Ken Jeong Exclusive Interview: Dr. Ken, Dicky Wexler and a Career High

KEN JEONG (WRITER/EXECUTIVE PRODUCER)

Ken Jeong took time out of his extremely busy day, Ken actually called me from the editing bay of Dr. Ken, and spoke with Mike’s Film Talk about his start in the entertainment business, Dr. Ken, and why Dicky Wexler’s Last Show is an episode he counts as a career high. We also spoke about his stint as stand-up comedian, his fellow cast members,  the show finale, Randall Park and Jamie Foxx.

Ken Jeong has amassed a gross of screen credits on both the small screen and the larger cinema screen. He got his start in 1997 on television but the real beginning was while attending pre-med courses at Duke University. He took an acting class where he caught the bug instantly. Ken realized that he loved acting.

So much so, in fact, that he auditioned for the acting school at Duke. He was accepted and then had to contemplate switching majors.

Ken: “So in reality my love for acting began over 25 years ago way before my career in medicine ever got started. I did continue with medicine and developed a passion for it. My wife is a doctor; she still practices, and it is a big part of my life. In a way, Dr. Ken is a culmination of areas of my life.”

After making the hard decision to keep studying medicine, Ken never got over the lure of performing and started doing stand-up comedy throughout his remaining educational time and while doing his medical residency.

It was, Ken says, a logical choice.

Ken found that his natural gift for comedic acting transferred well to the arena of stand-up and he won a contest where the prize was a “golden ticket” to perform at the world famous Improve Club in Los Angeles. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

Before talking about Dr. Ken, and Ken’s favorite episode Dicky Wexler’s Last Show, we talked about his passion for performing.

Mike’s Film Talk (MFT): Looking at your bio and the various interviews you’ve done in the past, it looks like stand-up comedy is your first love.

Ken: Well…I’ve got to say that acting is my first love. Although going right back childhood, my first love was for academics and then acting, without any inkling of performing either ability, or even ambition.

MFT: Oh.

Ken: What happened was I really wanted to do theatre when I was in college. When I got fortunate enough to be accepted to medical school, I had to stop the acting school and finish what I’d started medically, or pre-medically. Then once I started in medical school I still had this desire to perform, but I had no idea what to do. So I thought, ‘why not give stand-up a try.’ Because I’d always excelled at ‘comedy’ acting and this is kind of a manifestation of that.

MFT: Right.

Ken: And Stand-up became like a great hobby. You could go to an “open mic” event once or twice a month and just let off some steam. I really viewed it as my hobby while in med school and during my residency and it was not anything I was trying to do professionally. But it just so happened I could do it well enough to do it professionally, and one thing led to another. Winning the contest to go to LA and perform at the Improv in Hollywood and that got my foot in the door in LA.

MFT: The move to stand-up makes a certain amount of sense. Once you have experienced the immediacy of feedback from a live theatre audience, nothing else really fulfills that experience, so the switch over to stand-up sounds like a brilliant replacement.

Ken: Oh yes, the immediacy of the audience feedback doing is hard to describe if you’ve never experienced. But, yes there is a high, a performance high, that get out of doing that. It is funny though, while I was doing it, I had opportunities to go on the road and open for high profile comedians but I opted not to.

MFT: Why not?

Ken: Well as much as I love stand-up, and a lot of my friends are in stand-up as well; I really love acting and wanted to do ‘proper’ acting. This is what prompted me to book a part in “Knocked Up” and later Hangover. I truly love acting more than stand-up but I really enjoyed my time while doing stand-up. There is a lot of grey involved there, it’s not black or white situation as in “Oh I like this, I don’t like this.”

MFT: I know looking at the bio it seemed that comedy had been your starting point, like Steve Martin or Robin Williams, and that you’d gravitated over to acting but actually the reverse is true.

Ken: Yeah the reverse is true. It was more like theatre acting, stand-up and then acting. But to your point; like in the Dicky Wexler episode, there is an affinity for stand-up comedy with my character and that will culminate in the season finale where stand-up will be involved.

