Joel Kim Booster explains why friendship with Bowen Yang has been ‘life changing’
SNL‘s Bowen Yang has opened up to actor and comedian Joel Kim Booster about the realities of being gay and Asian in America.
Appearing together for the latest episode of Booster’s SiriusXM series Joy F*ck Club, Booster actor revealed that Yang was the “first other gay, Asian friend” that he ever had, admitting their friendship “affected the trajectory of my own life in the ways I saw myself”.
He told the SNL actor that their friendship has been “life-changing”.
“It broke me out of a certain mindset about being the only one in existence,” Booster told Yang. “There’s a sort of thing that happens, especially when you’re a double minority, that makes you feel [alone] especially when you’re socialised to believe you’re the only one.”
Bowen Yang replied that felt the same and added he had sent the other man “so many earnest a** messages out of nowhere”. He explained there was a “mentality shift” whenever “you’re able to sit with the idea of someone else … sharing some post with you”.
The two explained they first met after a mutual, white friend in New York City introduced them via a Facebook group message. According to Booster, the friend literally said the words: “You’re both gay and Asian and do comedy. You should be friends.”
But Joel Kim Booster said the two men put off meeting each other for a “full calendar year if not longer” because “we were both so stubborn”. He added that he was “immediately suspicious” of meeting Yang.
“I was immediately turned off,” Yang responded.
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But Booster said it was only because of the “forum” and how the two men were introduced. When they finally met in person, he said it was like “oh this is so much better than trying to forge a path as the only one”.
Later in the episode, Booster and Yang discuss how their queerness and race have “intersected and affected” both of their identities. Yang explained that, “at first consideration”, it “feels like they’re identities that are somewhat at odds with each other”.
“In terms of Western gay identities, which in a lot of ways sort of devalues Asian people or sort of puts Asian people in this weird purgatorial status in the gay community,” Yang explained. “That feels like it’s at odds with my Asian identity, which in a lot of weird, bizarre ways is also messaged something around like ‘You don’t be gay, don’t be gay’.”
He continued: “So having those two things be weird, diametrically opposed poles in some ways, having those two things have to be tightly wound together is really, really, really tough.”
Bowen Yang said “holding those two identities of being gay and Asian” had “made my skin a little thicker”. He said the two men had gone through “traumatic things”, and he felt like “we have relatively good heads on our shoulders”.
“I feel like that is a virtue of us having to build so many coping mechanisms out of thin air, and pull them out of nowhere and just be like ‘Well, I have to survive this and so this is how I’m going to deal with it’,” Yang said. “I don’t know. I feel like it’s made me cope better, but I do kind of spiral every now and then. That’s the reality.”