Comic actor — and licensed physician — Ken Jeong is a regular on the NBC sitcom "Community." He reprises his star-making role as the psychotic mobster from 2009's "The Hangover" in "The Hangover Part II," in cinemas next weekend. Later this year, he'll return to big screens in "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and "Zookeeper"
And, Sunday, he'll host the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas.
"Honestly, it is `The Hangover' dust that gets me these jobs," Jeong said earlier this week in an interview while promoting "Hangover II." "Everything I have done in the last two years, in all honesty, is directly because of `The Hangover.'"
Grateful as he sounds, Jeong was never a starving actor. Long before he made it in showbiz, he was well on the way to becoming a physician. "I was doing my residency in New Orleans and I won a stand-up comedy performance," recalled the 41-year-old.
First prize was a stint at the Improv comedy club in Los Angeles.
"I had to take up a day job at an HMO here in L.A., and at night I would just do stand-up comedy in town __ and all the while, actually, hoping I could kind of go back to acting," Jeong said.
He finally landed a major movie role — playing a physician, no less — in the 2007 smash "Knocked Up," and then came "The Hangover."
"So, really, just four years ago, I was working full time as a physician," Jeong noted. "Every day is, like, `I can't believe, I can't believe I'm doing this.'"
Jeong remains a doctor, having renewed his license just last year.
"It's a hard-won skill," he explained. "You just can't take the doctor out of you. It's funny, though, I was shooting `Hangover Part II' in Bangkok, and one of Ed Helms' friends got sick with food poisoning and I was worried that it would be a very serious infection. So, I got in doctor mode and I'm on the phone and everyone was listening, and I'm like, `OK, this might be C. dificile colitis, and if that is the case, you need to go to an ER stat. They need to give some IV fluids and they need to load up a banana bag for you and they need to check his electrolytes right now. If you are potassium depleted, that could lead to arrhythmia.'
"I was getting that hardcore about it, and that probably was more shocking to the cast and crew — you know, slack jaw — to hear me talk like that than probably anything I do in a movie."
"Hangover" director Todd Phillips calls Jeong "the most fearless actor I ever worked with." It was Jeong himself who suggested he do a nude scene in the first "Hangover," revealing his character's microscopic appendage. He reprises the move in the sequel.
"And (my wife) actually said, and that is a great quote from her, she said, `It will be the feel-good movie of the summer, because every guy will drive home feeling good about themselves.'"
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