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Ken Jeong Biography


Home > Actors > J > Jeong, Ken > Biography


Birth Name: Ken Jeong
Born: 07/13/1969
Birth Place: Detroit, Michigan, USA




Kendrick Kang-Joh Jeong (last name pronounced JUNG) was born in North Carolina in 1969 to Korean immigrant parents, father D.K. Jeong, and mother, Young Jeong. The elder Jeong taught economics in college, and his son shared his father's academic aptitude. In high school Jeong focused on getting into a good college; he served on the student council, played violin in the school orchestra, and competed on the High IQ team. In 1986 he graduated from Page High School in Greensboro, NC, at the age of 16, and won Greensboro's Youth of the Year award for his academic success. His first foray into acting did not occur until his sophomore year at Duke University, where he took his first drama class. A pre-med major at the time, he briefly considered double majoring in both pre-med and drama. His father, however, advised him to focus on medicine, and offered Jeong a deal in the process: get into medical school, and he would subsidize his son's acting interests, no matter where that road might lead.

Jeong took his father up on his offer. He was accepted into medical school, and his father paid for him to take a summer theater course at UCLA. While Jeong attended medical school at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, he also began performing stand-up comedy in local clubs. He continued doing his late night sets while serving a residency at Ochsner in New Orleans, and in 1995 he won the Big Easy Laff Off comedy contest, which was judged by former NBC entertainment president Brandon Tartikoff and Improv Comedy Club founder Budd Friedman. Tartikoff and Friedman encouraged Jeong to move to Hollywood, so the excited doc made the move to Los Angeles in 1998, where he worked as a physician while performing stand-up and appearing in small roles on television comedies like "MadTV" (Fox, 1995-2009) and "The Office" (NBC, 2005- ), as well as "Entourage" (HBO, 2004- ), "Two and a Half Men" (CBS, 2003- ) and "Cedric the Entertainer Presents" (Fox, 2002-03). He also performed his stand-up routine on the Comedy Central and BET networks.

Jeong's big break came in 2007, when he appeared in a bit role in "Knocked Up," which focused on a one-night stand between Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen that results in an unplanned pregnancy. Jeong's performance as an uptight but well-meaning obstetrician got him noticed, and the film was a summer box office hit. During filming, director Judd Apatow gave Jeong a useful piece of advice, noting that Jeong did his funniest work when he was angry. The hilarious outtakes of Jeong's rants showed up on the Internet at the time of the film's release, bringing him attention before most moviegoers had seen the soon-to-be hit. A slew of roles followed, so Jeong stopped practicing medicine and took Apatow's advice to heart. His anger was on full display with his performance as a drug cartel hitman in 2008's "Pineapple Express," and that same year he also appeared in the feature comedies "Step Brothers" and "Role Models," as well as on television sitcoms "Worst Week" (CBS, 2008) and "'Til Death" (Fox, 2006-2010).

Jeong had a breakout performance in 2009 as a mob boss in the monster hit, "The Hangover," the story of a Las Vegas bachelor party gone horribly awry. The box office smash included a memorable scene in which Jeong's character, held hostage by enemies, emerges naked from a car trunk. Known for his improvisational skill, he would later divulge to interviewers that it had been his idea to perform the scene in the nude. He rounded out his banner year with appearances in two more feature comedies: "All About Steve" and "Couples Retreat." That same year he appeared on television as a regular on the junior college sitcom, "Community," playing the role of SeƱor Chang, a cantankerous Spanish teacher who, at the end of the first season, is discovered to be a fraud. He also provided voiceover work on two episodes of "American Dad!" (Fox, 2005- ), and had small roles in "Party Down" (Starz, 2009- ) and "Men of a Certain Age" (TNT, 2009- ). In 2010 Jeong provided more voiceover work in the animated features "Furry Vengeance" and "Despicable Me," as well as appeared in the feature comedies "Vampires Suck" and "How to Make Love to a Woman." He was also slated to appear in the feature films "Zookeeper" (2011) and "Transformers 3" (2011).