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 landed his breakout film role in 2009, in the hit The Hangover, and is a regular on the hit NBC show Community.
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.
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.
Film and Comedy Star
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."
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. 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 Zack Galifianakis. The film, which became one of the highest-grossing R-rated comedies of all time, has become a money-making franchise, lifting the Chow character into the comic canon.
Since The Hangover's release, Jeong has been a regular on the hit NBC show Community, which began airing on NBC in 2009. He also landed roles in The Hangover's follow up films, The Hangover Part II and The Hangover Part III.
Jeong has also become a widely recognized face of advertising campaigns, including for Pepto-Bismol, Coke Zero and the American Heart Association.
In 2011, Jeong hosted the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas.
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 (2009), Jeong almost turned down the part.
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