Wonho Chung; Half Korean, half Vietnamese with an Arabian Flair! One of the Trendiest personalities in the Middle East and by far the most talented in his category. Wonho Chung is one of a kind comedian, born to a Korean father and Vietnamese mother, in Jeddah/Saudi Arabia. Lived and studied in Amman/jordan and currently lives in Dubai/UAE. I personally met him in 2008 in the “Axis of Evil” tour in Dubai, and was shocked (literally fell off my seat) when I saw a Korean (I thought Chinese at the time) dude, singing to Abd Al Haleem Hafez Song “Jana Al Hawa” better than half a dozen Arabic singers I know.
In this edition, Trending500.com is featuring Wonho Chung as the Trendiest self-made comedian/Entrepreneur. Here is Wonho, talking exclusively to Trending5000.com about his life, career and entrepreneurship! Enjoy!
Q: You lived in Jordan most of your adult life and being different can cause some weird moments, tell us about the weirdest scenario you faced there.
A lot of people who met me didn’t know that I spoke Arabic so together with my friends we were always trying to pull pranks. Once there was a girl and a friend of mine told her that I only spoke English and so I spoke to her with a very heavy Korean accent and acted a bit annoying and over the top! Then my friend asked her in front of me in Arabic if she likes me and would like to date me and she said ‘no way he is so ugly’. So, I went up to her and said in perfect Arabic “In which year did you win Miss Universe?” Well, let’s put it this way, she was very shocked.
- Q: When did you know that comedy is your career?
It was actually a random stroke of luck. My friends and family always used to tell me I was funny, and then one day I was discovered at a mall! However it was not until I went on stage in front of a proper audience that I realized that it was what I really wanted to do. When people laughed at my jokes and enjoyed watching me I realized that I was good at it. Sometimes people will tell you that you are great but when you do it professionally on stage it becomes a different thing. So this was 8 years ago and I am on the road still going strong.
Q: We know that being your own boss is not easy, but did your parent’s support that decision or wanted you to work in an 8-5 corporate career?
My parents would have preferred that I went for an 8-5 corporate career but they never stopped me from pursuing my love for art. When growing up they would always pay for my music, piano and voice classes, so they always supported me with this. They gave me advice on what to do and how to make the right choices, but they never pushed me in a certain direction.
Q: What do you do if you feel that the audience is not interacting with you the way you hoped they would?
If you are telling a joke and it is not getting the laughs you want then you quickly move on to another joke, making sure you assess the situation and performance at all times. For example, I start my shows with a 2.5-minute, long song and during this time I will have a look at the audience and check out who they are and where they are from, so I know which direction to take, plus it is a great icebreaker. When you have performed many times you know how to make a certain audience engage with your jokes. It’s important to always listen and watch your audience and then you are 70-80% there, your material needs to be tailor-made for them.
Q: What is your favorite dish? And do you cook?
I would say some sort of Chinese food such as vegetable fried rice with sweet and sour chicken. I am a good cook when I follow a recipe, however I can’t create anything from scratch. As I am a perfectionist I do follow a recipe pretty well and the dishes turn out perfect.
Q: You have met and interviewed so many people around the world, who is the first person that comes to your mind whom you would love to meet again, and whom you would want to avoid?
Once I interviewed Eva Longoria and she was amazing. The interview was 5 minutes long but we had a fantastic conversation so she is definitely someone I would love to meet again. There is no one I would like to avoid, however one of the less successful interviews was with Michael Emerson from the Lost series. He was a nice guy, however he only gave me Yes/No/Maybe answers so the quality of the interview was not that good at all.
Q: What is your ambition? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I have so many plans for years to come however I would ideally like to host a very successful talk show in the Middle East. Look at comedians such as John Stewart, Jimmy Fallon and even Larry King – they combined journalism with comedy and created successful talk shows that really give nice content and people love to watch them. So, I see myself hosting a late night show that is funny and where celebrities love to come. I would love to study journalism and combine it with my comedy skills.
I would also like to venture more into different aspects of art, such as acting, and explore acting in Hollywood or Europe. My aim is to definitely perform more in the West and in different languages. I can speak French and I am learning Spanish so even a 10 minute performance in these languages would be interesting to try out. I just keep on pushing myself to try out new things and to push myself outside my comfort zone. It’s so important to do what makes you happy and pursue projects that your heart desires and take each one as it comes.
Q: What makes you laugh? Who is your favorite comedian?
I love browsing YouTube and looking at animal videos, epic fail videos or models falling off the runway – these types of videos always make me laugh. When it comes to my favorite comedian, I have recently been watching a lot of Bill Burr, who is from Boston but is originally Irish. He does not give two damns about what he says on stage and talks about everything from domestic violence to gun laws – basically taboo topics and manages to pull it off. He makes people laugh because he is so honest – he jokes about certain topics and gets away with murder.
Q: Your fans know you are fluent in Arabic, but I am sure you have had an incident where you caught them off guard, tell us about that.
I had the pleasure to be on Bassem Youssef’s show last year and before I visited I had some fans in Egypt but not so many. So I started off the show talking in English with Korean accent and the audience was looking at me wondering what the hell I was doing there. Then I suddenly switched into Arabic and started to sing a very popular Egyptian song – well this definitely caught the audience off guard. When I then started to speak in Arabic fluently people were applauding. Bassem Youssef had about 40-50 million people in Egypt watching his show and after my appearance I got a lot of Egyptian followers on my social media. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I was so honoured to be part of it.
Q: How would you feel about homegrown brands? Do you consider yourself an early adapter who would you experiment with new products or a service from a startup
There is so much talent and potential in the region and it is a pleasure watching homegrown brands emerge. I like everyone who is doing something new and good whether it is a small start up or a big renowned brand. Most of the big products we are using today started with great ideas and a solid philosophy as well as great execution and so became something fantastic. For example an App that someone created in their basement a couple of years ago is worth billions today, that is so impressive. I love to align myself with small start-ups or big brand companies who basically create desirable products that function well.
Q: Based on your experience and how you have become the famous person you are, what is your advice to those who are trying to make it in their own business world, be it a new small home grown business? Or a person with a great talent?