Three Great Things: Ken Jeong

The beloved actor, comedian and former doctor, who's currently looking out for your health "down there," gives us a trio of favorites.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. Actor and comedian Ken Jeong is currently working with Cottonelle as their brand “Assvertiser” to help raise awareness around a delicate subject and help others have their voices heard. Says Jeong,“As a former physician, I am all too aware about people’s needs ‘down there’ and that’s why Cottonelle has partnered with me, so we can keep it real and normalize the conversation around this topic.” To help get the word out about the campaign, Jeong shared some of the things that bring him the most joy in life. N.B. This piece was completed in late June, before the current SAG-AFTRA strike began. — N.D.

My Family
At the top of the list is my family, my wife and two daughters. I’m filming on the road a lot and lately I’ve been out of the country, but one of my neighbors, who’s a dear friend, said to me, “You know what, Ken? You’re one of those shy celebrities.” I took that as such a compliment because I knew what he meant: when I’m home, I’m a homebody. My two daughters are in high school and we just make the most of it. My wife is wonderfully organized and is like the showrunner of our family, making sure we spend quality time together every night I’m at home, whether it’s taking a walk or watching a movie or something on TV, playing a game or taking a walk with our dog. To someone else, that may sound routine, but for me, it’s special that I am connected to something more important to me than anything else in the world: my family. And if I’m connected to that, it ripples out emotionally in my work and helps me keep going when I’m inevitably traveling for work. It helps ground me and gives me the energy I so desperately crave.

I love my family, but not only do I love my family, I like them. I like hanging out with them. And that’s very important. We genuinely like to hang out with each other. If we can have a staycation, we’ll do that. My daughters recently did a summer internship at a university lab and my wife and I just decided, “Let’s go with them!” All four of us went out to dinner every night and just had fun. It’s those kinds of things that keep me going.

Here’s a Talkhouse exclusive of something I truly love that nobody knows! I recently went on a safari with my wife and daughters – it was the first time for all of us and it was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken. Anytime someone tells you to go on safari, they’re going to tell you the same thing: it’s just a life-changing wonder. And they’re right.

Long before I went on safari, though, I started going down these YouTube rabbit holes of safari videos, wildlife videos and videos about the Big Five, so I know all about lions, elephants, giraffes, rhinos and cape buffalo. I’ll watch anything related to safaris – it’s just the best decompressor for me. With the way algorithms are, if I watch one safari video, next it’ll take me to an elephant video, and then all of a sudden I’m in Rwanda for a gorilla video. Sometimes I have to literally turn off my phone at night because I’m watching video after video and all of a sudden my wife’s waking up in the middle of the night because I’m watching a National Geographic video at two in the morning. When my wife reads this, she will nod and then roll her eyes.

When I was on safari, I surprised the tour guide by knowing all about the Mapogo coalition of the lions, the need for domination among those five “brothers” and how they dominated the Kruger-Sabi Sands area. My wife and kids were looking at me like, “What?” I felt like a junior tour guide, saying, “This is where Mr. T used to live,” because I knew the names of the lions. Being on safari was really one of the most surreal experiences of my life, made even more so because I already knew a lot more than I let on.

On safari, you have to wake up early in the morning and I was shooting a movie at the same time, so I was exhausted. I was actually worried I would not have the energy to go on safari and see everything, so I’d tell myself, “Ken, you’re not tired. You’re getting up!” I was so engaged, as I wanted to see if the lions were still sleeping where we saw them the previous night, if they’d gotten up yet, if their bellies were full. I wanted to see what they ate. It was vivid. And it was lovely.

Getting My Steps In
This is another thing people don’t really know about me, but I like to get my steps in. I have a treadmill at home and when I’m on the road, I try to go to the gym and hit the treadmill there for a while. For the better part of a decade, I would go every single day, even if it was just for a few minutes, even if I was filming a movie, just to get a few steps in. It’s really to decompress my mind. If I can get 15 minutes of exercise, it’s not only great for my heart and my health, it will also help stimulate my endorphins and put me in the mindset to relax enough to handle the stress of my day. Much of the time, my work requires a lot of awareness and I can be overwhelmed and overstimulated by that. The older I get, the more I know I have to be in good health to continue to do the things I love to do. So if there’s a TV on at the gym, I’ll just watch ESPN to decompress and escape my mind so when I come back, I’m focused and not burned out.

I used to run a lot in college. Back then, when I was pre-med, the night before a final, if I knew I’d studied enough, instead of wasting all that nervous energy by studying more, I would go for a run. I remember before an organic chemistry final, I went running for an hour just to release all my anxiety. (And I remember I crushed that exam!) It was a slow run; I wasn’t Usain Bolt. This was back in the late ’80s or early ’90s, so I was probably listening to Bruce Hornsby and the Range or some of the milder Steve Winwood tunes. Those are some deep cuts, but Talkhouse readers are the best and the smartest, so I know they’ll get it.

Ken Jeong has established himself as one of today’s top comedic stars. Jeong can be seen in the film Fool’s Paradise as well as on FOX “Kensday” on the Emmy-nominated hit The Masked Singer and as host and producer of I Can See Your Voice. He can be seen in the second season of AppleTV+’s hit The Afterparty, which hit the platform on July 12. He starred and created his eponymous sitcom Dr. Ken, played Señor Chang on Community and the iconic Mr. Chow in The Hangover franchise. Other credits include The Pentaverate, Murderville, The Office, Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm, his standup special You Complete Me, Ho, and films Crazy Rich Asians, Knocked Up, Role Models, Transformers 3, Pineapple Express, Step Brothers and the Oscar-nominated Over the Moon.