Those of you who caught the Billboard Awards last night likely saw a fairly predictable program—flashy performance pieces by big names and typical acceptance speeches in which the millionaire musician thanks the fans. The Black Eyed Peas did another medley of their big songs (like the Super Bowl) and Britney Spears, Ne-Yo, Rihanna, and others did their thing. The lighting and special effects crew sure earned their pay—I mean, seriously, the stage was often a mess of strobe lights, fireworks, fog machines, and whatever else they could manage to prepare for the artists.
The host was Ken Jeong, who many know as the crazy Asian from comedy films in the past few years (as well as the unstable Spanish teacher in the television show ‘Community’). Interesting to note that unlike most actors and comedians who started off with day jobs as a waiter, hotel employee, or mattress salesman, Ken was a medical doctor.
Doctor by day, moonlighting at comedy clubs by night
This is unique because the type of person then tends to be a comic is the sort that couldn’t handle any “regular” job, meaning a 9-5 with a boss, cubicle etc. Certainly most comedians don’t have the tolerance (or patience) for the lengthy education required to attain a medical degree. For Jeong, acting had been an interest ever since high school, and so the doctor thing was his “safety” job—you know, something to pay the bills and get by.
In a Washington Post article, Ken talks about the time when he was about to start working on one of his most famous roles—Mr. Chow in ‘The Hangover’. His wife, a doctor, had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had started chemo treatments. Talk about a roller coaster of life, you have your wife going through a horrible disease, meanwhile you are jumping out the trunk of car naked in Vegas shooting a screwball comedy. Luckily, Jeong saw the opportunity as therapy:
“I was close to not doing ‘The Hangover’ because she’d just started the chemo,” he says. But his wife insisted that he seize the opportunity. Only Phillips (the film’s director) and Jeong’s co-star and friend Bradley Cooper were aware of Tran’s illness.
“In a weird way, what Tran went through informed the character and made him that much more maniacal,” Phillips says. “Because it was really a release for Ken.”
At least the story has a happy ending—a few years later it turned out that Jeong’s wife had responded to the treatment and beaten the cancer.
While the 41 year old may not appear to folks on the street as a comedian, he has been establishing himself in solid movies to the point where he shared the stage with huge rock stars at the Billboard Awards which took place yesterday at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand.
The only time when Jeong will seem out of place now if he is cast in a drama
It doesn’t seem likely that we will see him in any Shakespeare plays anytime soon, but then again, why not? Sometimes the unexpected and the unpredictable work well in Hollywood—and if the acting career doesn’t work, there’s always the HMO clinic.