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Ken Jeong on the power of love and comedy as a doctor


Spend Valentine’s Day watching the new Netflix special while snuggling on the couch with your loved one-and laughing about how funny practicing medicine can be.

Ken Jeong, comedy, laughter as medicine, power of laughter, physician humor

photo courtesy of Netflix

Ken Jeong has hung up his white coat-for good. And boy, is he glad about that. The former general practitioner took care of patients by day and moonlighted at comedy clubs. That eventually led to his breakout role as Mr. Chow in the Golden Globe-winning film The Hangover.

In the decade since, Jeong, 49, has created a series of memorable performances, including in NBC’s Community, as the titular character in ABC’s Dr. Ken, and a supporting role in the rom-com smash hit Crazy Rich Asians. That’s in addition to his recent stints as judges on the remake of The Gong Show and Fox’s sleeper hit The Masked Singer.

Now, Jeong is returning to his stand-up roots with a new comedy special, You Complete Me, Ho, now available on Netflix. The comedy special is a romantic ode to his wife. (The title references his wife’s surname, Tran Ho, who also happens to be a doctor. The hour-long special speaks to their struggles as married physicians, her battle with breast cancer, and his transition from California physician to Hollywood star.  

Here are 10 takeaways-including some of the best punch lines-from Jeong’s new comedy special, that, of course, pays tribute to his former career.


Comedy was a way out of Kaiser Permanente

“I used to be a doctor at Kaiser Permanente, then I said f--- that s---, I’m going to be famous and naked in a movie and make some moolah. That's what makes America great, am I right guys?” he says in his opening.


“I was a general practitioner, the dumbest of all doctors.”

“In general, you’re sick, so I'll recommend you to a ‘specificst.’ See someone else, I’m a day drunk. OK?”


Jeong starred in his first movie while still a practicing physician

“It was during a vacation week because I’m a good Asian. I’m responsible. It was the most creatively fulfilling experience of my life. Director [Judd Apatow] said he was blown away, and he would put him in all his films.”

There was one problem, however. The next day, literally, he had to go back to work. Heong was having a career crisis while 50 patients were waiting to be seen.

He recalled his nurse saying there was a there was a patient waiting in Room 2. His reply to her was: “You have a doctor who doesn’t give AF.”

He quit the next day.


‘Is there a doctor on this flight?’

Once, while Jeong was flying, a passenger started losing consciousness and slurring speech. A flight attendant asked if there was a doctor on the plane. Jeong stood up and said, “It’s complicated,” since he’s no longer practicing. She told him to sit back down. 

Being a doctor is still second nature

Jeong was performing his third comedy show when a woman passed out in the third row.

“I rushed out into the crowd in [full] doctor mode. It was the most surreal, sublime experience ever because I'm no longer a comedian in that moment. I'm a doctor. The whole comedy club was no longer an audience but an ER [with] nurses and aides. I wondered if I should do CPR. I worked with the American Heart Association, doing hands-only CPR. Medical fact: Do chest compressions to the beat of ‘Staying Alive.’ The woman had a petit mal seizure and got up.” 


People ask: ‘Do you still practice medicine?’

“I don’t want to still get sued. Of course, I want to work every major holiday and weekend. Of course I want that lifestyle. Of course, I want to stick my finger up the holes of every patient I see.

“B----, I am Hollywood. I got out of Shawshank.’”


Stop googling and self-diagnosing

“I had a guy who thought he had an ovarian cyst,” Jeong says. On a similar but different note, he also advises women going to the gynecologist to make themselves presentable. Think: “Less Chewbacca, more Ewok. We don’t want a 1970s show.”


He almost failed out of med school three times

“I felt like I only got in because of my birthright as an Asian. I worked so hard as a physician for seven years. I never joked around with my patients. Some people say, ‘Laughter is the best medicine.’ No, medicine is the best medicine. You got herpes, but I got your nose! Honk, honk.”


His wife is a breast cancer survivor 

Jeong’s wife is a 10-year survivor of breast cancer. “She is the strongest person I know,” he says. They discovered a lump while she was breastfeeding. She got a biopsy, which was benign. “It got bigger, and it didn’t go away with antibiotics. She got tested again. It was stage three breast cancer with [a] 23 percent of surviving, but she is here now.”

Two days before starting chemotherapy treatments, she took her board exam.

She passed. He failed.


Mammograms aren’t a joke

He met his wife while working at Kaiser Permanente. His wife is Vietnamese, and her surname is Ho (“I married a ho. That's a wet dream to a comic,” he jokes). He uses his comedy special to stress the importance of getting a mammogram. “If a woman asks to get a mammogram, but the doctor says you don’t need it, go to another doctor.”

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