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Ken Jeong

'The Masked Singer' Judge Ken Jeong is the King of Comedy

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By Brian Hurwitz

Blessed with singular talent and timing that consistently thrusts his supporting roles into the spotlight, Ken Jeong is beloved by audiences and critics alike. Which makes it all the more surprising that show business is this scene-stealing actor’s second career. In advance of pursuing his lifelong passion for comedy, Jeong was a practicing physician by day and honed his stand-up skills by night. Before long, the entertainment community took notice and his star was on the rise. But how exactly did he transition from doctor to actor and reality show host extraordinaire?

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Giphy | Crave

After graduating from high school at 16, Ken Jeong went on to study at Duke University. At his parent’s prompting, he decided to be pre-med and focused his studies on mathematics and life sciences. However, his lifelong love of comedy led to Jeong performing at various open-mic nights in the Raleigh-Durham area. Upon receiving his Bachelor of Science in 1990, Jeong enrolled at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill medical school where he continued performing at comedy clubs despite the rigor of his course load. He got his medical degree in 1995 and did his residency in internal medicine at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.

That same year, he won the Big Easy Laff-Off competition. Both judges, NBC president Brandon Tartikoff and The Improv founder Budd Freidman urged Jeong to move to Los Angeles and pursue a career in comedy. Although eager to act on their advice, Jeong knew Hollywood success stories were few and far between and he opted to finish his residency first.

Judd Apatow
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Prior to moving west, Jeong’s medical school counselor told him: "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." Hoping to prove him right, Jeong obtained his license to practice medicine in the state of California and worked as a doctor of internal medicine at Kaiser Permanente. Simultaneously, he became a regular at The Improv and The Laugh Factory, spending the next few years developing his act.

He first came to the attention of wider audiences after an appearance on ABC’s The View led to Jeong being named “The funniest doctor in America.” In his feature film debut, Jeong was cast as the unconventional Dr. Kuni in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up (2007).

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Proving to be his breakthrough role, Jeong suddenly found himself in demand. Parts in the comedies as Pineapple Express (2008), Step-Brothers (2008) and Role Models (2008) enabled him to quit his medical practice and devote himself to acting full-time. Less than a year later came the two roles that changed his life forever. First, he played Dr. Leslie Chow in The Hangover (2009). Next, he played Ben Chang on NBC’s sitcom Community (2009). Both projects were smash hits.

Jeong continued to log numerous film appearances including Couples Retreat (2009), Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon (2011), The Muppets (2011) and Pain & Gain (2013). In addition, he put his unique vocal talents to work in Despicable Me (2011), Zookeeper (2013), Bob’s Burgers (2012-2018), Bojack Horseman (2014-2018) and The Simpsons (2019). In-between, he reprised his role as Dr. Leslie Chow in two Hangover sequels and was featured in 92 of Community’s 110 episodes.

Ken Jeong and Awkwafina
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In 2015, Jeong drew inspiration from his own life and created, wrote and co-executive produced the ABC sitcom Dr. Ken (2015), which chronicled the life of a doctor who moonlit as a stand-up comedian. Proving less successful than many of his other comedic ventures, the show was panned by critics before being cancelled after its second season. Although disappointed by its reception, Jeong accepted it was part of the business into which he’s poured his heart and soul.

In 2018, he appeared in Crazy, Rich Asians, the highest-grossing romantic comedy of the past decade. And his first comedy special, You Complete Me, Ho, was released on Netflix in 2019.

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