Yoo Jae-suk is a South Korean comedian, TV host and a popular television personality. Born and brought up in Seoul, Yoo studied at the Seoul Institute of the Arts, but dropped out before graduating due to an already promising career in comedy. He made his debut as a comedian in 1991 with KBS Comedian Festival, which was aired on TV. The show had invited college students from all over the nation to showcase their respective talent, and Yoo made full use of it. His stint as a host for ‘X-Man’ in the year 2003 got him famous and as the show progressed, Yoo was referred to as the ‘Nation’s MC’. After this soaring success as a comedian, there was no stopping Yoo. Subsequently he gained a massive fan following after hosting a few successful variety shows such as ‘Infinite Challenge’ and also South Korea’s most famous show ‘Running Man’. He is famous for his enigmatic personality and impeccable comic timing which established him as the most popular face of the South Korean television industry. He has appeared in films, dramas and quite a few music videos as well. His list of awards is massive and he has also been hosting some of the award functions rather frequently.
Childhood & Early Life
Yoo Jae-suk was born in the national capital of South Korea, Seoul, on 14th August 1972 and had an artistic inclination since his very early days of elementary and middle school. Around his high school days, he started getting interested towards comedy and used to entertain his family and classmates through his quips and mimicries.
He is the first born son in the family, with two younger sisters and hence, his middle class family had high hopes of him. But Yoo had the extreme opposite plans; he risked everything and got himself enrolled in the Seoul Institute of Arts.
Right around his college days, he started doing comedy and participating in the KBS Comedian Festival in 1991 and it turned out as a life changing experience for him, where he performed the parody of a very popular commercial. His performance was widely loved by the audience and the show producers alike, and he earned a good initial exposure as a comedian.
It was not all a bed of roses for Yoo, as comedians were believed to be in the limelight for a particular period of time only and worse, he had already dropped out of the college.
He remained more or less jobless for the next few years, performing in small events here and there, looking for a big break in the TV industry. He did a small role in the film ‘Tyranno’s Toenail’ and continued trying out for the stints that would pay him enough to survive a few more days until he got the next gig. On a friend’s recommendation, he got to host for ‘Live and enjoy together’ in 2000. The show became popular and Yoo became a minor celebrity, and with rising fame, he became Korea’s Sweetheart, also known by the nickname ‘The Grasshopper’.
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After his small but highly successful stint on ‘Live and Enjoy together’ and a few other small hosting jobs, he got the chance to host the show ‘X-Man’. The show started in 2003 and Yoo was associated with it since the very beginning. It started slow, but eventually picked up pace and became the most popular and highest viewed show of its kind in the country, earning Yoo the nickname ‘Nation’s MC’.
He kept doing some other shows in between, such as ‘New X-Man’, ‘Old TV’ and ‘Haja! Go!’ But they didn’t do well and got cancelled after a few episodes and meanwhile ‘X-Man’ kept rising in popularity and brought Yoo international stardom.
In 2006, he joined ‘Infinite Challenge’ as a host. The show started off in 2004 and wasn’t as popular but a little change in concept of the show later turned things around and the show is still running with Yoo as its host, and it is one of the most watched South Korean shows.
In 2005, he also appeared in a mini drama series ‘Banjum Drama’. Around that time, Yoo also started hosting ‘Happy Together 3’ which is also running successfully. He also co-hosted ‘Come to Play’ for many years. Both the shows did great in their own slots and while ‘Happy Together 3’ is still running, ‘Come to Play’ went off air in 2012. Yoo said that both were his favourite shows at that time and he wanted to be different as a host on both of them.
Yoo joined ‘Family Outing’ as a host in June 2008 and became one of the key ‘family members’ loved by millions of viewers. The show became a solid success and managed to sweep the best ratings for the Sunday afternoon slot for many years. It can be argued that ‘Running Man’ is the biggest stint of his career, which he joined in 2010. The show is still running strong and has a huge international following.
In 2012, he joined hands with PSY to appear in the music video of ‘Gangnam Style’, the song which would later make PSY an overnight worldwide sensation. Yoo featured in the video as a retro disco dancing character and was one of the highlights of the music video. Yoo made an appearance in PSY’s another single ‘Gentleman’, which although couldn’t repeat the success of ‘Gangnam Style’ but became a highly popular music video.
Yoo has a very long list of guest appearances. He played a cameo in the drama ‘My Daughter, Geum Sa-wol’ in 2015 and has also appeared in the music videos for artists such as Shinnago, EXO and Park Ji-yoon.
Yoo has several awards and nominations to his name. He has won MBC Drama Awards, KBS Entertainment Awards and Baeksang Arts Awards repeatedly over the years.
Throughout his career, Yoo has worked very hard to be where he is today. Going through a struggling period of almost a decade, he travelled a long distance to become ‘Nation’s MC’. He enjoys a great fame in neighbouring countries as well.
Yoo Jae-suk started dating Na Kyung-eun, his colleague on the show ‘Infinite Challenge’, soon after they started working together. Both of them kept denying the rumours of a relationship but eventually, they accepted and tied the marital knot in July 2008. The couple gave birth to a son, Yoo Ji-ho, two years later.
He is also known for his philanthropic activities and donates a significant part of his annual income for social causes.
He has earned the name ‘The Grasshopper’, due to his earlier appearances when he used to dress like a grasshopper.