[ENTERTAINMENT]Funny men switch off the laugh track

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[ENTERTAINMENT]Funny men switch off the laugh track

The last thing you expect when you interview a tough-talking comic actor is to hear him wax poetic. But that is exactly what Cha In-pyo did on a recent sunny afternoon. To describe his latest career move he busted out with the closing stanza from Robert Frost's classic, "The Road Not Taken."

Cha also surprised this interviewer by showing up for the meeting 10 minutes early. He proceeded to talk about his new home and his family, and how much his son likes to play around with their dog in the front yard. It was when he began talking about work that he recited the poem. Then he explained what he meant by it.

"Since I began hosting the science program on TV, a lot of people have been giving me advice," Cha said. "Some tell me not to be overly ambitious; others say an actor can't handle the job." Then he said that the poem went out to everybody who has told him that he's making a mistake.

Indeed, it seems that Cha doesn't care what others say. While he is generally known for playing macho or dim characters, he raised eyebrows and won respect earlier this year when he turned down an offer to star in the new James Bond movie as a North Korean villain. It certainly would have been a big opportunity for him, but he said he was worried that the film would have a negative effect on South Korea's relations with North Korea.

True to form, in his latest film, "Iron Palm," Cha starred as a funny but dull-witted guy who goes to Los Angeles on a desperate search for his first love. That's why it was such a shock when he put on a straight face and began dealing with the mysteries of science for "Cha In-pyo's Black Box," which is shown on the SBS TV network.

"I have to do what I want to do to be happy, which does me and my fans good in the long run," Cha said. His senior actor and comedian, Jeong Jae-hwan, 40, who had just joined in on the interview, agreed. And that's no surprise ?Jeong is in the same boat.

Though he started his career as a comedian, Jeong now hosts a history program on a cable channel. He is also a junior at Sungkyunkwan University, majoring in history, and is getting straight A's. He belongs to the school's Korean language and culture club. Though all that would seem like qualification enough to host the program, Jeong said it's not as easy as it seems. "Now that I am familiar to viewers as a comedian, it's extra hard for me to build a new image," he said.

Cha gave away the secret to being a good host of an educational program: "My motto is 'Never say what I don't understand.' Because I'm dealing with a rather difficult topic, I try to use easier terms, which is good for the viewers and for me as well." Jeong agreed: "That's right, we are not parrots."

They both seemed confident of their futures as hosts of serious TV programs. Jeong said, "In Korea, we have an ambivalent concept of TV show hosts; I think the two of us can make that into a more positive image."

The funny-turned-serious celebrities then launched into a mutual-encouragement session. The two are taking the less-traveled road together, and plan to make a difference.

by Park Ji-young

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