• Ken Jeong seizure joke upsets Epilepsy Foundation

    Ride Along 2 star Ice CubeKen Jeong’s Netflix special, Ken Jeong: You Complete Me Ho, is getting some critical reviews—from the epilepsy community.

    In the comedian’s first-ever stand-up special, Jeong tells a story about a time he filmed a scene for Ride Along 2 with Ice Cube and Kevin Hart. During the shoot, which took place in an Atlanta nightclub, somebody suffered a “severe generalized tonic-clonic seizure,” as Jeong, who used to be a practicing physician, phrased it.

    According to Jeong, both he and Ice Cube sprang into action, while Hart ran away. “We’re like two outfielders going for the same ball,” said Jeong. Ice Cube, who is ripping off his belt while running towards the patient, gets there first.

    “I’m like, ‘Woah, woah, woah, you don’t whip the patient, Cube.’”

    Instead, Cube puts the belt around the patient’s mouth so he wouldn’t choke on his own tongue. “Ice Cube, not me, saved the patient’s life,” Jeong joked. “Just a shout out to Ice Cube.”

    Ken Jeong faces backlash over epilepsy joke

    It may have been a joke, but the epilepsy community took the matter seriously. The president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation, Philip M. Gattone, M.Ed released a statement admonishing the story.

    “While we certainly understand that comedy routines by definition should not be taken seriously, it is greatly and even more disturbing given the fact that Jeong is also a medical doctor — and he reminds his audience of this just before his comedic routine. It is worrisome that his audience would assume his description of seizures and seizure first aid is serious and not comedic.”

    As it turns out, the fear that somebody suffering a seizure might choke on his or her own tongue is a myth. In fact, the Epilepsy Foundation website has a section in their first aid tips titled “Do Not Put Anything in the Person’s Mouth!”

    Jaw and face muscles may tighten during a seizure, causing the person to bite down,” according to the website. “If this happens when something is in the mouth, the person may break and swallow the object or break their teeth!”

    Former doctor shares second seizure story

    The Ice Cube seizure story is not the only seizure joke in the special. He told another story about jumping off-stage to help a woman having a seizure during one of his stand-up shows in Phoenix. Jeong and an audience member, who happened to be a paramedic, helped treat the patron.  

    Jeong no longer practices medicine, but he frequently plays a doctor in movies and on TV. Most recently, he played the title character in the ABC sitcom Dr. Ken, which ran for two seasons.

    You can read the Epilepsy Foundation’s full statement below.

    Epilepsy Foundation statement on Ken Jeong

    Members of our community brought to our attention Ken Jeong’s new comedy special on Netflix where he incorrectly referenced seizure first aid procedures and provided potentially dangerous information to his audience. While we certainly understand that comedy routines by definition should not be taken seriously, it is greatly and even more disturbing given the fact that Jeong is also a medical doctor — and he reminds his audience of this just before his comedic routine. It is worrisome that his audience would assume his description of seizures and seizure first aid is serious and not comedic. In fact, epilepsy is a serious neurological disorder and people with epilepsy may experience hundreds of seizures a day. We are outraged and disappointed that Jeong makes some shockingly bad references to seizures and seizure first aid procedures in his Netflix comedy special.

    In Jeong’s show, he talks about how Ice Cube “saved” someone having a seizure by wrapping a belt around the person’s mouth because the person could have swallowed their tongue. He then praised Ice Cube for his quick response. This is absolutely NOT the way to aid someone having a seizure. In fact, this wrong action could, at the very least, cause serious injury to the individual having the seizure and to the person attempting to provide help. And, at the worst, this wrong action could result in the death of the person having the seizure.

    Seizure first aid is actually easy and safe if done correctly (www.epilepsy.com/firstaid).

    It was not long ago that Jeong, himself, helped someone having a seizure during one of his stand-up comedy routines. We would like to think that he, as a medical doctor, is very aware of the seriousness of seizures and how important it is for everyone to know proper seizure first aid. Unfortunately, Jeong’s Netflix comedy routine does not educate people about seizures or provide accurate information on what to do if someone sees a person having a seizure. It does the opposite and puts 3.4 million people with epilepsy in the U.S. at increased risk of injury and death. Communicating improper information about seizures and seizure first aid only adds to the myths, ignorance, misunderstanding and fear that exist about seizures and can destroy the lives and livelihoods of people with epilepsy.

    For decades, and in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Epilepsy Foundation has developed and activated nationwide programs to promote public education about epilepsy, seizure recognition and how to administer seizure first aid.

    We are disappointed that Netflix, once again, chose to air such inaccurate information about seizures that directly and negatively impacts our community. Despite our numerous attempts to have a conversation with Netflix’s leadership to ensure seizures are accurately depicted in their production projects, Netflix has not been very responsive. We have reached out to Mr. Jeong’s team with the hopes of working with him to educate his audience about epilepsy and seizures and provide accurate seizure first aid information.

     

    Lucien Formichella

    Lucien is a comic and journalist based out of New York City. He also freelances for The Observer. He loves eating. Twitter: @lucien_form

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