MFT: Oh brilliant!

Ken: Oh yeah, it goes there. And it will be a point where Ken will try his hand at stand-up comedy. There is a lot of “art imitating life” so I’m glad you feel that way after reading my filmography and credits and also following the show because what you said…although in my “exact” life I had a more nuanced experience than that, but in the universe of the show, Ken’s love for stand-up is real and genuine.

And I don’t think it’s coincidence that in an episode like “Kevin O’Connell” that he was doing stand-up for the HMO banquet…Which is also based on a true story. At the physicians HMO banquet every year I would do stand up comedy and that pertained to that.

MFT: Oh that’s brilliant! I was going to mention that early on in the series, in one of my reviews, I called Dr. Ken “the Woody Woodpecker” of medicine in that he said and did things no one else would dare to and was quite unapologetic about it. He was Ken Park, doctor, and he was going to do things his way.

Ken: Exactly. He doesn’t have  a filter he’s not sensitive or self aware and  I think that’s the big difference in our characters. In the life of Dr. Ken, he overreacts but has no self awareness, but in real life I overreact but I’m painfully self-aware. I’m a very sensitive guy and I really do care what other people think.

MFT: Which is all part of being an actor…

Ken: Yeah, that is part and parcel of being an actor, absolutely.

MFT: I was going to ask, just for a laugh, who you’d rather go to..obviously you wouldn’t want to go to Dr. Park.

Ken: Yeah, that’s because as a physician, in real life as a doctor I tried not to be funny with my patients. I never really liked doing that. It is funny that when people meet me they are very surprised at how low-key I am and how seriously I took medicine. That was what I wanted to do growing up so I  took that seriously. 

MFT: Yes.

Ken: I’ve said in interviews before that I never jerked around patients like Patch Adams. I never went around saying, “Aw you got herpes, but I got your nose! Honk! Honk!” 

MFT: (Laughing) Which would probably result in a lawsuit these days.

Ken: (laughs)

MFT: I’ve watched “Dicky Wexler’s Last Show” twice now. Now I have to say, my two favorite episodes so far have been “Ken at the Concert” and “Dicky’s Last Show” and both for the same reason. They each made me laugh and cry a little. Now I’m a soppy old git and I’ve cried at Scooby Doo before…

Ken: (laughing)

MFT: And the odd commercial. But these episodes  each contained the perfect blend of comedy and that little touch of pathos, or poignancy. In the concert episode, Ken is trying so hard do connect with his little girl who’s outgrowing his sphere of fatherly influence and at the concert he realizes,  in the parent lounge,  that the other parents have given up and Ken decides he’s going to “rescue” his relationship with Molly.

Dr Ken: DK and the Dishwasher – Daddy Issues and Sex With Pat

KEN JEONG, DANA LEE

Dr Ken delivers more comic platinum with D.K. and the Dishwasher, where Ken reveals a few “daddy issues” and Damona has sex with Pat…as Clark says, “Eww.”  Ken Jeong, the writers and cast all step up over the bar and deliver a great episode. Dana Lee kills it as the father who is fixing every little thing on Ken’s “to do” list.

The show starts with Ken’s mother off to Korea and an awkward phone conversation with her where he asks for nothing to be brought back, “We still have three pounds of roasted silkworm!”

After the phone call, the family Park talk about Ken’s father, who the entire family agree is gruff. Molly says:

“Oh, yeah. Tell us again about that time when you were a kid and you thought you saw him smile.”

Ken’s response is that his sister saw him smile too.

Grandpa shows up and explains that while the wife is in Korea, he will be staying. The family are not excited by this turn of events. Back at work Dr Julie comes in with a hangover after “Lisa’s party” and Damon arrives with disturbing news, she slept with Pat, not once, but twice.

Clark’s reaction?

“Eww?”

Ken manages to hear about the awkward confession and is delighted, “Man, did I pick the right day to come in late wearing quiet footwear.” As Damona explains what happened, Dr Ken does a comedy riff on her revelations.

