Joel Kim Booster, the writer and star of Fire Island, recently released his stand-up comedy special Psychosexual on Netflix.
The special has received largely positive reviews, and you’ll get no dissent here. Booster has amazing stage presence and seamlessly weaves bits with the crowd into the show as if it was scripted. We’re not talking quick throwaway lines or a good-natured heckling either. We are talking full on conversations.
Booster used (un)lucky audience member Ben to represent all cis straight white men during the show. After each carefully devised act of the set he would check in with Ben to see if he, as the voice of all straight white guys, was enjoying the show, what resonated with him, what made him feel alienated, and what he found especially funny. Booster did this as a way to highlight the tokenism he experiences as a gay Asian male in his day to day and professional life, as if everything he says and does is supposed to accurately represent Asian queerness in America. And while it sounds dry and straight forward, it was anything but; and it created some truly hilarious moments. Nothing Ben said was taken at face value of course, it was all twisted to suit Booster’s agenda, but that was the fun of it.
Ben wasn’t the only audience participant either. Straight couple Carl and Ally were tapped by Booster to help lovingly lampoon the tropes of monogamy while another unnamed man helped illustrate what tools are utilized during and after masturbation by men. Add into this an unexpected tête-à-tête with his camerawoman that broke the fourth wall and you have yourself one of the most uniquely funny and well-paced stand-up specials to come along in a long time.
The show was thoughtfully written with seamless transitions and expertly performed, covering an amazing array of topics. Booster tackled issues surrounding the racism and fetishism he’s encountered in his dating life in a way that was clever, enlightening and humorous. He shared his struggles with bipolar disorder in an accessible yet simultaneously vulnerable way. He talked about gay sex, a lot, in a way that was so fun and refreshing to see. Did it cross the line into crude at points? Well, perhaps; but so do most comedians that use sex as fodder for their jokes. It all comes back to representation. The field is small for gay male stand-up comings. There’s lots of gay comedians and actors but there are not many highly visible gay male stand-ups, and so hearing jokes about gay threesomes, cruising, and dick pics on Netflix is certainly new and fresh and worthy of celebrating.
Admittedly, I wasn’t too familiar with Joel Kim Booster’s work outside of Fire Island but Psychosexual has really opened my eyes. I look forward to what he comes out with next.
You can watch Psychosexual now exclusively on Netflix.