He’s made a name for himself as a zany comedic actor in The Hangover and on Community, but once upon a time, Ken Jeong was a practicing physician.
“I was very happy,” as a general practictioner, Jeong told critics at ABC’s summer press tour. “My wife still works part time at the HMO. All my best friends are doctors. The last six years of my life have been an amazing bonus.”
Jeong, who writes, executive produces and stars on ABC’s new show, Dr. Ken, had a passion for performing and would do stand-up comedy on the side. “I was so intense as a doctor, and I was always stressed out, patients were surprised I did stand-up comedy on the side.”
However, in the office, Jeong – who earned his medical degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – played it straight. “I always hated that trope, laughter is the best medicine. No, medicine is the best medicine. I hated the Patch Adams arc of [a doctor in a clown nose] going you’ve got herpes but I’ve got your nose!”
Jeong’s big break came in the form of 2007’s Knocked Up, and Jeong says it’s been “wonderfully surreal” ever since. “I was happy just being the doctor from Knocked Up, much less what happened after,” he says. “The Hangover changed my life from black-and-white to Technicolor.”
That was thanks in part to his wife of over a decade, Tran. Says Jeong, 46: “I had filmed Knocked Up during a vacation week. My wife was like a good college coach telling the star player it was time to go pro. She knew I had the secret ambition to want to act full time. I just didn’t know if I could do this full time. It was really my wife’s confidence in me that encouraged me to do this full time. I owe my whole career to her.”
No matter what happens next, Jeong always has a fall back profession. “I still have my license,” he says. “I could go back right now to a free clinic anywhere!”
Dr. Ken premieres Oct. 2 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.