Tai Freligh interviews comedian Steven Ho
Steven Ho is a former ER Technician and current stand up comedian who performs all around Los Angeles, California. Known for his viral “Tips from the ER” videos, Steven has over 12 million followers across TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. I had the chance to chat with him recently about his crazy growth on Tiktok and how hard it was to leave the emergency room after ten years of service.
Q: Tell me about that very first video you put on TikTok back in March of 2020, pretty much the epicenter of the COVID epidemic. How much thought went into the video and had you already created an account and were a lurker or did you create the account and post that first video on a whim?
A: I had a lot of pent up frustration from the ER due to COVID. Combined with lack of a consistent creative outlet, my friend suggested I download TikTok and share with the world what was happening in the ER. My first video was actually very simple: it was about the importance of hydration and how many times people can avoid the ER by just drinking more water. I was calling people MuFKRs while giving funny and comical tips people wanted to listen to. It hasn’t stopped since.
Q: You have over 700 videos on your TikTok channel. How do you come up with so many different topics? What’s your process for coming up with what to post? It helps to have a niche like ER room tips, so I imagine you have a backlog of stories from your actual experience?
A: I have so many stories from my actual experience. I’ve provided care to a man who lost a cucumber up his rectum because he “fell on it,” diffused the temper of a woman who couldn’t understand why her stubbed toe was any less urgent than a man with a potential heart attack, and demystified a patient’s concerns surrounding COVID. “No sir, you cannot catch COVID from your camera because it was ‘Made in China’.”
I also read a lot of the comments on my videos about patient stories which trigger personal interactions I’ve since forgotten about or help me come up with new stories to talk about. I have a backlog of ideas and stories that seem to be endless. I used to focus just on monologues and have transitioned into storytelling sketch comedy skits. I also look to other creators for inspiration, such as:
Q: When did you know you wanted to be a comedian?
A: Comedy was something I was always passionate about. I’ve been doing some acting and theater since 2015. One of the primary reasons I started performing stand-up was because it was extremely challenging finding available projects for an Asian male actor.
Stand-up comedy was a place where I could express myself without needing permission. Be it theater, stand up, improv, sketch, sitcoms, or movies, I love comedy through any medium.
Q: What steps did you take to pursue that career while still doing your old job and paying the bills, so to speak?
A: When I discovered my passion for acting and comedy, I chose to continue working in the E.R. to pay the bills. At one point I would work 13 hour days in the ER Sunday- Monday and perform theater Tuesday-Saturday.
Q: What would you say was your first real taste of success for a TikTok video? Any videos in particular that went crazy viral?
A: My video “Tips from the ER: You Should Get Vaccinated” posted March 2021 is one of the most viral videos on my page. It received more than 63 million views and was shared 2M times. It got a lot of eyes because it was funny, informative, and culturally relevant.
I realized how it also helped me release this pent up energy, anger, and sadness, so people knew how I felt in addition to most of the healthcare community at the time. It was during this same time that I left the ER, because I knew there was something very special about what was happening on social media.
Q: When did you decide to make the jump and quit your ER job and do comedy full time? How has that been for you? Scary? Exciting? Work in progress?
A: I decided to quit and make the jump to social media and comedy full time in March 2021. I thought I could do both, work in the ER and do comedy, full time. However, I was juggling a lot and it made more sense for me to leave the ER because I genuinely felt like I was making a bigger difference in both my life and other people’s lives on social media.
I love the ER and I will always miss my co-workers, but it was time to go.
Social media is a rollercoaster and a constant work in progress. I’m still figuring it out and learning new things every day. It’s been a bittersweet journey, but the last 10 years working in emergency medical services don’t just disappear. I hope to continue giving back to the medical community and highlighting the experiences that have taught me so much patience and resilience.
The world sure as hell knows healthcare workers deserve more than a monthly pizza party.
Q: Do you take any inspiration from folks like Ken Jeong who went from licensed physician to actor, comedian and writer/producer?
A: Absolutely. To have a career like Ken Jeong would be a dream come true. The man has done it all. I want to get to a level where people will recognize me for all those things: actor, comedian, writer/ producer, along with being a social media personality. Ken Jeong if you’re reading this, my name is Steven Ho and I would love to meet you.
Q: Do you think you might want to pursue some of these other creative avenues, like acting or writing or producing for film and/or television?
A: I’m not done with social media just yet – there’s still a lot of projects I want to work on and produce around the healthcare space. However, I am very interested in seeing where else I can take my journey beyond social media. I would love to get back into acting if the right opportunity comes up. If any production company wants to pick up my ER skits for a TV show, I am all ears!
Q: You recently headlined a comedy show in Brea, California. How was that experience and where can we see you performing next?
A: It was really fun and terrifying. I was onstage for 25 minutes which is 10 minutes longer than what I’ve been used to. Luckily we had an amazing audience and I didn’t run out of things to say. I perform regularly around comedy clubs in Los Angeles. You can find the dates HERE.
Q: What upcoming projects do you have going on?
A: I have a video I’m working on that is a little different from my normal content. It’s bigger budget, higher quality and involves a whole production crew. It’s pushing me out of my comfort zone since most videos I create are filmed and edited by me in my apartment. I’m super excited to see how that turns out. I’m also working on launching a hospital grip sock line called Dr. Socko.
My goal is to create colorful and unique hospital socks to cheer people up in the hospital! I know being in there isn’t very fun, so I wanted to do something different vs the standard flowers and teddy bears that people usually give.
I thank Steven Ho for taking the time to chat with me. You can find Steven on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook.
Tai Freligh is a Los Angeles based writer and can be followed on Twitter, TikTok and Instagram and can be found on his website too.
PHOTOS: Courtesy Steven Ho