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“Keep in mind, I’m a partner at Kaiser [Kaiser Permanente, a hospital in Woodland Hills, California] at this point,” Dr. Ken Jeong says as we sit down at the offices of The Hollywood Reporter to record an episode of THR‘s ‘Awards Chatter’ podcast and begin discussing the biggest turning point of his life. “I’m pulling down six figures and making a good living, with a pension guaranteed the rest of my life, and I’m tenured.” Even so, Jeong could no longer resist an urge he had felt since his sophomore year of high school: to be a full-time actor. He had just played a small part — of a doctor — in Judd Apatow‘s 2007 film Knocked Up, cracking up pros like Seth Rogen and Adam Scott, and Apatow, at the wrap party, had called him “my discovery.” That sealed the deal. Within days, Jeong left Kaiser to focus full-time on acting. “And,” he notes, “I had no [acting] jobs lined up.”
Jeong’s gamble has certainly paid off. A dozen years later, the 49-year-old is a well-known, well-respected and well-paid actor and stand-up comedian best known for crafting outlandish characters on screens big and small: the wild gangster Mr. Chow in the Hangover films released in 2009, 2011 and 2013; the insane Spanish teacher Senor Chang on the comedy series Community, which aired on NBC from 2009-2014 and on Yahoo Screen in 2015; and the nouveau-riche prankster Mr. Goh in the 2018 movie Crazy Rich Asians, the first Hollywood film in 25 years with an all-Asian cast. This year, he has appeared as a regular panelist on the first season of Fox’s hit competition show The Masked Singer, and he starred in his first televised stand-up special, Netflix’s You Complete Me, Ho, a deeply personal, funny and emotional look at — what else — his unlikely path to stardom.
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LISTEN: You can hear the entire interview below.
Check out our past episodes featuring the likes of Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Lorne Michaels, Barbra Streisand, Justin Timberlake, Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence, Eddie Murphy, Gal Gadot, Warren Beatty, Angelina Jolie, Snoop Dogg, Jessica Chastain, Stephen Colbert, Reese Witherspoon, Aaron Sorkin, Margot Robbie, Ryan Reynolds, Nicole Kidman, Denzel Washington, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Matthew McConaughey, Kate Winslet, Jimmy Kimmel, Natalie Portman, Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Gervais, Judi Dench, Quincy Jones, Jane Fonda, Tom Hanks, Amy Schumer, Jerry Seinfeld, Elisabeth Moss, RuPaul, Rachel Brosnahan, Jimmy Fallon, Kris Jenner, Michael Moore, Emilia Clarke, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Helen Mirren, Tyler Perry, Sally Field, Spike Lee, Lady Gaga, J.J. Abrams, Emma Stone, Ryan Murphy, Julia Roberts, Trevor Noah, Dolly Parton, Will Smith, Taraji P. Henson, Sacha Baron Cohen and Carol Burnett.
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