“Oh, fuck! Motherfucking roosters!”
When the first “Hangover” hit theaters in 2009, Ken Jeong was - to the general public anyway - that funny doctor guy from “Knocked Up.” Four years later, he’s Mr. Chow.
“I think my favorite ever was I was at an ATM and there was a middle-aged man in a convertible staring at me for the longest time,” says Jeong. “And as he drives away, he says, [imitating Chow] ‘Toodle-oo, motherfucker!’”
It’s been a wild few years for the doctor-turned-stand-up-turned-actor, whose other big claim to fame comes via his series-regular role on the cult NBC sitcom “Community,” where he plays unhinged former Spanish professor “Señor” Ben Chang.
“For me it's an embarrassment of riches at this point because-- Yeah, in the first ‘Hangover,’ I think I was only on set for maybe, like, four days,” says Jeong, clad in a costume that might best be described as “Mexican drug terrorist.” “To say that it changed my life is an understatement. I think Keith Richards said the turning point for him in his life came when his life changed from black and white to Technicolor, and that's what the first ‘Hangover’ did for me. It just changed my whole career.”
Despite the over-the-top characters that have become Jeong's on-screen signature, in person the actor is an extremely low-key, humble presence who himself seems very nearly in shock at the meteoric trajectory of his recent career – not to mention the surprising evolution of what was originally written as a throwaway character.
“In this movie you're going to see different layers of Chow,” he tells us. “It's become a fully realized and layered character. Todd Phillips and Craig Mazin, the writers of the movie, have just taken great lengths to give it a lot of depth, and it's really been wonderful. I just can't even believe they're giving Chow so much depth, and I love it. Honestly, this is everything I ever wanted. Everything I ever wanted is in this movie. That's about as blunt as I can put it. This is just one of the happiest moments of my career.”
Of course, the filmmakers wouldn't have bothered to keep Chow around at all had Jeong not so fully nailed the role in the first place. In fact, the character’s most famous scene in the original resulted from the actor's own suggestion.
“The jumping out naked in the trunk was my idea,” Jeong tells us. “That was [Todd Phillips] green-lighting that, which he happily did.”
So what kinds of antics can we expect from the diminutive gang leader this time around?
“There is a lot of action for Chow in this movie and things that I have never done before,” says Jeong. “Working with Jack Gill, the stunt coordinator, has been absolutely amazing. He's done ‘Mission: Impossible,’ the last one…I've learned so much just in terms of the whole process and art of what he does. ...[And] I've definitely got to give a shout-out to my stuntman, Phil Tan. He's my main stunt double. He's been with me ever since the first movie. He jumped out of the trunk, he jumped out of the ice machine. In fact, it's his body, you see him jump out of the trunk, the very initial body. So his butt is first, I believe, in...'Hangover One.'"
So will Chow be stripping down again in the new movie? "You'll have to wait and see," teased Jeong.
"'The Hangover Part III': Chow Takes It Off Again, Maybe." I'm sold.
A former contributor to sites including MTV's The Backlot and Bloody-Disgusting, Chris Eggertsen worked in film development before indulging his love of pop culture writing full time. He specializes in horror, the intersection of social issues and entertainment and Howard Stern. He's on Twitter @HitFixChris.