My Big Break
12:36 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

Ken Jeong, Leaving Medicine For Movies

Originally published on Tue April 8, 2014 12:49 pm

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

You might have heard that some of our listeners actually joined Twitter just to participate in our Twitter poetry series. You might call it their big break into poetry. Well, our colleagues at All Things Considered have been hearing stories from a number of people about the moment when their careers in other fields took off.

The series is called My Big Break. And as part of the series, they recently spoke with actor Ken Jeong. You might know him as Senor Chang in the NBC show "Community" and the bad guy, Mr. Chow, in "The Hangover" series of movies. But before that, he was known by his patients as Dr. Jeong.

KEN JEONG: 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. 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.

I never led on I was a comedian. I never acted out. It was really important to me, like, to not be Patch Adams. I was so super 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. You know, it wasn't a fluke. I worked hard at it. Once I started appearing on television, one of my first appearances was on BET "Comic View."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "COMIC VIEW")

BRUCE BRUCE: Give it up for Dr. Ken, y'all.

JEONG: I would just go to wherever they were filming in LA, and they would just record my set. And it was my kind of introduction to television.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "COMIC VIEW")

JEONG: I got a day job just like you guys, all right. I'm a doctor. I'm a medical doctor. We got to talk different at work, right? Hi, I'm Dr. Jeong. I'll be your primary care provider. That kind of thing, right?

JEONG: One of my patients did see me. She was an elderly lady - elderly white lady in her late 70s. And she said, by the way, me and my husband loved you on BET "Comic View." And that kind of blew my mind.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "COMIC VIEW")

JEONG: Just 'cause I'm a doctor don't mean I'm not a player.

JEONG: My first big break was getting the part of Dr. Kuni in "Knocked Up," which was written and directed by Judd Apatow. He was looking for an Asian actor with medical experience.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "KNOCKED UP")

JEONG: (As Dr. Kuni) Hello, Allison, Ben. Interesting night.

SETH ROGAN: (As Ben Stone) We really, really appreciate you coming in.

JEONG: (As Dr. Kuni) Well, what else do I have to do, I mean, besides sleep. Totally kidding.

JEONG: And that coincided with me leaving medicine. It was kind of time to go, and it was really my wife, who's also a physician And to her everlasting credit, she said, you know, it's time to pursue this full-time. The second part of my big break was "The Hangover." I mean, that changed my life overnight.

It changed everything for me in terms of my career. And none of us knew that it would be, like, the biggest R-rated, you know, comedy franchise of all time. You know, I remember telling my wife filming that I think I made the funniest movie ever. I just hope people see it.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE HANGOVER")

JEONG: (As Mr. Chow) I want my purse back.

ZACH GALIFIANAKIS: (As Alan) That's not a purse. It's a satchel.

JEONG: (As Mr. Chow) It's a purse, OK? And you steal from wrong guy.

GALIFIANAKIS: (As Alan) Wait a second.

JEONG: You know, I always say "Knocked Up" opened the doors and "The Hangover" just burst it wide open. To this day, it's still surreal. And my wife's a doctor. All our friends are doctors - our close friends. And it ' just that I have an odd job now. I think I'm like a doctor who had a detour, and I just have an odd job.

MARTIN: That was actor and comedian Ken Jeong. Our friends at All Things Considered want to hear about your big break. Send an email with your story to MyBigBreak - all one word - @NPR.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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