Have you seen Jiwon Lee? Columbia dental student, co-founder of 50 First Jokes goes missing

Have you seen Jiwon Lee? Do you know where she is?

UPDATED May 4, 2014: Sad news, everybody. Jiwon Lee has died. She was 29. Her body was found Saturday, May 3, in the Hudson River. Police told the New York Daily News that there were no apparent signs of trauma. Friends confirmed her identity Sunday.

Her brother, Matt Lee, posted overnight on the family’s GoFundMe page (which previously had raised funds for an investigator to find Jiwon Lee): “Dear Friends, Thank you for your continued prayers, donations, and support. Unfortunately, Jiwon, beloved daughter, sister, and friend has gone on to a better place. Our family thanks you at this time for respecting our privacy. We are currently planning a memorial service to honor Jiwon and will post further details as soon as possible.

참으로 어려운 일들속에서 걱정해주고 기도해주고 후원해주시고 에서주신 여러분게 감사와고마옴을 드립니다. 저로서도 너무나 힘들고 아픈시간이였지만 여러분의 도움으로 여기까지 잘 견뎠습니다. 아름다운 끝은 아니지만 지원이는 편한하고 좋은 곳으로 가있음을 확신합니다. 여려분과의 모든 기억들은 아름다움으로 길이 영원히 우리 기억에 있을것입니다. 사실 무근의 말들은 서로 안 전했으면 좋겠습니다.”

I know some of her comedy friends are planning to turn the upcoming Chicks and Giggles anniversary show at Brooklyn’s Littlefield into a tribute for Jiwon Lee, too. That show is May 18.

On a personal note, I’ll repost here what I posted on Facebook: “Please everyone, if you see someone or are that someone 🙁 do what you can to turn that upside down 🙂 and show those you love that they are loved.”

You are not alone. You are never alone. You don’t have to live your life alone.

Rest In Peace, Jiwon Lee.



If you have seen Jiwon Lee, please call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit tips on the Crime Stoppers site at www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering the information via TIP577.

Lee, 29, is 5-foot-2 feet and 120 pounds, with black hair and dark brown eyes. She was last seen and heard from on the evening of Tuesday, April 1, 2014. Last seen near her home at around 8:30 p.m. April 1 in the 200 block of West 98th Street of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, around the time she had been on the phone with her brother. A reported ping off of her cell phone later that evening placed her phone, at least, in Washington Heights.

Her brother, Matt, set up a GoFundme page to raise money for a private investigator to help find Jiwon Lee. Raising $37,000 as of this writing. He wrote:

Jiwon Lee is a wonderful student, friend, mentor, sister, and daughter. She was recently the President of the American Student Dental Student Association and is currently at 4th year at Columbia University School of Dental Medicine. Many of you have had the pleasure of spending time with her and getting to know her. I hope her wit and playful sense of humor has in some way brightened your day on multiple occasions. That’s why it’s all the more shocking that our beloved Jiwon has been missing since Tuesday 4/1. Her phone was last tracked to Washington heights, but her current whereabouts are unknown. The NYPD has been hugely helpful, but understandably have many responsibilites to attend to. We would like to pursue hiring a private detective at this time in order to expedite and prioritize the search process.  Any funds not used for the private detective will be used as a reward for information leading to her finding. We thank you for any contribution you may be able to make.  If you are not able to give, your thoughts and prayers will also be appreciated… The Lee Family thanks you for your support during this difficult period.

There also is a Missing Person Facebook page for Jiwon Lee.


I saw Jiwon Lee quite a bit when I first moved to New York City in 2007. Then, she was a young aspiring stand-up comedian with jokes about dating and teaching. With Claudia Cogan and John F. O’Donnell, she co-founded the popular “50 First Jokes” showcase that kicks off each year now with comedians in both New York City and Los Angeles reciting the first jokes they’ve written/thought of in January.


But she hadn’t been part of the comedy scene in recent years.

Instead, she was pursuing a career in dentistry, and in her final year at Columbia University’s College of Dental Medicine, her ambitions already had led to her tenure as president of the American Student Dental Association.

Again: Anyone with information about Lee should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit tips on the Crime Stoppers site, www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577.


In happier times…

Here is an appearance Lee made in the “Doctor” webseries with Pete Holmes and Matt McCarthy for their Front Page Films in 2008:

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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2 thoughts on “Have you seen Jiwon Lee? Columbia dental student, co-founder of 50 First Jokes goes missing

  1. hey
    Why wasn’t Jiwon Lee placed on Suicide watch? Where was the school’s public safety? Any how I know her and until she is found she is still alive and hopefully will be. Very talented and a bitter reminder of the comedy business; that it ain’t always about the jokes

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