Dr. Ken on ABC has been almost universally panned by critics, but at least so far, adored by fans.
Ratings for its premiere on Friday ranked Dr. Ken the number one scripted program of the evening.
Jeff Yang sat down with Jeong in an interview for Slate and the two talked about the pressure of being one of the few Asian comics on TV.
The comparisons are inevitable to Fresh Off the Boat, but Dr. Ken is clearly different.
“Our show is refreshingly uncultural, if that makes sense,” said Jeong. “We definitely bring in those issues—there’s an upcoming Thanksgiving episode that’s all about culture clashes—but we’re doing it in a different way. In real life, I’m Korean American, my wife is Vietnamese American, and when our in-laws come over, those aspects of us come in[to play]. But in the show, I felt the cultural aspects had to be organically introduced. Not the way a White writer might introduce it into a sitcom.”
Jeong is aware of some of the criticism about his comedy coming with in the Asian American community. He’s been heavily quoted as saying they’ll be no dog jokes on Dr. Ken. As executive producer, he’ll have a major say.
“To be truthful, early on one of the White writers on the show pitched a very hacky Asian joke and I threw a fit. I’m not saying this to curry favor with the Asian American community; I’m not trying to suck up to anybody. It’s about my own artistic voice. In my life, I don’t talk like that, I don’t act like that. So I was like, “Guys, that’s not happening.”
Jeong has taken note of the criticism and hasn’t been shy about answering back. One accused him of “yellowface buffoonery” and he quickly responded on Twitter calling him a “cowardly blogger.” .
“The thing that [frustrates] me the most about that is this: You can say “I don’t like your show.” But don’t say “You’ve set Asians back 100 years.” Don’t say “Because you showed your penis in the Hangover, I can’t get a date.” I’m like, no, buddy, you can’t get a date because of YOU.
“You guys are judging your own people harsher than you’d judge others, and that kind of judgment is discriminatory in its own way. I think at the end of the day you should just be judged by your work, not on what effect it might have on the world or your community.”
Jeong elaborates immensely in the interview with Yang. He also talks about how the show came about and how he got Margaret Cho to be a part of it in Slate.