Doctor-turned-comedian Ken Jeong’s career comprises cultural touchstones from Community to Crazy Rich Asians and even surprise Fox hit celebrity competition The Masked Singer. Hot on the heels of his first stand-up special, he spoke with the Weekly about his upcoming first-ever Las Vegas headlining gig.
Netflix’s You Complete Me, Ho is partially a love letter to your wife. Why is it important for comedians to maintain supportive relationships away from the stage? I have the best support from my whole family. I’ve been surrounded by a wealth of support. I think it just helps you not only deal with the downs of the business, but the ups too. It helps you put things in perspective, so you don’t lose your head even when things are going well. You just don’t let it get to your head. To have support is vitally important. You don’t have to be married with kids to have support. Even the support of the comedy community—what better support can you have than your peers? You have friendships at the clubs, or on movie and TV sets. I have friends for life from all of the projects I’ve worked on.
There’s a line in the special where you jokingly refer to yourself as the “Asian Don Rickles.” He was always a large part of Las Vegas entertainment culture. Did you see Rickles live or did he serve as a direct influence for you? I actually met him at Jimmy Kimmel Live when we were both guests on the same show a couple years before he passed. He was in the twilight of his life and very serene and comfortable. I remember him sitting in his wheelchair, and he was like [sarcastically], “Oh my God. How great it’s going to be having Ken Jeong on the same show with me. What a big deal that is!” It was the best thing ever that he a) knew who I was, and b) just to be zinged by him was an honor. He absolutely is an influence on so many comedians, particularly me. His timing was razor-sharp, and I think his aggressive, “make fun of the ones you love” spirit is something that I believe in. All of us were raised on Rickles.
You’re universally recognized as Leslie Chow from the Hangover films. Do you get especially shocked double takes whenever you’re spotted in Vegas? Vegas is the town that made me; it really is. If it wasn’t for The Hangover I wouldn’t have a career, period. When I go to Vegas it’s especially joyful because no matter what happens for the rest of my life, I will always be tied to Vegas in some form or fashion because of The Hangover. So I’m especially excited about coming back to my second home. Or at least Mr. Chow’s home.
What fascinates me about stand-up is you can make it whatever you want. So to me this is really like thanking Las Vegas for my career … in the guise of a stand-up show.
KEN JEONG March 8, 9 p.m., $49-$76. Treasure Island Theatre, 702-894-7722.