Joel Kim Booster Isn’t Trying to Be a ‘Trailblazer’: ‘I Just Wanted to Make People Laugh’ (Exclusive)

“As a queer Asian person coming up, I devoured everything Margaret Cho did,” the ‘Fire Island’ writer and star tells PEOPLE

<p>Monica Schipper/WireImage</p> Joel Kim Booster

Monica Schipper/WireImage

Joel Kim Booster

Joel Kim Booster isn’t prioritizing becoming a trailblazer.

It’s a word sometimes used to describe the comedian, 36, especially ever since his breakout year on streaming in 2022, when, during Pride Month, his stand-up special Psychosexual and his gay romantic comedy Fire Island (which he wrote and starred in) came out on Netflix and Hulu, respectively.

“It’s difficult because I am not somebody who went into this wanting to be an advocate or a trailblazer or anything — I just wanted to make people laugh,” Booster tells PEOPLE. “All the rest of it is a byproduct. You cannot prioritize it. You cannot be mission first, joke second, and be successful.”

<p>Jamie McCarthy/Getty </p> Joel Kim Booster at New York Fashion Week on Feb. 11, 2024

Jamie McCarthy/Getty

Joel Kim Booster at New York Fashion Week on Feb. 11, 2024

Related: Joel Kim Booster Has No Plans for Fire Island Sequel for Now (Exclusive)

Booster notes that it makes him “really uncomfortable” when people call him a “trailblazer” because he believes that word should be used more to describe comedians who came before him during eras when the LGBTQ+ community wasn’t as accepted in mainstream culture.

“I started doing comedy at a very convenient time for someone like me,” Booster explains. “It wasn’t easy, but there weren’t the same barriers to entry that I think there were, you know, a decade before I started.”

Among the people who Booster looks up to are Guy Branum (“the godfather of gay guy comedians,” he says) and Margaret Cho.

“As a queer Asian person coming up, I devoured everything Margaret Cho did,” says Booster, who notably cast Cho in Fire Island. “She has always been such a firebrand. She didn’t wait around for someone to open the door. She knocked it down herself. That appealed to me.”

<p>FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty</p> Joel Kim Booster kisses John Michael Kelly at the 2024 Emmys


Joel Kim Booster kisses John Michael Kelly at the 2024 Emmys

Related: Joel Kim Booster on Being a Hollywood Multi-Hyphenate: 'I Have Skill Sets to Do It All' (Exclusive)

While Booster has made a career being fearless onstage, there is one thing that scares him about stand-up: clapter.

“Specials from left-wing and right-wing comedians are like TED Talks now,” Booster explains. “You state a political opinion, and then you get applause. That’s clapter. When you agree with something that someone’s saying onstage, but it doesn’t make you laugh.”

Born in South Korea and raised by adoptive parents in Plainfield, Illinois, Booster moved to Chicago after college to pursue acting. That's when a night out to watch stand-up planted a seed.

”It unlocked something in me. It is like theater,” he says. “I think that's missed by a lot of people who only experience stand-up through TV specials or TikTok clips or what-have-you on social media or on YouTube. There is something so important and so special about the immediacy of being in the room with a standup comic.”

<p>Frazer Harrison/Getty</p> 'Loot' stars Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Nat Faxon, Maya Rudolph and Joel Kim Booster

Frazer Harrison/Getty

'Loot' stars Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Nat Faxon, Maya Rudolph and Joel Kim Booster

Just before Pride Month, Apple TV+’s Loot released its season 2 finale. In the show, Booster plays Nicholas, a loyal and narcissistic assistant to Maya Rudolph's billionaire character, Molly.

For Nicholas’ story arc, show writers took some inspiration from Booster’s personal life. “They were really upfront with me when they were writing this season, and they asked me a lot of questions and for consent to sort of dip into what they know about my personal life,” Booster says.

“They asked me straight up, they were like, ‘Your parents are gonna be in this season. Do you wanna be adopted or do you wanna have Asian parents?’ ” he recalls. “I was like, ‘Oh, I think it would be cool to be adopted and have it be sort of incidental to the plot.’ ”

“In that episode, it’s not really brought up, you know? They just show up. They’re white,” Booster adds. ”And I think audiences are smart enough to figure out how that might’ve happened.”

<p>Monica Schipper/Getty</p> Joel Kim Booster on May 11, 2024

Monica Schipper/Getty

Joel Kim Booster on May 11, 2024

Booster emphasizes that he’s not a “narcissist” or “a------” like Nicholas.

“It's difficult for me because I do think that a lot of people assume that Nicholas is really sort of beat for beat, measure for measure, based on my actual personality,” he says, adding that while they have some similarities, he gets worried that those moments are “confirming that I am as big a narcissist and a------ as Nicholas is.”

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The actor admits Nicholas is “still a fun character to play," and detais some of the differences between the character and himself.

“I'm a much more earnest person,” he says. ”I'm not rude or mean … I have had so many people be so disappointed after meeting me in real life because I am not this big, bombastic person that I make myself out to be [on TV or] onstage. I’m pretty shy and introverted as a person.”

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