Writing Jokes with Joel Kim Booster (CONAN)
There are so many people here doing some truly experimental, wild shit.
[@ihatejoelkim on Twitter]
What are some of the toughest parts of getting a play from the script to the stage?
Collaborating is a real bitch, but was also probably the best thing to happen to that script. Over the span of one year I wrote 13 different drafts of that script, at one point starting completely over. Sarah made me kill a lot of darlings, which is tough. Lots of jokes and moments that I loved but she knew just didn’t work. You don’t see it while you’re writing, but you need that person outside of the script to be your eyes and argue with you about your words. It ultimately made for one of the best things I’ve ever written.
What’s your name and where did you grow up?
Joel Kim Booster. I grew up in Plainfield, IL. A tiny Chicago suburb that is exactly what you imagine it to be.
What’s interesting or uninteresting about Plainfield?
Plainfield is fairly undistinguishable from any other Southwest suburb of Chicago. Of course, there were always rumors that it was founded by the KKK, so I guess that’s pretty interesting, depending on how you define that word.
What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid?
My dad was and still is an engineer for CASE IH, an agricultural equipment brand. He breaks new tractors for a living, which I swear is less exciting than it sounds. My mom was a home health nurse, and she always brought home stray pets, so it was way more exciting than it sounds.
Why did you first want to start performing comedy? What was the first joke or bit you tried on stage?
I moved to Chicago, in part, to act; and I remember being very frustrated with the roles I was being offered both on camera and on stage. I was honestly just so fed up with getting called in to be IT guys or Chinese food delivery boys, and I remember I was working on a play for the New Colony at the time with Beth Stelling before she moved to LA, and half-heartedly brought up the idea of doing stand up as a way to create material for myself. It terrified me, but she gave me some advice, and I eventually did it for the first time in front of a bunch of people at a variety show that the New Colony produced.
I’m not exactly sure what is technically the first joke I ever tried out, but I believe it was probably one where I compared being gay and Asian to fucking different kinds of dogs. It killed.
You’re a playwright, as well as a comedian. What is the origin story behind Kate and Same Are Not Breaking Up?
I was working on pitching a few ideas to The New Colony with my friend and collaborator Sarah Gitenstein, and we had met a few times to discuss a bunch of ideas I had but none of them felt quite right. And then Amy Poehler and Will Arnett broke up and my Facebook feed exploded. People were freaking out and saying things like, “I don’t even believe in love anymore.” I’ve always found that kind of hyperbole sort of funny, and I remember texting Sarah “A celebrity couple breaks up but gets kidnapped by a crazed fan and forced into couples therapy” and she said “yes” and that was pretty much it.
What is Live on Broadgay and why is it important?
Live in on Broadgay is a project created by two very smart and creative comedians Bowen Yang and Sam Taggart. They gathered some of New York’s best gay comedians (and Jo Firestone) together and produced a fully staged adaptation of an episode of Sex and the City at an off-broadway theater. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever gotten to be a part of, will always remain as one of my fondest memories performing in New York and is in no way important.
How did Kam Kardashian originate? What was your role in the series?
Kam was the brainchild of (now) LA-based filmakers Ryan Logan and Fawzia Mirza. They had both collaborated a ton, and wanted to do something more comedic. They brought me on in season 2 to sort of expand the universe a little bit, and I got to play Kam’s much put upon intern. I also wrote an episode and co-wrote a few more and had a blast.
What do you like or dislike about the comedy scene in New York?
I love that the New York comedy scene is so big — there is an audience for really everything and everyone. There are so many people here doing some truly experimental, wild shit, that also happens to be super funny. It pushes you to do more, be funnier.
Being around all that greatness can totally fuck with you too, though. Everyone is booking this or that, or getting a pilot greenlit. If you focus on what you’re not getting, it can lead to a lot of days spent in your bed in the throws of an existential crisis.
Who is the funniest person you know?
Outside of the many comedians that I respect and admire, my two best gay guy friends make me laugh harder and louder than any other people in this city. It’s deeply upsetting.
What’s the dumbest superhero name you can think of?
Anything with “Lady” or “Ms.” in front of it. Something like “Lady Comet.” Like, what the fuck are you doing? Why are you gendering “Comet.”
Why are jokes funny?
Good jokes, to me at least, give voice to those intangible thoughts and feelings that have been knocking around in your head. Sometimes you laugh and don’t know why, sure — but my favorite laughs have always been accompanied by a “holy shit — yes. Exactly! That. That is how I’ve always felt about hamburgers.”
Joel Kim Booster is a Chicago bred, Brooklyn based comedian and writer. He cares deeply about cats, appointment television, and various feuds: http://www.ihatejoelkim.com/