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Listen: Ken Jeong on His Return to Stand-Up and New Netflix Special

Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety’s television podcast. In this week’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway, talks with Ken Jeong about his Netflix comedy special, “Ken Jeong: You Complete Me, Ho,” and being a judge on Fox’s “The Masked Singer.

Jeong started working on his new standup act after ABC canceled his show “Dr. Ken,” which was based on his career as a doctor prior to focusing on comedy. His first-ever special, which premiered on Netflix on Valentine’s Day, touches on his personal life while still having the raunchy humor Jeong is known for.

“It’s a play on my wife’s last name, which is Ho. It was actually her suggestion for that title,” he said. “Netflix wanted a catchier title than what I initially pitched, and Tran, my wife, thought ‘You Complete Me, Ho.’ We were both laughing hysterically and I pitched it to Netflix and they loved it. In many ways the act and the title were inspired by my wife. I look at is as almost like a one-man show touching upon my family and my wife with a bunch of dick jokes.”

In the special, Jeong talks about his marriage and his wife’s brush with breast cancer 10 years ago, while the camera cuts to her reactions in the audience. According to Jeong, the cutaways were the idea of “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu, who also helmed “You Complete Me, Ho.”

“He was like, ‘You gotta bring Tran in the audience.’ I wasn’t going to because she doesn’t come to a lot of my shows. She’ll come to the nicer ones, like the Sydney Opera House, but she ain’t going to the Funny Bone. He said, ‘I have a vision where I’m going to cut away to her.’ I trusted him obviously from ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ and we’ve become really good friends. That was his best note that really resonated with me,” Jeong said.

Chu agreed to direct the comedy special during an early private screening of “Crazy Rich Asians” before he and film became massive hits. Despite Chu’s busy schedule, he kept his promise.

“As soon as ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ took off in August and I was shooting my special in September, there wasn’t much time to direct the special. Here’s a guy who is a successful Hollywood director now and he’s not a flake!” Jeong said.

Most recently, Jeong joined Fox’s hit reality singing competition “The Masked Singer” as a judge alongside Jenny McCarthy, Nicole Scherzinger and Robin Thicke. After being on shows with struggling ratings, like “Dr. Ken” and “Community,” Jeong remarked how lucky he is to be on one of Fox’s most successful shows.

“It’s an insane show with an irresistible format. It’s my mother’s favorite show,” he said. “When they asked me to be a panelist for the show, I was skeptical because I don’t have any musical talent or ability. I asked my mom and she was so definitive in her answer. She said, ‘You’d be foolish not to do this show.'”

Later in the podcast, TV critics Daniel D’Addario and Caroline Framke discuss Showtime’s upcoming late-night talk show with comedy duo Desus and Mero, and the ongoing controversies of this year’s Academy Awards. Finally, Holloway and TV reporter Joe Otterson review the highs and lows of the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour.

New episodes of “TV Take” are available every Friday. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, or anywhere you download podcasts. You can find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

Ken Jeong photographed exclusively for the Variety TV Take Podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

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