Doctor in the house

Presenting Ken, Dr. Ken Jeong…

He is a doctor.

He is an actor.

He is an actor who has played a doctor.

That is Ken Jeong, the popular comedian with a medical background and a television series where he plays a doctor.

Jeong, best known for his role as comic gangster Leslie Chow in ‘The Hangover’ trilogy, and as Ben Chang and himself in the television series ‘Community’ and ‘Dr. Ken’, respectively, is a doctor, specialised in internal medicine. He gave up, rather pressed the pause button on his medical profession, to give vent to his passion for acting and comedy. Recalling those early days, he’d said:  “During the day, I was a doctor. At night, you know, I was a comic. And it was really just to let off some steam. It just became my golf, you know, in many ways. Most doctors have golf as a hobby. Mine was doing comedy.”

But he wouldn’t let it be known that he was moonlighting as a comedian, as he was completely serious as a doctor. “I would bark orders to my nurses. I was hard-core. I wanted to make sure I did my job right. I was perfectly trained to be a physician.” That was until his first appearances on BET ComicView. Things changed altogether for the doctor…

Born Kendrick Kang-Joh Jeong, on July 13, 1969, in Detroit, to South Korean immigrants, he attended Walter Hines Page High School, where he was a part of the Quiz Bowl team and played violin in the orchestra. He graduated from Duke University in 1990 and obtained his M.D. from the University of North Carolina. It was during his internal medicine residency in New Orleans that he initiated his journey as a stand-up comedian. In 1995, he won the Big Easy Laff-Off, and the judges, NBC president Brandon Tartikoff and The Improv founder Budd Friedman, urged him to move to Los Angeles to strengthen his passion for comedy. And he did. He moved to Los Angeles and continued practicing as a physician, while performing regularly at The Improv and Laugh Factory comedy clubs.

It was, in many ways, his wife, also a physician, who prodded him towards a full time acting career. Tran Ho, a Vietnamese American and a breast cancer survivor, encouraged him to quit his job as a physician and pursue acting full-time. Talking about those days, Jeong told an entertainment magazine, “I had just finished filming Knocked Up, and it was life-changing. But I didn’t have the courage to go for it until she persuaded me. Medicine is a hard-won skill, and acting can be a fickle profession, so I tried to be realistic. Now, I’m a spoiled actor. I get weekends off and hiatus weeks — time I never got as a doctor.”

He made his film debut in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up as Dr. Kuni, following which he made a complete transition from medicine to acting.  It was his role as Mr. Chow in The Hangover that turned him into a true Hollywood star. As he puts it, “The Hangover changed my life from black-and-white to Technicolor.”


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