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Ken Jeong

Ken Jeong
Ken Jeong

Jeong's first taste of comedy began with a mock-male beauty competition in high school called the "Mr. Buccaneer Pageant."

"That was where I discovered my own comedy bug," Jeong told NPR's Ask Me Another host, Ophira Eisenberg. "I was posing like Arnold Schwarzenegger and just doing all these things and I got a standing O. And I ended up singing a Lionel Richie song, The Commodores' 'Three Times a Lady' on piano, and that got another standing O."

After college, Jeong moved to Los Angeles and practiced medicine for several years as a physician of internal medicine. At the same time, he performed regularly at The Improv and Laugh Factory comedy clubs.

In 2007, he was cast in a small role in the Judd Appatow film Knocked Up, and after the encouragement of his wife, he left medicine to work in entertainment full time."She is literally the reason for my success," Jeong noted. He has since become known for his roles in the Hangovermovies and the NBC sitcom Community. Ken Jeong is now a panelist on the reality competition shows The Masked Singerand its new spinoff, The Masked Dancer.

To cite the classic Green Day song, Ken Jeong had the time of his life during his Ask Me Another challenge. Jonathan Coulton led a music parody game where lyrics to popular songs from the 1990s are changed to be about things from other 90s eras from centuries past... think the 1890s, 1790s, and beyond.

Interview Highlights

Getting his friends from med school to come to his early standup performances

I would actually beg a lot of my friends from med school and college to come, because, look — I just need ten people there. Just laugh at it. And I would tell them, "Just laugh at everything. I don't care if you think I'm funny or not. I don't care. Just laugh at everything, please."

On Flying to South Korea to perform on the original version of The Masked Singer

I was promoting the American version and, unbeknownst to anyone, I flew out in secret to Korea. I stayed in my hotel room for all three days, and had to wear a mask to leave my hotel room and go via car to the studio. And then stayed in what looked like a college dorm room for eight hours and just... stressing out about my voice because I know I'm not a professional singer, I don't sing. And then also being in a mask where you have limited visibility, it was very stressful. And I definitely have a deep appreciation for every contestant that goes on these shows. It's so much easier to be a panelist and have fun and set the tone of the show, but it's another thing to be a contestant. It's incredibly hard, and I think that's why there's a lot of positive energy and feedback from the judges.

On juggling studying medicine and theatre in college

When I went to Duke I took an "Intro to Acting" class, my sophomore year, and I just loved it... I thought that this would be a side story I could tell my kids, like you know, "I was the second chorus member of Kiss Me Kate back in the day... Oh I kind of stole the scenes in the chorus in my day." I thought I'd be that guy while in the biology lab or in a medical practice, which I thought was fine.

Heard on Ken Jeong: Mask Me Another

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


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