Home Media A Q&A with America's Sweetheart: Karen Chee

A Q&A with America’s Sweetheart: Karen Chee

Photo by: Arin Sang-Urai

If you don’t know Karen Chee you should. 

Chee is a writer and performer on Late Night with Seth Meyers.  You may recognize her from her recurring segment “What Does Karen Know?” where Meyers and Chee compare their frames of reference on past and present pop culture. 

It is almost impossible to not fall head over heels for her. Her giggle is infectious and she commands the crowd with kindness. Additionally, she has spoken on her Korean heritage when addressing the Atlanta Shooting and Parasite’s historic Oscar wins. 

The Harvard graduate is also a published writer in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and regularly in the New Yorker

Chee is also a stand-up comedian before the pandemic locked us indoors. 

The following is a Q&A with America’s late-night sweetheart Karen Chee! 

What wakes you up in the morning?

My phone alarm plays ‘The Stable Song’ by Gregory Alan Isakov. Every other time I’ve used a song alarm it’s made me hate the song or feel anxious whenever I happen to hear it play in public, but GAI is so soothing and nice I still like being woken up to him. 

What was your first writing job?
I was a writers’ assistant for a Comedy Central pilot that never made it. A bunch of really great people wrote for it – Lauren Ashley Smith, Anna Drezen, Shantira Jackson, Nedaa Sweiss… a really lovely and talented group of people. I still feel extremely lucky that that was my first experience on a TV staff of any kind because the bar was set so high in terms of both comedy and kindness. They’re all real gems. LAS was the head writer and she let me write a segment for the episode–I thought I was going to burst.

What is it like to work in the late-night television industry? Is it glamorous?
Haha! Sometimes! When you’re in a segment and you get in costume and go to the hair and makeup room, it certainly feels glamorous. But secretly I feel the most glamorous when the other writers and I are hanging out and complaining about a joke that didn’t get on or something – it’s like, dang! This is my complaint? My life is great. This job is so fun. I hang out all day with my funniest friends and try to get someone to say my stuff on TV. If I don’t get something on the show, it’s okay, I can try again tomorrow.

Would you recommend it to friends or enemies?

What is something you look for in a project if you are on the fence about taking it on?
That’s a great question. I think I say yes too much, so I’m trying to get better about turning stuff down so I’m not overextended. I think if a project is both exciting and a little bit scary, that’s a good sign.

YOU ARE WRITING A BOOK! Congratulations! What are you most looking forward to about the process?
I love editing more than I love writing first drafts – I’m looking forward to that step of the process!

What can we know about the book?
Hopefully, it will be funny.

What is the most meaningful part of your job?
The other writers on staff are truly wonderful and I love hanging out with them. The job feels like summer camp in the best way.

What has been the most trivial moment of your career?
Trivial as in the least important? Hmmm. I’m not sure. One time I fell asleep at my desk at work (by accident) and I don’t think anyone noticed. 

What is one piece of advice you would give to your 21 year old self?
Chill out, man.

Sophia Ungaro
Sophia Rose Ungaro is Culturas resident writing intern. Ungaro hails from San Pedro, California. Growing up with a Navajo/Meztizo mother and a Sicilian father has given Ungaro a unique perspective on the world. In 2021 Ungaro will graduate from the University of Southern California with a B.A. in Journalism. Her beats are race, pop culture, and entertainment.
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