WASHINGTON — They made us laugh in “The Hangover” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Now, Ken Jeong and Suzy Nakamura return for Season 2 of “Dr. Ken,” which just returned from its midseason break to air Fridays on ABC.
The sitcom chronicles wisecracking physician Dr. Kendrick “Ken” Park who works at a fledgling HMO with his therapist wife Dr. Allison Park, while raising their awkward son and vain daughter at home.
“The show is loosely based on my life,” Jeong told WTOP. “In my previous life, I was a doctor at an HMO. This was all pre-‘Hangover.’ I’ve had the opportunity to have this show based on my life as a doctor and as a father and a husband. … My real-life wife and I worked in the same HMO together.”
After playing his wife on television, what does Nakamura think of Jeong’s real wife, Tran Ho?
“I love Ken’s real wife,” Nakamura told WTOP. “I threaten to call her all the time and tattle!”
All joking aside, Jeong does see some actual similarities between the two.
“I think both are hysterical,” Jeong said. “Suzy grounds scenes as an actor and enables me to even be funnier in certain situations … but Tran grounds me in real life and she’s so supportive of my career and she understands the unpredictability of an actor’s schedule. I tell Tran all the time, ‘I feel like I have more freedom in my marriage than I ever did when I was single.’ The trust and bond and real love that you have is also complemented by friendship, like I not only love you but I really like you, too.”
How does Season 2 of “Dr. Ken” compare to Season 1?
“This season, there’s just a lot more creative confidence that we’re having this year,” Jeong said. “We did this whole Korean ghost story that was like a Korean ‘Princess Bride’ where my character tells my son the scariest Korean ghost story ever. And we’re doing a documentary episode that’s coming up in a couple of weeks like ‘a day in the life’ of the HMO where Ken works at.”
Last Friday’s midseason return was a personal highlight for Jeong.
“The episode was really a love letter from me to my real wife,” Jeong said. “Suzy plays it so brilliantly and so off-balance and so off-kilter and [with] wonderful nuance. It’s one of my favorite episodes.”
If you’re not all the way caught up yet, have no fear. You can jump on board this sitcom whenever.
“If you haven’t seen ‘Dr. Ken,’ it’s a great time to jump in,” Nakamura said. “Jump in anytime!”
Jeong thinks this sitcom structure is refreshing in an era of exclusive, serialized TV plotlines.
“That’s the beauty of multicamera shows, you can really pick up [anytime],” Jeong said. “So much of television is serialized now that you’re almost intimidated to watch it because you don’t know where the jumping-in point is. We’re very aware of that and a we’re a very inclusive show. It’s a family show. … This is not like an exclusive clique, this is really for everybody. It’s like the best kegger ever, bro!”
Nakamura said the humor on “Dr. Ken” is far more scripted than on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
“I played two different characters on ‘Curb,'” Nakamura said. “I did the original one-hour special, which was supposed to be a stand-alone and ended up being a pilot because people liked the show so much. I showed up at 10 p.m. in some abandoned office building, wearing my own clothes, doing my own makeup, and they kind of told me what I was gonna do, but there was absolutely no script.”
She says even creator Larry David didn’t know certain details ahead of time.
“I was gonna reveal something that even Larry David had no idea about,” Nakamura said. “I was revealing a secret to Larry, the actor and producer, so we basically had one shot to get him to have a genuine reaction and I had to improvise the whole thing. It was terrifying, but it was also really fun.”
While “Curb” introduced us to Nakamura, we all know Jeong as the hilarious Mr. Chow in “The Hangover” (2009), first seen jumping naked out of a trunk to whack Bradley Cooper with a tire iron.
“Honestly, that trunk gave me a career,” Jeong said with appreciation. “I wouldn’t be here talking to you if it wasn’t for ‘The Hangover.’ I wouldn’t have gotten ‘Dr. Ken’ or ‘Community’ if it wasn’t for ‘The Hangover.’ Everything that I’ve gotten over the last 7-8 years has been totally due to ‘The Hangover.'”
Not only was “The Hangover” the top-grossing comedy of the year, it won the Golden Globe for Best Picture: Comedy/Musical, beating out “(500) Days of Summer,” “It’s Complicated,” “Julie & Julia” and “Nine.” Jeong’s role expanded in “The Hangover: Part II” (2011) and “The Hangover Part III” (2013).
“The pop culture zeitgeist at that point in time was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced or ever will experience,” Jeong said. “We were in the center of a wonderful cultural storm. None of us were really that established — Bradley Cooper was [in ‘Wedding Crashers’] and Ed Helms was [in ‘The Office’] — but it changed all of our lives for the better. I just saw Bradley recently and we both kind of remarked that we’re just so happy for each other. … There is a bond looking back. … A real-life Wolfpack.”
He says the bond will remain for the rest of their careers.
“I remember talking to Zach [Galifianakis] recently and he just said, ‘One day we may end up in the same retirement home,'” Jeong joked. “Just to have that perspective, especially from a guy like Zach Galifianakis, one of the funniest people alive, there’s a lot of special memories on-camera and off.”
So if you see The Wolfpack waking up after a night of blackout drinking, tell them to call Dr. Ken.
Listen to the full conversation with “Dr. Ken” stars Ken Jeong and Suzy Nakamura below: