fast food in general because it's easier to transport and eat crouched at the back of a bar or in the attic of a bar or wherever I'm performing that night. I love a Wendy's if I can find one, but I probably eat McDonalds nearly every day of my week—and thank you very much—I do look great.

Social life
Stand-up takes more out of me than I like to admit, socially. I'm more introverted than I let on, so I tend to try and find someplace I can be alone for a while before and between shows. When the weather is nice, I will literally stand outside staring at nothing for as long as I'm able before going to my next show. Either that, or sitting in a Subway eating the sandwich that I just told you I like to eat. After my last show of the night I'm usually more willing to go out and adventure with whomever I've ended up with that night. When I arrange the order of the shows I have in a night, I usually look at who I'm performing with and do my best to make sure I end up with a fun ’lil crew at the end of the night that I know I'll want to go to a gay bar with, or karaoke or to see some trash Marvel movie at midnight. This is my greatest secret and I hope none of my peers are reading.

It’s terrible! I don't see a lot of gay men out at shows generally. Most people still don't know who I am on any given night, so I'm usually introducing myself to a bunch of new people each night. But when I'm on the road, performing for audiences that are actually there to see me, I do generally see a bunch of gay men, which is fantastic. It can sometimes get a little uncomfortable after shows. I love to chat with everyone who wants to after the show, but I think the nature of my jokes—very personal, very transparent about my sex life—gives people this false sense of familiarity with me and sometimes can lead to uncomfortable touching or jokes about drugging my drink. Like I said, I'm a much more introverted person than I let on, and I think some of that can read as coldness to people after shows, which has gotten me a lot of angry Instagram DMs about what a bitch I am. But what can you do.

It's all so hard to manage because if you're super-hot, then I always encourage you to aggressively hit on me after a show, but how would you know if I thought you were super-hot or not? I have weird tastes. I have only been asked on a date post-show once by a guy, and it was a lovely date, and he is now dating a beautiful blonde boy whom he recently brought to a show and sat in the front row with. I will have my revenge.

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