Damona (to Clark): “Child please. When I’m driving the train, it always gets to the station.”

Ken: “To the station! …Choo Choo!”

Pat then shows up and tells everyone that he is getting back with his estranged wife and to add insult to injury then tells Damona that their sexual event meant nothing. He also explains that he mailed her bra to her and gives her the tracking number.

Later in the episode, Damona and Pat sort things out…

DAVE FOLEY, TISHA CAMPBELL-MARTIN
Pat and Damona the morning after…

Back at the Park home, D.K. is fixing everything. Even going so far as to replace the loud dishwasher (Dave: “It’s the soundtrack of my youth.”) with a European model that has WiFi and can be turned on “from your car.”

Ken’s frustration builds as his family suddenly realize that far from being gruff, D.K. is fun, useful and wise, just like a grandfather should be. Even Molly is swayed by his sage advice. Allison is overjoyed:

“He even fixed Molly!”

After being bested by his dad with the dishwasher, Ken sabotages the new machine and ends up in a confrontation with his father. The two clear up a few misconceptions and, in an almost tear-inducing moment, D.K. and Ken show how much they love and respect each other, sans hugs:

Ken: “Thanks, Dad. Should we… hug?”

D.K. “Nah. We hugged at Thanksgiving.”

Each episode of Dr Ken gets funnier.  D.K and the Dishwasher was sidesplitting both in the workplace setting and at the Park home.

Standout Moments:

Damona (Tisha Campbell-Martin) and Pat (Dave Foley) interacting after their sexual escapade. The dream sequence “permission to come aboard…again,” and Damona screaming herself awake.

Dr Julie (Kate Simses) and her pleased reaction after learning that she does not have a virus but a hangover:

“Wow. I’m kind of a cool-a** b*tch.”

JONATHAN SLAVIN, TISHA CAMPBELL-MARTIN, KATE SIMSES
Slavin, Campbell-Martin and Simses rocking it…

Julie and Damona’s conversation after the Pat “sex” reveal:

Dr. Julie: “Oh, girl… We all does cray d’s when we’re gettin’ krunk. It’s all good.”

Damona: “That’s got to stop right now.”

Clark’s reaction to the Pat news and his double “Eww” along with:

Clark: “Oh, my God, I have so many “filling the void” jokes in my head right now.”

Dana Lee kills it in this episode, full-stop. Example:

D.K. (to Ken): “Allison told me about your to-do list. You write fiction?”

Ken’s imitation of his father’s laugh that sounded remarkably like a “Scooby-Doo” laugh.

Dave Foley…as usual.

Honorable Mentions:

Dave’s line about the dishes being “licked clean by angels.” (To quote Clark: “Ew?’)

Allison’s riff on Ken about his “to do list,” and the finish :

Allison: “Yeah, we dug it out of the family archives.”

Ken: “Mm, ooh, good one.”

Allison: “The first thing on it was ‘assemble Molly’s crib.'”

Ken: “Ha ha.”

 

Overall Thoughts:

Dr Ken has found its feet and has moved into full comedy mode. All the cast have melded into a cohesive comic unit.  The gags are brilliant. Kudos to Suzy Nakamura, Krista Marie Yu, Dave Foley and Albert Tsai, Jonathan Slavin, Kate Simses, Tisha Campbell-Martin and of course Ken Jeong for providing a steady stream of laughs on a Friday night.

KEN JEONG, SUZY NAKAMURA
Ken Jeong and Suzy Nakamura, great comedic give and take.

Mad props to Dana Lee who proved that his comic delivery and timing was spot on.  The perfect combination of Lee’s expression, which is full of implied gravitas, and the unexpected humor was just brilliant. Hopefully “D.K.” will be on the show more often as the chemistry between the character and the Park family is just brilliant.

