When you’re on the go as much as comedian Ronny Chieng, there’s no such thing as a typical day. “I might be in rural Oregon filming something in the middle of the forest—but sometimes I’m literally in Times Square,” he said. Last year saw the Daily Show correspondent appear in roles on Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, NBC’s Young Rock, HBO Max’s Godzilla vs. Kong, and Disney Plus’ Doogie Howser reboot. He’s following that packed year up with his second Netflix special, Ronny Chieng: Speakeasy, which premiers on April 5th. But even with that grueling schedule, Chieng says he always makes sure he has time dedicated to getting his heart rate up at the closest jiu-jitsu academy, no matter what country he’s in.
GQ caught up with Chieng to talk about how he’s handling that packed schedule, a healthy reason to prefer speakeasy-style bars, and some of his favorite places to grab a bite.
GQ: What was your introduction to Jiu-Jitsu?
Ronny Chieng: I was looking for something to do in New York City. I actually have a weird, specific injury that stopped me from doing the martial arts I was doing previously, so I was looking for something else to get into. With jiu-jitsu, it just seemed like everyone was doing it and it seemed like every city in the world had it. I travel a lot for work so I thought it would be good because wherever I go for work, I could drop by someplace and get a workout.
Why is it something you’ve continued to do, given how busy life has become?
For the fitness benefits? It’s very cardio heavy and it gives you a really good sweat. Mentally, it’s very meditative. When you’re doing Jiu-Jitsu, you really have to stay in the moment. You have to be present because someone is trying to kill you, literally. So, it’s very hard to think about the past or worry about the future when someone is trying to strangle you to death. It forces you to live in the moment in a really meditative way. The more you do it and the more you reach that meditative zone, you realize it’s such an easy way to live in the present.
The other side of it is that I think humans get dopamine from learning new things. With jiu-jitsu, there’s always something new to learn from it because the techniques are almost endless. That means you can keep adding to it and because of that, there’s so much to learn. You get dopamine every time you learn a new technique, or you see something new that looks kind of cool and it makes you want to try it.