“Fire Island” writer and star encourages Millikin students to create opportunities for success.
When Joel Kim Booster watched his older sister perform in a play when he was five years old, he was certain his future was in theatre, a dream he says almost never wavered. While he claimed wryly that it was the only thing he was good at, so he stuck with it, Booster’s 2022 skyrocket into celebrity status exhibits his talents across many stages - figuratively and literally.
His best-known work, “Fire Island,” is a modern-day, queer retelling of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” that premiered on Hulu in June 2022. Booster wrote, produced and starred in the romantic-comedy alongside a diverse cast including comedian Margaret Cho, Bowen Yang, Conrad Ricamora and James Scully. He credits the project with being the most impactful of his career thus far. “It was the culmination of so many years of work. I’ve always wanted to be in a leadership position, so being able to steer the ship was really impactful and gratifying for me,” Booster remarked.
“It made me believe for the first time that I was doing the right thing.”
As the headliner for the 2022 Goodheart Event at Millikin University, Booster, a Class of 2010 theatre graduate, returned to campus on November 9 to perform in Shilling Hall’s Albert Taylor Theatre and to teach a standup comedy workshop masterclass where students had the chance to perform a short standup set and receive notes and feedback from Booster’s professional experiences. While Booster said there is no single secret to creating successful standup comedy due to the performance’s individualistic nature, he had plenty of advice for aspiring comedians, actors and creators. “Everyone has their own secret sauce that they add to the set to make it their own."
"If there was one general secret, I’d say it is figuring out what you bring to the table that’s individual and unique to you.”
The Goodheart Event, which was created through a generous gift from the late Margaret “Peggy” Goodheart Madden and her husband, the late G. William Madden, provides Millikin students with access to outstanding entertainment at no charge. Previous Goodheart Event performers include Seth Meyers, Jonathan Van Ness, Jay Leno, Wayne Brady and David Spade.
In returning to his alma mater, Booster reflected on how his experiences at Millikin helped influence his future in entertainment. He said that one thing he really loved about Millikin was how open they were to creating opportunities when his interests didn’t line up with the offered programs. “When I came back my sophomore year, I said that I wanted to start writing plays, but there wasn’t a program for it. They were really open and helpful in creating individual learning tracks for me,” Booster remarked. The first play he wrote at Millikin, “Layover,” was written over Booster’s Christmas break and produced in his basement, which he said also served as a blackbox theatre at the time.
The primary lesson that Booster took away from Millikin was the same lesson he conveyed to the students who attended his masterclass. “At Millikin, you have the ability to create your own opportunities. Millikin is a great platform to make things happen. If it’s something you want to do, like playwriting, and it doesn’t exist at Millikin, they will help you make it happen.”
“One of the reasons I was able to find the success that I have is by making opportunities. Not waiting around for someone to open a door for me, but seeing a wall with no door and making one for myself.”
Booster took that lesson and created his own opportunities in his career, which has led to a fast-growing list of credits as a writer, actor and producer. He has also been recognized on the “Time100 Next List,” as an advocate, nominated by “Fire Island” co-star Margaret Cho, along with being named on a list of “Queer Young Comics Redefining American Humor,” by The New York Times. Additionally, Booster has a Netflix comedy special “Psychosexual,” and is currently acting in the AppleTV+ series “Loot,” opposite Maya Rudolph. In November 2022, Booster also appeared on “Celebrity Jeopardy!” to raise funds for the Selah Neighborhood Homeless Coalition.