Most people may know actor Ken Jeong as the scene-stealing Mr. Chow in The Hangover franchise, the hilarious Spanish teacher on Community, or perhaps from his appearances on Crazy Rich Asians and Fresh Off the Boat (via IMDB). He’s also created, produced, and starred in his own ABC show Dr. Ken. More recently, he’s a judge on NBC’s hit singing competition show The Masked Singer alongside Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg, Nicole Scherzinger, and Robin Thicke.
But these major television and film roles aren’t the only impressive feats on Jeong’s extensive and impressive resume. In addition to being an actor, the multi-talented Jeong is also a successful stand-up comedian, producer, and writer — not to mention a licensed physician with a medical degree! Yes, really. If you’re wondering what else is there to know about the talented Ken Jeong, you’re in for a few surprises.
Keep scrolling after the jump for some little-known facts about the Korean-American doctor-turned-actor.
Ken Jeong's roots in comedy started with a high school mock beauty pageant
Born to South Korean immigrants in Detroit, Michigan, KenJeong grew up and attended high school in Greensboro, North Carolina. It seems as if he was destined for success from the start, as the self-described “popular geek” very much excelled in academics (via The Washington Post). Before graduating at the early age of 16 years old (yes, 16!), Jeong participated in numerous extracurriculars including competing for the Quiz Bowl team, playing violin in the orchestra, and participating in student council (via Greensboro.com).
However, it turned out that his talents weren’t the only highlights of his high school career. According to The Washington Post, Jeong also participated in a mock male beauty pageant to appoint the next “Mr. Buccaneer” at his high school, where the then-16-year-old reportedly posed in his swim trunks for the swimsuit competition.
“That was where I discovered my own comedy bug,” Jeong told NPR. “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.”
Though Jeong ultimately finished as runner-up in the competition, we now know where his hilarious comedy roots originated.
Ken Jeong was once a very "intense" and "hardcore" doctor
Few Hollywood actors can boast a medical degree along with their Hollywood awards, but for Ken Jeong, balancing his medical career with his comedy hobby was a regular pastime. After earning his medical degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the actor practiced medicine for several years in Los Angeles, Calif. — all while pursuing stand-up comedy on the side, regularly performing at L.A.’s famed Improv and Laugh Factory comedy clubs (via NPR).
“Internal medicine was my specialty, basically general practice with an emphasis on adult medicine. During the day, I was a doctor. At night, you know, I was a comic,” he told NPR. “And it was really just to let off some steam. It became like golf, you know, in many ways. Most doctors have golf as a hobby. Mine was doing comedy.”
In fact, the star was reportedly so serious about his job as a doctor that you could barely tell he was a comedian during his off-time, telling NPR that he was “super serious” and “hard-core” as a trained physician and even often “barked orders” at the nurses. “I was so intense as a doctor,” he also told People. “And I was always stressed out, patients were surprised I did stand-up comedy on the side.”
Ken Jeong quit medicine the day after he finished filming Knocked Up
After practicing medicine for several years, Ken Jeong’s big break came when he was cast in the 2007 movie Knocked Up, where he had a small but fitting role as Dr. Kuni (via IMDB). According to Hollywood.com, Jeong decided to quit practicing medicine the day after he wrapped up his part in Knocked Up.
Additionally, it was all due to the encouragement of his wife Tran Jeong that pushed him to leave medicine to work in entertainment full-time (via NPR).
“I had filmed Knocked Up during a vacation week. My wife was like a good college coach telling the star player it was time to go pro. She knew I had the secret ambition to want to act full time. I just didn’t know if I could do this full time,” Jeong told Journal of Medicine. “It was really my wife’s confidence in me that encouraged me to do this full time. I owe my whole career to her.”
Ken Jeong's medical degree has proven useful in his acting career
Though Ken Jeong no longer practices medicine, it turns out that his medical degree has proven very useful, even in his Hollywood career. In addition to being cast as a doctor in his first breakout role in Knocked Up, Jeong also used his real-life medical experience as inspiration for his ABC sitcom show, Dr. Ken, which aired from 2015 to 2017 (via TV Insider). Jeong not only took on the role of lead actor — playing a brilliant doctor with a questionable bedside manner — but also served as creator, writer, and executive producer of the show.
And it turns out that Jeong’s medical degree can come in handy in other instances, too. According to Entertainment Weekly, the doctor-turned-actor once rushed to assist a woman having a medical emergency in the middle of his stand-up comedy set in 2018. Reportedly, Jeong was in the middle of performing at the Stand Up Comedy Club in Pheonix, AZ when an audience member started having a seizure. Jeong quickly rushed to the woman’s aid, even staying with her until she was transported to the hospital.
Ken Jeong hid some Easter Eggs in The Hangover as a "love letter" to his wife
Many may best know Ken Jeong for his iconic role as the mobster Mr. Chow in The Hangover, but a lesser-known fact is that the actor actually got the call for the 2009 hit movie right when his wife, Tran Jeong, was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer (via ABC News). Speaking to ABC News, Jeong discussed what it was like to be filming the movie during a tough time for his family — and revealed that he had actually snuck in some Vietnamese phrases into his character’s dialogue as a way to honor some inside jokes with his wife, who is Vietnamese-American.
“I would ad-lib actually. I’m Korean and I was speaking Vietnamese in the movie and, like, I say, ‘kai chee’ (Vietnamese for ‘chicken die’) and all these things to get my henchmen to get out,” he told the outlet. “There were these inside jokes between me and Tran. I would sprinkle that all throughout the movie… it’s like the weirdest love letter to your wife in a very filthy movie.”
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