Dr Ken airs Fridays on ABC. Tune in and enjoy this funny series, let ABC know how great this show is by shooting up those viewing numbers. Ken Jeong and his crew  (“Yo!”)  must return for a second season…

 

 

Dr Ken: Ken’s Physical – Proctology, Port-a-Potties & Kids

It is easy to love the dynamic on Dr Ken and Ken’s Physical allows all the characters to shine, with a storyline that deals with stress inducing kids, port-a-potties, proctology and a hernia exam.

 KEN JEONG, SUZY NAKAMURA

It is easy to love the dynamic on Dr Ken and Ken’s Physical allows all the characters to shine, with a storyline that deals with stress inducing kids, port-a-potties, proctology and a hernia exam. Molly proves to be unemployable, Dave is in love with the catering food from the commercial being shot next door (for Tampax), Clark and Damona get in a very one-sided “prank battle” and Julie Dobbs shows that she really is thorough.

Allison (Suzy Nakamura) learns that Ken has lied about getting a physical for over 20 years.  She then insists that he get an exam the next day. Ken  tries to get Dr Julie to “sign-off” on his physical paperwork, sans exam. She refuses and thus begins another “battle” this one of wills.

Standout Moments:

Julie (Kate Simses) doing her impression of Ken (Ken Jeong), in fact the interaction between Dr Julie and Dr Ken throughout the exam was very, very funny.

KATE SIMSES, KEN JEONG
Kate and Ken…

Clark (Jonathan Slavin) and his scrub penguin walk.

Molly (Krista Marie Yu) telling Allison and Ken why she was fired from her second job:

“I derailed a toddler train. In my defense, there was just as much screaming and crying before I hit it.”

Ken (again) doing his rapid fire rant about Molly losing yet another job:

Ken: “You got fired again?! Come on! Cannons don’t get fired as much as you! Pottery doesn’t get fired as much as you! Cuban cigars, a crowd at a pep rally, a furnace in Alaska… ”

Allison: “Ken, we get it.”

Ken “punishing” Allison for “stressing his heart,” during the meal with their next door neighbors.

Allison pulling off the heart monitor patches from Ken’s chest:

“Ow! Great! Now you pulled out both my chest hairs!”

Clark being pranked, yet again, by Damona (and Julio whom Clark asked to tell Damona that her car was on fire. After Clarke confesses, Juan Julio tells him:

JJ: “No, no, Mr. Clark, you told me to set her car on fire.”

Clark: (Rushing to the parking garage) “Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!

JJ and Damona bump fists: “It’s just too easy with that guy, huh?”

Molly and Dave (Albert Tsai) “hiring” out the family bathroom to the commercial shooting crew next door.

Ken’s “dance” to prove that he is healthy…

Overall thoughts:

Dr Ken and Ken’s Physical  does a brilliant  riff on the “doctors make the worst patients” saying . It also spotlights the stresses raising kids, in this instance; one teen and one not.  The end of the episode has the Park couple uniting in their joint acceptance of the stresses of dealing with children who are getting older.

Suzy Nakamura and Krista Marie Yu continue to work well off one another as mother and daughter.  Kate Simses proves yet again that she is a veritable queen of comedy with perfect timing and delivery.  Slavin and Tisha Campbell-Martin turn in a comedic double act, with a little help from Marques Ray as Juan-Julio, and while Dave Foley had little to do in this episode, the entire cast rocked it.

TISHA CAMPBELL-MARTIN, JONATHAN SLAVIN
Damona and Clark, aka Tisha and Jonathan.

Dr Ken has entered its “back nine” episodes proving easily  that ABC was right to give this new doctoral and familial comedy a full season.  The storylines and the comedy deliver and, although it has been said before, Ken Jeong and his company of performers just keep getting better and better.

This family comedy airs Fridays on ABC. Tune in and enjoy. 

Dr Ken: The Master Scheduler (Review)

Dr Ken continues to deliver on the comedy front and in The Master Scheduler, the gags are about family dynamics, holiday time and scheduling for vacations. We also learn that Damona is either Bruce Wayne/Batman…or a “rich dude with a leather fetish.”

