comedians you should know

Celeste Yim Wants to Make You Feel Big Feelings

Illustration: Franziska Barczyk

This week, we’re highlighting 24 talented writers and performers for Vulture’s annual list “Comedians You Should and Will Know.” Our goal is to introduce a wider audience to the talent that has the comedy community and industry buzzing. (You can read more about our methodology at the link above.) We asked the comedians on the list to answer a series of questions about their work, performing, goals for the future, and more. Next up is Celeste Yim.

What would your Real Housewives tagline be?
“If I’m on the menu, order that!”

What of your work do you think you’re best known for, and what of your work are you most proud of?
I’m probably known for writing queer little sketches on SNL. I’m most proud of moving here and getting a visa to work here. Do you know how hard it is to move here and get a visa to work here?

Tell us one story from your childhood you think explains why you ended up becoming a comedian.
There was a school sleepover in grade five and for dinner, the teachers filled the cafeteria with balloons. But I’m severely allergic to latex so I wasn’t allowed to go inside, and as an alternative, my friends had to sit outside with no balloons and have dinner with just me. I remember feeling so bad that I was forcing them to have a loser VIP dinner that I spent two straight hours entertaining them and was like, This is my duty. I went full clown — screaming, dancing, doing prop work with the paper plates, giving the performance of my life. I remember going to sleep so hungry. A lot of my comedy comes from feeling guilty.

If a network green-lit a semi-autobiographical series for you to star in tomorrow, what would your character’s name and job be?
I got doxed once, which was scary. My show would be about a beautiful and high-profile New York writer/fashion icon/model/activist getting doxed, moving back home to Canada, and joining a communist dyke commune that’s trying to raise a child. Each episode would be about a different and devastating romance between two commune members. My character would be named “Flower” and they would be a carpenter who makes frames for a framing shop and they wouldn’t miss New York or being a writer or anything like that. They would be happy.

If you had to come onstage to just one song for the rest of your life, what song would it be and why?
“Crazy in Love,” by Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z. The first 15 seconds could save the world and also, I really believe in the message of the song.

Tell us everything about your worst show ever.
My first ever booked show was at a bar in Toronto called Christie Pits Pub, and the vibe of the bar matched the name. It started at 5 p.m. and I was 18 years old and I didn’t tell anyone about it. Everyone else on the show was much older than me and scary. Afterwards, the host came up to me and said, “You were funnier than I thought you were going to be.”

Nominate one comedian you don’t know personally who you think is overdue for wider recognition and why.
Richard Perez. He’s so funny, oh my God. I’m laughing just thinking about him and his characters. He wrote the famous acrostic poem — “SLAY: So Like Anyway Yeah.” He’s a star, he could make anything funny, and I think a spotlight just like permanently follows him around. Richard Perez!!!

When it comes to your comedy opinions — about material, performing, audience, the industry, etc. — what hill will you die on?
There is no need for a scarcity mentality. There’s enough for everyone to eat.

What’s an embarrassingly earnest goal you have?
My first instinct was to say, “I want to be in love.” Which is not about comedy and is insane. My earnest goal is to write movies and plays that make people feel enormous feelings. And honestly, being in love would probably help with that.

What is the best comedy advice, and then the worst comedy advice, you’ve ever received, either when you were starting out or more recently?
Worst comedy advice: Be yourself. (So unhelpful.)

Best comedy advice: Don’t be jealous of your friends. (Will save your life.)

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Celeste Yim Wants to Make You Feel Big Feelings