Joel Kim Booster in his Netflix stand-up special, "Psychosexual." Credit - Terence Patrick—Netflix
Chosen family has been a central theme in Joel Kim Booster’s life. The 34-year-old multi-hyphenate highlighted this hilariously and poignantly in his first feature film, Fire Island, which he co-produced, wrote, and starred in. The movie, which adapts Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice with a queer spin, was released on Hulu in June, and it resonated broadly with the LGBTQ+ community. Booster was showered with praise by critics and viewers alike, who thanked him for depicting queer, Asian characters with complexity and nuance. “I think we should be demanding more than just representation at this point,” Booster tells TIME. “Ultimately, there has to be depth, there has to be more, and without that, it’s not representation at all.”
In addition to his popular movie, Booster released a Netflix stand-up special, Psychosexual, and co-starred in the Apple TV+ comedy Loot, with Maya Rudolph and Michaela Jaé Rodriguez—and that was just what he accomplished in June. In his special, he opened up about being bipolar, something he’d never discussed onstage before, as well as his relationship with his adoptive parents, and more.
Booster has spoken in the past about his strained relationship with his parents, how his sexuality “became this thing in my life that we didn’t talk about” because of the evangelical lifestyle he was raised in. When his father died in 2021, Booster said he “regretted never being able to introduce him to somebody or figure out where we stood about that part of my life.” But he had a touching phone conversation with his mom when he started dating his current partner, which made him feel more secure in their bond.
In working through his strained relationship with his parents, though, Booster says it “really emphasized how important the people in my life [were] that I had chosen to be around me,” he said. “A lot of queer kids learn earlier in life is that your family sometimes cannot be everything for you,” he says, “so you have to find the people who can pick up the slack.”