Who Is Ken Jeong?
Ken Jeong was born in Detroit, Michigan, on July 13, 1969, to South Korean immigrants. After completing undergraduate work at Duke and getting a medical degree at the University of North Carolina, he pursued his interest in comedy while completing his residency in internal medicine in New Orleans. He scored his breakout film role in the 2009 smash The Hangover, and became a regular on the NBC hit Community before landing his own show, Dr. Ken.
Early Life and Schools
Ken Jeong was born Kendrick Kang-Joh Jeong in Detroit, Michigan, on July 13, 1969. Jeong grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, where his father, D.K. Jeong, was a professor at North Carolina A&T State University. Jeong later told USA Today that he inherited his sense of humor from his father.
Jeong was involved in student council and played in the orchestra at Walter Hines Page High School, graduating from the school at age 16. He grew up loving comedy, especially comedians Bill Cosby and Jim Carrey, but at his parents’ urging, he pursued the stable career of medicine. He completed his pre-med studies at Duke University in 1990 and obtained his medical degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1995.
Medicine to Comedy
While training for his residency in internal medicine at Oshsner Medical Center in New Orleans, Jeong moonlighted, pursuing his love of theater and comedy. In New Orleans, he won the "Big Easy Laff-Off," judged by late NBC president Brandon Tartikoff and Improv comedy club founder Budd Friedman, both of whom encouraged Jeong to move to Los Angeles to pursue his entertainment dreams.
While working as a practicing physician, seeing patients for seven years at Kaiser Permanente, Jeong performed at Los Angeles' famed Improv and Laugh Factory comedy clubs. His side gigs gave him the experience he needed to secure higher-profile entertainment jobs, and he soon appeared on ABC’s The View and earned the title "The Funniest Doctor in America."
Jeong shared with LA Weekly what his medical school counselor told him prior to moving to L.A.: "You will be a great doctor because you are a great comedian, and you will be a great comedian because you are a great doctor."
Early TV and Film Roles
Several television appearances followed, including on Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000), HBO’s Entourage (2004), NBC’s The Office (2005) and ABC’s Boston Legal. Jeong’s feature film debut, as a wisecracking doctor in Judd Apatow’s 2007 hit Knocked Up, opened more doors for the rising star.
He went on to land roles in films like Role Models, Step Brothers and Pineapple Express—all released in 2008—and 2009's All About Steve.
'The Hangover,' 'Community' and 'Dr. Ken'
Also in 2009, the actor-comedian was cast in his breakthrough role, as Asian mobster Mr. Chow in the sleeper-hit comedy film The Hangover, starring opposite Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis. The film became one of the highest-grossing R-rated comedies of all time and lifted the Chow character into the comic canon. He returned for the sequels, The Hangover Part II (2011) and The Hangover Part III (2013).
After The Hangover's release, Jeong became a regular on the hit NBC show Community, which aired from 2009 to 2015. He then created, wrote and co-executive produced the sitcom Dr. Ken, which ran on ABC from 2015 to 2017. The show was based on Jeong's life as a doctor prior to becoming an actor.
'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'The Masked Singer' and Other Projects
Along with his featured roles on television, Jeong made appearances on shows like Hot in Cleveland and Fresh Off the Boat and contributed his voice to animated fare like BoJack Horseman. On the big screen, he landed roles in Ride Along 2 (2016) and the hit rom-com Crazy Rich Asians (2018).
Jeong also hosted the 2011 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas and appeared in television specials like 2017's A Christmas Story Live! He opened 2019 with a judging gig on The Masked Singer, an adaptation of a popular Korean singing competition series, and returned to stand-up that year with the release of a Netflix special.
Jeong has also served as a widely recognized face of advertising campaigns, including for Pepto-Bismol, Coke Zero and the American Heart Association.
Jeong’s Vietnamese-American wife, Tran Ho, also a doctor, practices family medicine. The couple has twin daughters, Alexa and Zooey. Because Tran Ho was struggling with a rare form of breast cancer when her husband was offered his role in The Hangover, Jeong almost turned down the part.
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