Arts, Television, Review

Ken Jeong Riffs Off Romance in ‘You Complete Me, Ho’

Frankly speaking, if your Valentine’s Day gift to your loved one was not a dedication of a film special, then it probably was not a good gift. Ken Jeong returns to the club where he began his stand-up comedy career—and where his wife first saw him perform—for his first live-recorded Netflix Original comedy, You Complete Me, Ho. Ken Jeong’s fame rose from his authentic, comedic acting in the Hangover movies and Crazy Rich Asians. Comedy in stand-up and movies can be different, but this special will force a smile onto the sternest poker face. It can also be difficult to incorporate life lessons into comedy, but Ken Jeong’s UNC Medical degree brain cleverly found a way to leave the audience inspired.

In a slight departure from typical stand-up comedy form, You Complete Me, Ho featured a variety of shots and did not just focus on Jeong for the entire time. He explicitly solicited participation from the audience, which allowed the production team to include panoptic shots of the audience and gradual zoomed out shots, a pleasing variation from the classic mid shot.

Typically, people would not want a “ho’” as their partner, but in the beginning and end of the special, Jeong explains the impact that his wife, Tran Ho, has had on him. As a Korean American physician, actor, and comedian, his play on words embraces his Asian heritage. It also reclaims the roots once watered down by Americans, considering how people with non-English names alter pronunciation or spelling to fit the English-speaking tongue. The first time Jeong refers to his wife by her last name, the audience may be caught off guard. It becomes increasingly romantic after realizing how popular culture’s traditional notion of being a “hoe’” does not match Jeong’s definition of “Ho” in reference to Tran Ho.

Despite excelling in reinforcing his adoration for his wife through the jolting moniker, the overall set lacked a coherent structure. Based on the title and introduction, the audience may expect for most of the set to focus on Ho and Jeong’s relationship. Instead, Jeong mostly discusses his journey of following his passions. He implicitly thanks people who gave him a chance at breaking into Hollywood, but Tran Ho seems like a second-tier appreciation until the end of the show.

Since Jeong’s famous film roles have often been deeply-rooted Asian characters, his fans are conditioned to see Jeong as a champion of Asian representation in Hollywood. He shows love for the pan-Asian community since his own wife is Vietnamese American and he is Korean American. His expression of gratitude for people throughout Hollywood who allowed him to highlight his Asian roots can suggest that the “Ho” in the title also represents different people in the Asian community, as he is grateful for all of them.

Provided that the show is not structured around his wife, the themes of money and wealth string together the special better than a theme of unconditional love for Ho. Sure, Jeong was a general practitioner—an already lucrative profession that requires plenty of schooling—but his transition to Hollywood brought him even more wealth. In some sections of the set, Jeong humbles himself and acknowledges his privilege and renounces the “model minority” stereotype, while in others, he sets himself apart from average audience member. The constant reminders of Jeong’s proliferating wealth as a result of his blockbusters slowly become tiring and confusing—at times, it feels like the special was a promotion for Crazy Rich Asians.

Jeong’s stand-up comedy is effective because of his ability to relay jokes with jaw-dropping punchlines. His audacity makes the comedy enjoyable whether the audience can personally identify with the premise of the joke or not.

For his first stand-up special, Jeong incorporates some political commentary—initially seeming out of place, the remarks are short-lived and hardly overbearing. The Netflix Original is sure to be inspirational and relatable, as many people struggle to build the courage to follow their heart’s desire instead of their parents’ desires, which can sometimes even be determined prior to a birth, according to Jeong. It also spins commonly-demeaning stereotypes into self-deprecating jokes that embrace different aspects of human imperfections. The structure may blur toward the middle, but Jeong’s jokes are consistently entertaining, and, ultimately, he brings his journey full circle to show love and appreciation for his beloved Ho.

Featured Image by Netflix

February 18, 2019