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When Popeyes decided to put out its own Super Bowl commercial for the first time, it knew which funny man to call.
On Feb. 6, Popeyes released its first full-length Super Bowl commercial ahead of the big game, and the 60-second spot features actor, writer, comedian and host Ken Jeong trying the chicken chain’s new wings.
The comedic spot stars Jeong as a man who cryogenically froze himself 52 years ago waiting for the “best-ever” wing to be created. The chain first announced it was permanently adding five flavors of wings to its menu on Nov. 22, 2023, offering Honey BBQ, Roasted Garlic Parmesan, Signature Hot, Ghost Pepper and Sweet ‘N Spicy nationwide — all of which Jeong ate with an admitted reckless abandon.
“I happily ate the chicken that you see me eat,” Jeong tells TODAY.com with a laugh. “When you’re filming anything of high quality, you do it over and over again, and I happily ate the chicken, so it was not a problem. I can say that very, very confidently.”
In the ad, Jeong enjoys Popeyes wings in addition to the myriad changes a thawed human being from 52 years ago would likely enjoy in the modern age: food delivery drones, fanny packs, self-driving cars, robot vacuums and one adorable hybrid dog breed: a goldendoodle, which the actor reveals is his actual dog.
“Coincidentally, there was supposed to be a doodle in the campaign and so I asked if I could use my own goldendoodle Mocha and they said yes,” he says, adding that he and his wife acted as Mocha’s capable handlers on set. “My wife and I had so much fun just spending time with our dog … you know, this is her debut.”
Eagle-eyed viewers of the Popeyes ad may notice that Jeong’s character was frozen in 1972, which is the same year Popeyes opened its doors, forever changing the fast-food chicken game. Now, Popeyes hopes to do it again with its wings and the help of one very playful comedian.
“They really captured my sense of humor and my own brand of comedy and I think that I totally captured what they were trying to do with this campaign,” Jeong says. “It was definitely a really amazing and authentic collaboration.”
Jeong has appeared in his fair share of commercials, for brands like Miller Light, McDonald’s, State Farm, Bridgestone Tires and Cottonelle. He’s even appeared in at least one other Super Bowl commercial, for Planters with his “Community” co-star Joel McHale.
And yet, he says, this collab with Popeyes’ is one of “these pinch me moments.”
“Not too long ago, I was a doctor,” Jeong says of his previous career as a physician.
Jeong completed his residency at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans years ago and says that Popeyes was an actual part of his life at the time, long before the company approached him for a commercial.
“It was not uncommon for me to go to Popeyes after a long shift being on-call, let’s say a 36-hour shift where I was in medical residency. There was a Popeyes on my way home,” Jeong says, adding that like his medical career, Popeyes got its start in the Big Easy.
“When I came back a couple of years ago to do commencement at Tulane University, my only request was to have a Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich. It was one of those things in life that was very full circle for me,” he says.
Jeong is currently hosting the third season of “I Can See Your Voice,” a game show where contestants suss out singers from a group of everyday folks. In addition, the booked and busy father of two is gearing up for the 11th season of “The Masked Singer” — but he says he doesn’t have to prepare much to have a blast.
“I’m not a recording artist … it’s so great to enter this world of music and pop culture as a fish out of water,” Jeong says. “To get paid to have a good time blows my mind.”
When asked which previous “Masked Singer” contestant shocked him with their musical ability, Jeong thinks deeply for a moment, and answers Olympic snowboarder and gold medalist Chloe Kim, who was Jellyfish in Season Four.
“I was so impressed with how amazing a singer she was and is and I’m obviously a big fan of hers. I was just kind of blown away,” he says. “‘Can she really sing like that?’ The answer is, yes, she can. She is outstanding and I was just so impressed with her range … she’s so young, and she can do all these things. And on top of that, an Olympic gold medal winner.”
All in all, Jeong says that playing his part in Popeyes’ first-ever Super Bowl commercial was more than just another line on his resume.
“I just wanted to perform full time, to be an actor full time. That was my goal when I quit my day job … it wasn’t to be famous,” he says. “It’s moments like these where it does get surreal, you know? I’m just very, very grateful.”
This article was originally published on TODAY.com