Childhood & Early Life
Ken Jeong was born Kendrick Kang-joh Jeong in Detroit, Michigan on July 13, 1969 to a family of South Korean immigrants. His father D.K. Jeong was a college professor. Soon after Ken was born, the family moved to North Carolina, where his father got a job as a professor in a university. Ken grew up with two older twin sisters in the house.
The family focused very hard on their children’s academics. As a result, Ken grew up to be an exceptional student. He said in later interviews that his father was a serious man, but had a great sense of humour which he inherited. Ken attended Walter Hines Page High School in North Carolina where he took part in many extra-curricular activities as well.
Apart from participating in quizzes, Ken played violin in the school orchestra and was also a key member of the student council. At the age of 16, Ken graduated from the high school with great grades. He also won the honour of Greensborough Youth of the Month.
Ken wanted to study medicine and finished his bachelors from Duke University in 1990. He further got enrolled into the Chapel Hill School of Medicine in North Carolina and finished his M.D. from there. With that, he was all ready to embark on a career in medicine but his interests lied elsewhere.
Ever since he was a teenager, Ken had a great interest in doing stand-up comedy and improv as well. But his parents wanted a stable career for him and hence, he opted out of trying comedy full time and became a physician. But as he started professional practice in medicine, it gave him some time to explore his deep rooted interests and he started doing comedy side by side
Even during his college years, Ken had frequently made appearances in the open mic stand-up comedy shows. He never stopped being a comedian and this led him to further develop his skills as a comedian.
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Ken started working at the Ochsner Medical Center at New Orleans via internal medical residency. Side by side, he developed his stand-up comedy routines. He then moved to California and got himself a license to practice medicine in California. But his real goal was to break into the comedy scene there.
In 1995, Ken participated in the ‘Big Easy Laff-off’ and the judges urged him to move to Los Angeles after they found his talents to be solid. Confident after this win, Ken became a regular at the Improv and the Laugh Factory comedy clubs. After he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a serious career in comedy, he started working at the Kaiser Permanente hospital.
He made his acting debut with a guest role in the crime drama series ‘The Big Easy’ in 1997. It was followed by many other roles in the series’ such as ‘The Downer Channel’, ‘Girls Behaving Badly’, ‘Significant Others’ and ‘Crossing Jordan’. His appearance in the hit sitcom ‘Two and a Half Men’ and the series ‘Entourage’ brought him some additional fame.
In 2007, he made his film debut with the film ‘Knocked Up’, directed by Jude Apatow. In the film, he played the role of Dr. Kuni and it went on to become his breakthrough role in Hollywood. Even with a small role, Ken managed to leave a long lasting impact via his impeccable comic timing and quirks.
This was the performance that compelled him to finally leave his profession as a doctor and become a full time actor. The commercial and critical success of ‘Knocked Up’ earned him further roles in films such as ‘Step Brothers’, ‘Pineapple Express’ and ‘Role Models’.
In 2009 came the role that changed his life and career forever. He was casted to play a humorous bad guy in the film ‘The Hangover’, starring Bradley Cooper in the leading role. As his character of a gay Chinese gangster Leslie Chow became iconic, Ken became a household name. He further went on reprising his part in the next two ‘The Hangover’ films. Although both the later films could not meet the success of the first one, Ken had already become a big celebrity.
In the same year, he got another breakthrough role of his career, this time in television. He started appearing as Ben Chang in the popular comedy series ‘Community’. He reprised his role for 92 episodes and earned honours and several nominations for his role.
In 2011, he played supporting roles in two major films ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ and ‘Zookeeper’. In the same year, he was chosen to host the Billboard Music Awards owing to his comic timings.
As Ken’s acting career further elevated, he appeared playing supporting roles in the series’ such as ‘Bob’s Burgers’, ‘Sullivan & Son’, ‘Maron’, ‘Turbo Fast’ and ‘Hot in Cleveland’. He also did voice roles for films such as ‘Despicable Me 2’, ‘Turbo’ and ‘Birds of Paradise’.
In 2015, Ken was seen playing the leading role in the sitcom titled ‘Dr. Ken’. The series was written, co-produced and created by Ken himself. Ken somehow plays a fictionalized version of himself in the series, which was negatively received by the critics and the audience alike. The series was cancelled after two seasons.
Ken and actor Jamie Foxx has developed certain affection towards each other. There is a pact between the two, which says that they both will star in the films written or produced by each other. Foxx kept his promise when he agreed to star as the leading man in Ken directed film ‘After Prom’. Ken will be playing a starring role in a comedy series ‘All-Star Weekend’, produced by Jamie.
Awards & Honours
For his role in the film ‘The Hangover’, Ken has received the Best WTF Moment award at MTV Movie Awards. He was also nominated for the Best Villain at the same award function. In addition, he was nominated for a Teen Choice Award for his portrayal as a villain in the same film.
For his starring role in ‘Community’, he received a nomination at the Teen Choice Awards for the Best Breakout Star. Additionally, he has received a Streamy Award for Best Guest Appearance for the series ‘Burning Love’.