In the comedy world, most stars have a rather familiar trajectory of working their way through standup shows before making it big. Ken Jeong has a non-traditional path into the craft. The comedic actor is a bona fide medical doctor who had an entirely different career path laid out before him.
Today, he’s associated with his breakthrough role in The Hangover, his major part in Community, and his time hosting The Masked Singer. Still, his medical training made a surprise appearance during a comedy show when a woman in the audience had a health emergency.
Ken Jeong started his comedy career while doing a medical residency
Born in Detroit, Michigan, and raised in North Carolina, Ken Jeong went to Duke for his undergraduate work before receiving a medical degree from the University of North Carolina. After he completed that degree, he headed to New Orleans to complete a residency in internal medicine. It was there, according to Biography, that he started moonlighting as a standup comedian. Audiences were so impressed with his routine that he won the “Big Easy Laff-Off,” a competition judged by former NBC president Brandon Tartikoff and Budd Friedman, who founded the Improvisation Comedy Club.
Urged on by these bigwigs in the industry, Jeong continued to pursue comedy while practicing as a physician in Los Angeles. The duality of his work earned him the moniker “funniest doctor in America.” He had a string of TV and film appearances in the early 2000s, but the 2009 release of The Hangover served as a breakthrough role. Soon after, he was cast on Communityand his comedy career overtook his medical one.
Jeong once used his medical training to help a comedy show audience member
Ken Jeong’s worlds collided in 2018. By that point, Jeong had been deep into his acting and comedy career and further from his training as a doctor, but he could still pull on those skills when a moment of crisis called for them.
As the Associated Press reports, “an audience member began having a seizure while Jeong was performing at a comedy club in Phoenix.” Jeong stopped his performance to assist the woman until paramedics arrived to provide additional care. The woman was removed from the location and taken to a hospital for further treatment. The woman was later identified as Crysti Sammis. As USA Today reports, Sammis recovered from her ordeal and gushed about the bond she now shares with Jeong: “I’ve always liked Ken Jeong, he’s very funny. But now I’m a die-hard, forever fan. It was so nice to see his human element and his compassion. It was so touching.”
What’s coming up for Ken Jeong?
As if being both a medical doctor and a comedy star isn’t enough versatility for one man, a quick look at Ken Jeong’s IMDb filmography shows that he’s also got quite the range within his acting talents. Jeong has taken on roles on both TV and film with increasing visibility.
Recent work includes voicing Yap in Bob’s Burgers and starring in the Apple TV original The Afterparty.
Upcoming projects include shooting a pilot for a comedy called The Emperor of Malibu. The premise of the potential CBS show has the family of a Chinese billionaire traveling to the US after he announces his intentions to marry an American woman. The series drew comparisons to Crazy Rich Asians from Deadline.
Jeong will also be heading back to the big screen with parts in the upcoming Charlie Day comedy El Tonto, which also stars Ray Liotta and Kate Beckinsale. He’ll also have a role in the upcoming Out of Officewhich features Milana Vayntrub as a young woman who finds out her job is tied to helping her boss deal with his declining marriage.
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