- Comedians Joel Kim Booster and Bowen Yang have been friends since 2013.
- An article in The Hollywood Reporter mixed them up and it wasn't even the first time.
- When Out Magazine commented on this mistake, they also confused the two.
One of my favorite parts of Hulu's Fire Island wasn't the fact that the movie was able to revisit Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in a new and exciting way. I reveled in the delightful on-screen friendship between Joel Kim Booster and Bowen Yang's characters. The movie was written by Joel which means he probably had some say when it came to casting. So, why not cast one of your best pals in a movie where friendship features prominently?
The bond between Joel and Bowen is nothing short of magical. Unfortunately they had to address their friendship in an uncomfortable way when an article in The Hollywood Reporter mixed them up. Don't worry, it happened again in a different article that was addressing the original mistake. What is happening here? Before we dive into the controversy, let's take a look at a friendship most of us can only dream of having.
Joel Kim Booster and Bowen Yang's friendship was born on Facebook.
In an interview with POPSUGAR ahead of the Fire Island release, Bowen took us on a tour of the not-so-humble beginnings of his platonic partnership with Joel. In what can only be described as a sing of the times, Bowen and Joel met when a mutual friend introduced them via Facebook. Why did this person think they should get along? It's not great, but it all worked out for the best.
"This comedian who was not Asian put us in this Facebook chat together and said, 'You have to meet each other because you're both Asian comedians,'" explained Bowen. "Both of us were a little wary of the other at first, just because of that context," he said. They didn't meet offline for another year when Bowen booked Joel on a comedy show he was running in New York City.
Bowen described the feeling of that first meeting as seeing a "star shower." Their friendship felt fated, like something that was destined to be. It didn't matter if their initial introduction was incredibly awkward. "We've been able to transcend that moment for each other," Bowen recalled. In a separate conversation with POPSUGAR, Joel echoed his friend's feelings about their connection and added that it felt like meeting someone who really saw and understood him.
With great friendship, comes an offensive controversy.
In November 2023, The Hollywood Reporter addressed some pretty disturbing things actor Julianna Margulies (The Morning Show) said while guesting on The Back Room With Andy Ostroy podcast. When the conversation shifted over to the Israel-Hamas conflict, Julianna, who is Jewish, had some pretty alarming things to say including but not limited to "Black and LGBTQ people were, in her estimation, not supporting Israel when it retaliated, especially as she believed Jews had supported Black people, and other minorities, in their struggles."
The outlet referenced a tweet sent out by Joel which said he had "never heard someone want to say a slur more than Julianna Margulies does in that little podcast she did." While the article correctly attributed this to Joel, it incorrectly said he is a cast member of Saturday Night Live. Bowen is on SNL, not Joel. They later corrected themselves but not before it was picked up by social media and of course Joel himself.
"Y’all, isn’t it your literal job to tell people in my industry apart???" tweeted Joel on Dec. 1. "Please use my preferred credit, Saturday Night Live Comedian’s Friend!!" In the replies Joel added a screenshot from September 2019 when The Hollywood Reporter congratulated Bowen Yang for becoming SNL's newest cast member, but chose a photo of Joel.
As if this wasn't enough, while commenting on the egregious mistake made by The Hollywood Reporter, Out Magazine did the same thing. They "misattributed a quote from Yang's podcast to Booster," and had to make a correction of their own. Once again, Joel took to Twitter in order to discuss what is now an ongoing issue.
"People have been confusing Bowen and I for almost a decade now," Joel wrote. "It’s so weird and draining to realize just how many people scan us and stop collecting data beyond our race and sexuality. Freaks stay away from us." Moving forward, Joel and Bowen plan to no longer suppress their instinct to "make the people who mix us up feel better afterwards." Instead, they're gonna let folks just "sit in it for a while."