Are you familiar with the following popular entertainment programs on TV: The Sketchbook of You Heeyeol, SNL Korea, and 1 verse 100? To ensure these programs are watched and loved by millions of TV viewers, actors and staff work extremely hard. Beside these people, the studio audience’s active participation will determine whether a program is successful or not. To arouse interest among people in the studio audience, typically there is one person who is responsible for this job before filming. The Sookmyung times met MC DingDong who works at KBS when the weather was so sound.
MC DingDong, what an intriguing name. What made you change your name to MC Ding Dong?
My birth name is Heo Yongun, but I changed it to MC DingDong. I made the change because my given name is too difficult to pronounce. I thought of calling myself Leeppal(teeth) and Ttekbokki because a lot of people like these words, but one day I heard the ding dong of a bell. It was at that moment, I decided to call myself DingDong. It is both easy to pronounce and interesting. Also, whenever you hear a bell ringing, the intent is for people to come running. Although I was criticized for choosing this name in the past, I am really satisfied with my name. I love it.
In 2007, you received first prize at a rookie comedian contest, and later debuted as a SBS comedian. What did motive you to change from comedian to television show host?
Before hosting my show, I was a comedian working for SBS. Frankly speaking, I dreamt of being a television host long before becoming a comedian. I love to talk in front of an audience. I take pleasure in making others smile. In order to develop my ability to make others smile, I first became a comedian because this profession requires the individual to always surprise an audience with new ideas or new comic episodes. Also, most of today’s popular TV show hosts such as You Jaesuk, Sin Dongyup, and Kim Yongman were once comedians. In my youth, I believed that to be a successful television host, I needed to follow in the footsteps of famous celebrity hosts. Hence, I went from comedian to TV show host.
Today you have a huge fan base. What do you consider the most important traits a TV show host should have, and why?
First of all, I feel a huge responsibility to my staff and to the audience. Whenever producers require me to interact with the audience, I try my best to do it interestingly. Also, since most of the shows I’m doing at the moment are music-based programs, there are plenty of times I’ve had to install instruments and adjust the sounding. On occasion, the studio falls into a dead silence, which can cause singers to feel embarrassed. When are in this state of mind, they can’t perform well, so I do my best to alter the mood by acting as a catalyst to lighten and brighten the air. That being said, of course the ability to lead a program is of utmost importance for a host. To ensure I lead the show well, I went through plenty of trials and errors.
What do you consider the most difficult aspect of working as a TV host and as a comedian? How do you overcome that?
Frankly speaking, I’m always nervous and fear going up on stage. Because I’m not a typical TV host, who has a script to follow, I improvise, so with all this impromptu acting, I can’t always anticipate the audience’s reaction. Therefore, I have no one other than myself to lean on. Also, most people only see comedians and TV show hosts as full of life and living happily. However, whenever I go home after a hard day of work, I fall into a state of lethargy regardless of my popularity. My true self is hidden behind my show of pleasure and smiles for others. Interestingly, though I have been with shows like The Sketchbook of You Heeyeol and SNL Korea for a number of years now, there is a huge percentage of the public that do not even know I exist. Nonetheless, I really love my job. I am energized by the audience when I interact with it.
You have likely had plenty of memorable events as a TV host. Would you please share one or two of those with us?
The moment when someone recognizes me as a TV host is absolutely rewarding. Those times are most memorable. I am thankful every day for my busy schedule in a tough industry. When I first started out, I rarely had any calls for a job. Those days were tough. I had little money, so I couldn’t afford a car. I also couldn’t afford to hire a manager who could promote me like other entertainers. Therefore, a lot of people in this industry ignored me. I was miserable back then. However, I never lost faith in the idea that one day I would be discovered. Fortunately, all my dreams are coming true. Over the years, I have helped a number of singers come into fame such as BTOB, BTS, and Son Hoyoung. They had had confidence in my ability to put them in a favourable light as a TV show host. Also, after I engage the audience and have people eagerly expecting the show, You Heeyeol is joyously welcomed on stage by the audience. I feel proud of myself because I set up at least 50% of that acclamation he receives from the audience.
Your passion for your job is clear, but I wonder whether you have any other goals you wish to pursue in the near future.
My ultimate goal is to become the best TV show host in Korea. If I really think about it, I’ve probably met over 1.2 million Koreans who came to the shows. I will continue to do my work earnestly, and perhaps one day I will be able to say I’ve met every person in Korea. I hope that one day people say I know him; he is a great TV host. Also, I hope to establish my own company. I plan to call it DingDong Happy Company. It would be the starting place for others on the same career path. To be honest, after relocating to Seoul, I had to make it on my own. There were no academies or companies where I could learn my job. Therefore, I want to open an academy for them. In addition to DingDong Happy Company, I plan to open other similar educational institutions.
Recalling life in your twenties, would you please give our Sookmyungians some advice who want to work in the broadcasting field?
Life in my younger days was filled with regret and fear. In fact, in my early 20s, I did everything passively such as love and study. It was only after I got frustrated with my life that I decide to live sincerely and strive to achieve my dream. Eventually, I landed a job on the stage and became a host of several programs. Nowadays, many young twenty year olds have no dream for their future. However, if you miss the opportunity life presents, you will need to restart or give up. Therefore, if you are considering life in broadcasting, do not be afraid and challenge it head on. Do not try to do everything. Develop your own uniqueness through various experiences, and your own brand.
MC DingDong (Heo Yongun)
•TV show host of Talk Concert
•First Prize winner of the 2007 Rookie Comedian Contest at SBS
•Selected for the Smile Korea 100 Stars Awards Festival