In the beginning, Julie Kim bombed – a lot.
Her stand-up career began after an engineering degree – blossoming out of a bucket list item “as a dare to myself, to try it just one time,” she said. As a new comedian trying new jokes in front of only a handful of people in small clubs, she wasn’t sure her material or the audience was a fair gauge of how good she was – or how good she could actually be.
Twelve years later, crossing that bucket list item has led to opportunities including opening 40 dates with stand-up comedian and actor Ronny Chieng of The Daily Show, screenwriting for CBC’s hit comedy series Kim’s Convenience and ideating an opening monologue for actor Simu Liu, best known as the lead in Marvel blockbuster Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Kim ideated Liu’s now well-known ‘I am Canadian’ monologue for the 2022 JUNO Awards, shaping it with a writing team including Simu Liu. The opener has since gone viral with millions watching live and again and again online.
“(Simu Liu) messaged me on Instagram … He said ‘hey, I am hosting the JUNOs and I need some writers.’ I probably played it cool for zero point five seconds and then said ‘I’m in,’” she remembered with a laugh. “This year I will be joining the writers again in Edmonton (as a writer for the 2023 JUNO Awards) – a week after my show in Victoria (on March 3).”
The eldest child of a Korean-Canadian family growing up in Toronto, Kim has committed to the process of writing for multiple mediums – for others and herself – as a diversification of her artistic portfolio. In part, because she felt pressure as the eldest child in an immigrant family with no generational wealth to fall back to succeed. In some ways, she feels grateful for a fullness in her perspective, understanding early on that nothing is fair. Kim even wrote grant applications to the Canada Council for the Arts to pay for her hotel stays during the Ronny Chieng tour, which didn’t have the budget to accommodate her. Yet she committed to the process, again using her art and her writing to pave the roadmap to take on the career-pivoting opportunity.
She is open to a grind that’s made her more resilient in the long run, forming her perspective on bombing on stage. “I don’t think anything good happens when you take it personally,” she explained.
“There have been a couple of comedy clubs who haven’t even wanted to see a recent tape or see references … Just deciding ‘no, we are just going to go with our usual roster of male comedians.’ There are some with definite biases against women and Asian comedians,” she said. “I go out there and I kind of don’t give a shit and I don’t have a quiet or demure demeanour which in a way I think does shift some people’s stereotypes of what an Asian woman is. I am not doing it on purpose, I am not just putting it on, I am just this big of a bitch.”
Now, her priority is to entertain, to hone the craft of making people laugh whether it be on stage, in a book, on television or in a movie theatre.
“I feel empowered to create my own opportunities so I cannot be susceptible to those (past) barriers,” she said. “I don’t have in mind what it is going to look like for me in five to 10 years … but I know the feeling that I want.”
What she wants, is to make people laugh.
“If you laugh at the same thing as someone else it’s a form of bonding. That’s connecting. That’s something I am very grateful to do because I think that does good in this world,” she said. “When you know there is a good audience there, you are hungry for them.”
Kim will meet that audience at the Victoria Event Centre at 7 p.m. on March 3. For more information visit juliekimcomedy.com or find her on Instagram @juliekimcomedy.
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