Ken Jeong might become the ultimate celebrity road comic. That sounds like an incredibly backhanded compliment, but I come from the South. For years small town clubs have filled their lineups with a mix of young up and comers, road dogs, hypnotists, and movie stars who’ve taken a swing at comedy. If you’d like to see the act of a movie star road comic performed at its highest level, make time for You Complete Me, Ho.
Jeong’s blend of racial humor, crowd work, and stories about famous friends will be instantly familiar if you’ve watched a movie star at a Comedy Zone. Vulgar, but sweet. Arrogant, but gracious. Aware of his celebrity, but careful to remember his come up. Ken Jeong is a charismatic performer who draws you without challenging you.
Thankfully the doctor turned actor has an incredible well of stories to fall back on. From Barack Obama and Zach Galifianakis negging him at the White House to Tom Hanks’ micro-aggressions, Jeong rolls with each indignity with acerbic charm. His stage persona may be a playful jerk, but he’s the butt of most of the jokes.
Between each story, and often within them, he throws in plenty of jokes about sex and being Asian. I enjoyed that Jeong didn’t treat Asian culture as monolithic. Instead, he playfully jokes specifically about different ethnicities—Korean, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese—while doing crowd work with audience members. Occasionally it teeters dangerously close to problematic cliches, but Jeong never spends enough time with any specific topic to step on a mine.
Rating this five out of ten seems like a bad score, but I’m not saying this is a bad special. I laughed out loud while watching it and Jeong is an infectious performer on stage. You Complete Me, Ho is a simple crowd-pleasing hour of funny celebrity stories with a surprisingly poignant closer. If you paid $20 plus a two-drink minimum to see this set in a club, you’d walk away impressed. It’s a solid performance, augmented with charming crowd work.
But as a special, a record of Ken Jeong’s jokes in this era, it falls short. I watched the special twice, with diminishing returns appearing instantly during the second viewing. With so much of the material based on stories or vulgar asides about his dick, You Complete Me, Ho lacks punch on return visits.
Part of the issue is the sheer number of times Jeong references his wife’s last name, Ho, or how rich he is. It’s cheap and easy humor that gets a pass the first time because the good Doctor is so damn charming. Especially when he finally starts to get real at the end.
You Complete Me, Ho ends with a beautiful story about his wife’s battle with cancer and Jeong’s with depression. Merging his family’s medical struggle with one last anecdote about The Hangover, you start to understand why these stories make up so much of his act.
Ken Jeong is a grateful man who’s had an unlikely life in entertainment. He took a bit role in Knocked Up and fostered a career that allowed him to live out his dreams. That grateful joy leaks out of every moment of You Complete Me, Ho, and helps soften some of its rougher edges.
It’s difficult to dislike someone who understands how lucky he is, let alone one who’s this talented on stage. Lightening fast with the crowd, but without much of substance to say, You Complete Me, Ho is a fast food comedy meal the comes with a surprisingly rich closer for dessert. I had a lot of fun watching it once—and that was plenty.
John-Michael Bond is Paste’s assistant comedy editor. He’s on Twitter @BondJohnBond.