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Joel Kim Booster

Joel Kim Booster has joked that he knew he was gay before he knew he was Asian. He's the headliner at Saturday's Corvallis Comedy Night at the Majestic Theatre. 

Comedy fans who have seen Joel Kim Booster do his stand-up act on Comedy Central, "Conan," and "The Late Late Show with James Corden" haven't seen anything yet.

Booster's live show, which he will perform Saturday as headliner of Corvallis Comedy Night at the Majestic Theatre, is a one-of-a-kind experience.

The Los Angeles-based comedian, actor and writer enjoys incorporating the crowd into his high-energy performances.

"There's an improvisational energy around getting to know my audience, and every show is different because of that," Booster said.

Booster says much of the material from his set, which includes topics like dating, sex and drugs, is "dirtier and a little more out there than some of the stuff that gets on TV."

"The majority of the bits they're going to see (Saturday) will be fresh for them," he said.

For Booster, acting was his main focus early on. The first time he performed stand-up was in Chicago in 2011, the summer after he graduated from Millikin University. He did it as a favor to a friend who was putting on a variety show.

"Stand-up was the easiest thing I could do to help out, and I sort of fell in love in that moment," he said.

Booster was born in South Korea. He was adopted as an infant by a white evangelical Christian family and raised in Plainfield, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. He was home-schooled, until he went to high school his senior year to participate in theater.

Booster has joked in the past about his childhood. "(I) knew I was gay before I knew I was Asian," he says.

It was a secret he couldn't tell his parents, but they found out when he was 17 by reading his journal. He left home shortly after, and didn't talk to them again until college. The relationship with his family is better now.

Booster said his background was a big part of his stand-up career in the beginning. It is also featured heavily in the first hour of his 2017 comedy album, "Model Minority."

"When I started, my style was always much more like that of a storyteller. It wasn't until I moved to New York, in 2013, that I really started to fine tune some of those longer stories into shorter setup, punch-line jokes," he said.

The root of storytelling is still there, he said, "coming from my personal experiences and then (with) a twist at the end that is usually fairly absurd."

Booster said his standup act is now character-driven. It is less about how he as a human being thinks and feels, and comes from the point of view of the persona he's developed for himself on stage.

In 2016, Booster performed a comedy showcase for representatives from TBS. A booker from "Conan" was also in the audience, and a week later Booster appeared on the late-night show.

"That appearance really led me to headlining clubs and touring for the first time," he said.

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Booster has also worked as a writer and actor the past few years. His writing credits include "Billy on the Street," "The Other Two" on Comedy Central, and Netflix's "Big Mouth."

He appeared in the dramatic film, "Viper Club," and had small roles in "The Week Of," and Hulu's comedy series "Shrill," starring Aidy Bryant.

"I've had a lot of great opportunities to do a little bit of everything," Booster said.

He was recently cast in "Sunnyside," a new pilot coming this fall to NBC. The sitcom, from executive producer Michael Schur ("The Office" and "Parks and Recreation"), centers on a former New York City councilman, played by Kal Penn, who helps a group of various immigrants gain citizenship and find the American Dream.

Booster and Poppy Liu portray two of these immigrants, a rich brother and sister. They won't specify where they are from, only that their "dad lives in international waters."

Booster said his character, Jun Ho, is a "comically rich idiot." When he auditioned for the role, writers had likened the siblings to Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr.

Booster said he and Liu were uncertain that they could pull it off.

"I don't want to speak out of turn, but I think Poppy and I are the biggest departures for them in terms of what they had originally conceived the characters to be, and where Poppy and I have taken them," he said.

The cast has filmed the pilot episode so far.

"It's really exciting to see how they are going to develop from there," Booster added.

"Sunnyside" will air Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.

Booster said he's cycled between being an actor and touring comic, but he never wants to choose one over the other.

"As long as I have something interesting to say, I always want to be doing stand-up," he said.

Corvallis Comedy Night organizers hope Saturday's June 1 show by Booster and opening comedian Kirsten Kuppenbender of Portland spark what becomes an annual tradition of openly gay comedians performing at the event in celebration of (LGBTQ+) Pride Month.

While he doesn't think of himself as primarily a gay comic, Booster said it is better when audiences have more options on whom they want to see perform.

"It's so nice not to feel like I'm the only one that's out there to represent an entire community," he said.

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