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June 23, 2020

Runaway Brain

Joel Kim Booster faces all the twists and turns that life has thrown him with every part of his brain.

Bruce Fretts
  • Taylor Miller

When Joel Kim Booster was growing up in a conservative Christian family in the Midwest, he considered becoming a youth pastor.

"That was probably the last thing I thought about before I came out [as gay]," says the comic actor. "It was a performance alternative — like a form of stand-up. Thank God I didn't do it."

Instead, Booster pursued a career in comedy, and his success as an outré stand-up led to jobs as a writer and performer on shows like Netflix's Big Mouth and Comedy Central's The Other Two.

"When I'm in the writers' room, I never turn off the performing part of my brain," he says. "And every choice I make as an actor is based on where we are in the story, so I don't think I ever shut off either part of my brain."

His quicksilver charisma and humor led him somewhere he never thought he'd be: on a network sitcom. He was a regular on NBC's short-lived Sunnyside.

"I didn't ever feel like my way into the public consciousness would be on NBC, and in a way, I was right. But it was a really rewarding experience."

Now he's getting the chance to pursue his own comedic vision as the writer and star of Quibi's upcoming Trip, an adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice set on Fire Island, a gay-friendly getaway near New York City.

"I'm nervous about it, but I feel like this is what I'm supposed to be doing," Booster says. "I like being a team player, but there's something exciting about getting to step up to the plate and see if I can make something coherent."

Quibi also tapped him to cohost (with Keke Palmer) a new social-media-centric reboot of MTV's Singled Out dating show.

And he appears as an evangelical Christian on the third season of the sitcom Search Party (which has moved from TBS to HBO Max). "It was really fun and easy," he says of the full-circle role. "And it felt like a little bit of catharsis."

Amen to that.


This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 6, 2020

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