SUZY NAKAMURA, ALBERT TSAI, KRISTA MARIE YU

Dr Ken continues to deliver on the comedy front and in The Master Scheduler, the gags are about family dynamics, holiday time and scheduling for vacations. We also learn that Damona is either Bruce Wayne/Batman…or a “rich dude with a leather fetish.”

Once again the ensemble works well. Damona shares center stage with Ken and these two still make a good team. As double acts go, Tisha Campbell Martin and Ken Jeong do well with Martin’s character pretty much playing straight man but able to bounce back into comedic delivery when needed.

As usual Kate Simses gets off one or two really good ones. “You still have B-B-Q…” and “you knew what??” As Dr Julie, the actress manages to get out a number of punch lines that tickle and delight.

The show starts with a stressed out Allison (Suzy Nakamura) excited about the upcoming Ha-vie-ee trip sans kids. Before the two Park children learn about being left home, Molly asks for a new bikini (“Stuff got real this year,” she says sticking out her chest in a pose) and Dave says he too needs a new suit as  he has been tightening the front porch.

Cue a dilemma where Allison tells Ken off for not telling the kids that it is an adult only trip. Later, Molly and Dave work on their strategy to get included to the Hawaii vacation.  Molly (Krista Marie Yu)  coaches little brother Dave (Albert Tsai) on the two techniques meant to sway their mother.

This is another instance that proves just how well these two young actors work together. The whole scene with the fork, where Dave has his arm curled around the dinner plate with a snarl planted firmly on lip, while Molly urges him to protect his meal is funny. As is the switch to “the face” where Dave’ countenance changes to weepy.

While mother Allison does not fall for either one, Molly assures Dave that if they keep it up, it will work.  Dave snarls and flourishes the fork again and sis tells him not that a look, the other one. All quite funny.

KEN JEONG, SUZY NAKAMURA
Ken, Allison and “that” face..

The opening sequence of the show has Allison talking to a patient who has issues dealing with the holidays and offers some comic phone moments.  After the new swimsuit interaction it is revealed that the kids are not invited. Firstly Molly shouts about wanting  to learn how to surf and Dave says he wanted to see how resentful the “locals” are.

Dave gets the final word as he mumbles disbelievingly  to his dad:

“Really? Gangsta gonna play me like that?”

Back at “Welltopia” newly single Pat (Dave Foley) continues his with plans to have sex over the holidays, much to  Clark’s chagrin.  As usual the hospital administrator skirts just shy of being wildly offensive.  Ken learns that he forgot to put in the request for his day off to the master scheduler Phil Stockton.

Panicking, Ken goes to see Phil and after he leaves, Damona learns about the visit. She freaks out because she is the master scheduler, not Stockton.  The whole thing is satisfactorily sorted out and in the end even the Park kids get to go on holiday.

The humor in Dr Ken is the satisfying sort. Funny, not overly offensive and fairly distributed across the board, meaning  everyone has a chance to bring something to the party. Ken Jeong is the master at the “look” (not the type that Dave employs) and while Kate Simses is still brilliant at the perfect push of the low-key gag, Tisha Campbell Martin is moving up as consistent comedic performer.

KEN JEONG, TISHA CAMPBELL MARTIN, KATE SIMSES, JONATHAN SLAVIN
Damona, Bat Man or A rich dude with a leather fetish…

Dr Ken is good natured fun.  Jeong has perfected his “attitudinal” doctor and regardless of whether he is “living the thug’s life yo,” or rushing to keep his family happy, Ken nails it.  This episode was the mid-season finale and Dr Ken will return in the new year. Stick around and tune in, this is fun and has a cast who deliver. Tune in ABC on Friday night and catch the comedy.

Dr Ken: Ken Teaches Molly a Lesson – Laughter to the Nth Degree (Review)

KRISTA MARIE YU, SUZY NAKAMURA, KEN JEONG

As amazing as it may seem, after all the odds are against any sitcom knocking out of the park every single week,  Dr Ken achieves this easily. So much so that each episode equals laughter to the nth degree and one should avoid watching it on a tablet (or other device)  in public places if easily embarrassed. For instance, at this exact point and time, this reviewer is sitting in a crowded fast-food outlet, earphones in and is chortling, snorting and leaking tears of laughter at the beginning of Ken Teaches Molly a Lesson.

