Joel Kim Booster Challenges Our Expectations on PsychosexualPhoto by Terence Patrick, courtesy of Netflix Comedy Reviews
Comedians mine their own lives for material; it’s a given at this stage. Even if their stories aren’t entirely rooted in fact, they are based on the performer’s perspective and past experiences. As an unintended consequence, though, comedians are often perceived as claiming to represent whatever demographics they fall into—especially when that comedian is not a straight cis white guy.
In the case of comedian Joel Kim Booster (known for Big Mouth, Shrill, and Fire Island), his jokes about taking drugs on a cruise ship and the differences between cats and dogs are sometimes superceded by the notion that he is meant to be a spokesperson for the gay and Asian communities. In his new Netflix special, Psychosexual, Kim Booster tackles this unsolicited burden head-on, structuring an entire bit around it and bringing laughs along with insight.
His deconstruction of representation and what we ask of minorities in entertainment is facilitated by Kim Booster’s expert crowd work. One man, Ben, is asked to speak for all straight white dudes—intimidating at any comedy show, but especially one you know is being taped for mass consumption. But imagine how Kim Booster feels, or any other tokenized individual in comedy, knowing that others demand they stand for people they’ve never met? As he says, he’s here to “be stupid and make people laugh”—the joy people feel from seeing someone like them on stage is a bonus.
And Kim Booster keeps the laughs coming throughout Psychosexual. The comedian quickly takes command of the room, shushing the crowd’s cheers or asking the camerawoman Janice (Is that her real name? Who knows, but it sounds good yelled from the stage) to zoom in on a particular audience member. His crowd work and rapport with the attendees make Psychosexual feel more electric and spontaneous than other comedy specials, which can fall into static, predictable patterns. And Kim Booster’s easy connection with the audience can’t be understated—he even gets one guy to share what he uses to clean up after masturbating. Not just any comedian could do that.
Kim Booster hits punchlines home effortlessly throughout the hour thanks to his conversational delivery and clever writing. His jokes range from observational to absurdist; at one point Kim Booster repeats the phrase “girl’s butt” so much that the words almost lose all meaning. Whether he’s telling an off-handed one-liner, chatting with the audience, or launching into a physical bit about how straight men walk, he will put you in stitches.
Kim Booster may not care about being a role model, but on his new special he proves himself an admirable comedian, walking the line of being funny and incisive. Psychosexual is a refreshingly good time and a testament to Kim Booster’s talent.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.