WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - It's not uncommon for performers to say good things about a venue where they've played, even if the performance didn't go splendidly.
After all, they probably want to get booked in those places again.
When stand-up comedian Joel Kim Booster talks about Dead Crow Comedy Room in Wilmington though, the joy in his voice is unmistakable and the memories it conjures are still real to him.
"Dead Crow is the first comedy club I headlined," Booster said in a Wednesday afternoon phone interview before his shows at Dead Crow this weekend. "I featured a bunch and had gone on the road with other comics to perform, but Dead Crow is the first time I ever solo headlined.
"I was nervous and I've gotta tell you, it spoiled me. I wish I could say all my club experiences were as positive as they were after Dead Crow. It was really like starting near the top for me."
Booster's stand-up career began in atypical fashion.
After Booster, who was adopted by a Midwestern family when he was a baby, moved to Chicago to pursue acting, he was quickly frustrated with the parts offered to him.
"I got called, in one year, to be a Chinese food delivery boy five times," Booster said. "That wasn't super interesting to me."
Sensing that acting might not be fulfilling Booster's creative aspirations, stand-up comic and friend Beth Stelling, who was preparing for a move to Los Angeles, suggested Booster try stand-up.
"It was a very light suggestion," Booster said. "I don't think she thought I would turn it into my career by any means, but I remember that moment and the first time I did stand-up, just that feeling of, oh, this is what I should be doing."
Rather than signing up for open mics at comedy clubs, Booster's early shows took place before plays on theater stages.
Those unorthodox shows — how often do you see a stand-up set before watching a play? — were borne, Booster said, partly out of ignorance and partly because of his supportive friends in the theater community.
After finding his comedy footing in Chicago, Booster "needed to hit the reset button" which for him meant moving to New York City. He didn't really know anybody in NYC and as scary as that move sounds, Booster said it was exactly what he had to do to get better at his craft.
"I was too comfortable (in Chicago)," Booster said. "I'm never gonna put myself in uncomfortable situations (in Chicago) to get better at this.
"I moved to New York. I have no friends. Basically, I gave myself no other option but to make friends with the other comics who had just moved there and...it was the best decision I ever made."
Appearances on late night talk shows, a move to Los Angeles and headlining clubs have followed, but Booster says Wilmington's only full-time comedy club still holds a special place in his heart, and not just because it was the first place he headlined.
"I'm so grateful to be a working comedian. I would never trade that, but I'm not a famous comedian by any means," Booster said. "I go to headline clubs and I feel that. I don't always sell out shows, but at Dead Crow, it was so nice to go to a club that has cultivated an audience of smart comedy watchers because they trust the club to book good comedians. They don't care if they're famous or what their credits are.
"They do a fantastic job of booking across the spectrum of comedians. Every kind of comic, every race, gender, sexuality, every viewpoint is there. You're gonna get a little bit of everything if you go and I think more club bookers should do that."