This episode is all about family, although those crazy folks at the medical center do appear and Dr. Park, along with Damona,  do a ’77 riff on Pat that is truly memorable and funny as hell.  Before then, and later, the episode is owned by Ken Jeong, Krista Marie Yu, Suzy Nakamura and Albert Tsai.  The part that had this reviewer laughing out loud, aka “LOLing” in a public place, was Molly’s question control after informing her parents that the police had shut down a party she was attending due to underage drinking.

Ken and Allison agree to not get angry and Molly allows them two questions. The parents discuss the situation and believe that the deal will not improve so they agree . Molly then explains about the police and the drinking.

Ken: “All right. Is there more?”

“Molly: “No and not a wise use of your question.”

Ken: “Damn!”

Allison: (to Molly who is leaving the room) “Hold on.  Don’t I get a question?”

Molly: “Yes! Good question Mom!”

Allison: “Damn!”

The teen does not escape, however, as Ken forces her to “fess up” about drinking half a beer and then pouring it out because she did not like the taste. Ken reacts badly to the news and Allison thanks Molly for telling them.

The two adults disagree on how to handle the situation.  Ken changes from the “fun one” to the strict one unlike Allison  with her “commune” upbringing.  She mentions his jail time after the first “Molly” incident. Ken agrees to handle things Allison’s way, but in the end, cannot.

Dr. Ken manages to put a brilliant spin on the gags in the show, from Ken Jeong’s referring to consuming half a beer as a “Korean whore’s breakfast” to spitting while saying “Fo sho.”  Determined to teach Molly a lesson, Dr. Park sits her down and drinks non-stop while showing his teenager the perils of alcohol consumption.

Cue one massively intoxicated Dr. Ken, who manages to get drunk as a lord and embarrasses Molly again in front of her friends.

Standout moment:

Ken drunkenly lurches toward a teenage girl he thinks is Molly and after hugging her says, “I used to give her a bath!” His trumpeting this mortifying information to the wrong girl is hysterically funny and culminates in Molly storming off.

While Ken “teaches Molly a lesson” Allison is determined to be the fun parent with Dave, something that Ken does already. She takes the boy to an Angela Merkel biography reading by the author. On their trip, she gets stopped for an illegal U-turn, gets the cop’s gender wrong, lies about Dave’s health to get him a seat at the reading and Dave falls asleep moments later, snoring out loud.

Back at work, Julie is upset that no one cares about her breakup with Topher and when Damona asks her if she thought that the medical clinic would be like Grey’s Anatomy, she says yes. Dr. Julie Dobbs then  goes into full blown rant mode and is offered half a tissue from Pat as “you look upset.”

TISHA CAMPBELL MARTIN, DAVE FOLEY, JONATHAN SLAVIN, KATE SIMSES
TISHA CAMPBELL MARTIN, DAVE FOLEY, JONATHAN SLAVIN, KATE SIMSES

By the end of the episode, Allison learns that she has become the fun one, Ken is massively hung over and each one takes pride in their efforts to be great parents.

Once again, Kate Simses kills it, with her Grey’s Anatomy rant, and Tisha Campbell-Martin teams up with Ken Jeong to deliver a  brilliant comedic rip on Dave Foley‘s administrator.  Ken and Krista Marie Yu also interact perfectly as he gets more and more intoxicated while she tries to warn him about his consumption. Suzy Nakamura and Albert Tsai are also spot on in their scenes together.

*Sidenote* Ken Jeong’s  “masking” bit re: strawberry daiquiris;  is another belly laugh moment as is the “second wind” entrance at the party. 

Like Dave’s description of his night out with Allison this episode of Dr. Ken: Ken Teaches Molly a Lesson, was “badass.” The series airs Fridays on ABC, tune in and prepare to laugh your “badass” off…