GETTING INTIMATE WITH DR. KEN
A conversation with Ken Jeong and Suzy Nakamura, stars of the new ABC sitcom Dr. Ken. Moderated by Jenny Yang.
Ever since he broke the set of Knocked Up with his filthy doctor routine, Ken Jeong has become one of Hollywood’s go-to comedians, specializing in ravenously ripping apart expectations. As the scene-stealing Mr. Chow in the Hangover films, he leapt out of car trunks and out-crazied a cast that included Mike Tyson and a tiger. As the Spanish-teaching hoaxer Señor Chang on Community, he perfected the look of ¿por qué no? to every flabbergasted victim of his transgressions.
Jeong arrived on the scene post-Lost and post-Harold and Kumar, a moment when Asian American representation onscreen was no longer inconceivable but still rare. He shocked and concerned Asian American critics for whom the wound of Long Duk Dong was still fresh, but for whom there was simply no script for the package Jeong was bringing: sexualized, infantilized, unscripted, and clearly abundant with talent. Without doubt Jeong pushed the conversation and did so on his own terms – no small feat for an Asian American actor who until very recently was an industry outsider.
Famously, Jeong was a physician when he first started dabbling in stand-up, which brings his nasty skewering of the profession an extra dimension of WTF. His persona is also tempered – or perhaps made truly special – by his powerful written and on-stage dedications to his wife Tran, whose perseverance during cancer treatments has been Jeong’s cited inspiration for going into comedy.
The family man and the naughty doctor come together in Jeong’s latest incarnation as the executive producer, writer, and star of this year’s new ABC comedy Dr. Ken, which brings the number of Asian American family sitcoms on TV to a historic two. Along with Jeong’s producing and supporting roles on Jennifer Phang’s Advantageous, the doctor has proven yet again why he can’t be boxed in: by expectations of Asian American masculinity, within the professional confines of a Hollywood comedian, or in the car trunk of American stereotypes. –Brian Hu