Comedian, author, actress, political lightening rod, gay icon, cooch dancer:Margaret Cho is all of this, and some say more. Cho has been doing standup since the late '80s, written best sellers including "I'm The One That I Want," starred (briefly) in her own sitcom "All American Girl," won the ACLU First Amendment Award and done a whole bunch of other stuff. We chatted up a gracious Cho about her multiple endeavors and her upcoming performance at Liberty Hall.
lawrence.com: You're on what your website calls a "workshop" tour. Are we going to be your guinea-pigs here in Lawrence?
Margaret Cho: Well, I guess so. It's just a lot of different things, a lot of new things, a lot of things that I haven't done for a long time:so it's not really:"guinea-pig" sounds bad:
I don't think Lawrence would mind being your guinea-pigs. Hell, you could shave us and shoot us up Richard Gere's ass for all I care.
What sort of material can we expect to be injected with?
I've got some new things about my family, about my Mom and our history, about sexuality, politics, the news:everything. Things that I've talked about before and new things, too.
Why come to Kansas, which is the Republican Heart of Darkness? This is Fred Phelps and anti-evolution territory-why risk the potentially hostile terrain?
- Saturday, November 11, 2006, 7:30 p.m.
- Liberty Hall Cinema, 644 Massachussets Street, Lawrence
- All ages / $30 - $40
Well, it's important to go to places where there are different opinions and there are different things that need to be expressed. And I think that when I go to places that are a little more conservative, it seems to be a really welcoming and thrilled audience, because they're so happy to have a new perspective:so I think it's really a great thing.
What's your take on the Mark Foley scandal? You must be having a field day with it.
Well, it's really clear that:conservatives are trying to talk about how he is a representative of the gay community, and it's so not the case. He represents the gay community about as much as John Mark Carr represents straight people.
It's interesting:the weird thing about it is that it is the one thing that is going to take the Republicans down. It's actually very dumb that voters would be put off by this kind of scandal, but it's certainly, in a sense, where homophobia kind of works in favor of liberals in that people are going to vote for Democrats just because of this scandal.
You were uninvited from a fundraiser at the 2004 Democratic National Convention for fear of "a potential media firestorm." How does it feel to be a slender, Asian, female version of Michael Moore?
Oh, it's great! I'm loving that:I think it's really cool. I mean, it's not fun to be uninvited, but it is nice to be kind of controversial:
Have you since made nice with the Democrats?
Yes, absolutely:I could see that everybody was very nervous about the way that they were going to be represented and, you know, unfortunately, they didn't see that this party should include all these different voices. But I think that Democrats have lately gotten a lot more backbone, and a lot stronger, and a lot more convinced that they're right and they're just going to go for it:
How do you see the current electoral landscape?
I think that conservatives are:losing so much ground, and that's really exciting to see. Because there's so much of the stuff about the Iraq war, and so many problems, and a real sense of disillusionment with the Bush administration:we'll see how things go.
And I know it's kind of weird now, but I'd love to see what happens in 2008, which is an exciting time. We're talking about Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton:these are really exciting candidates to me. I'm just looking forward to finally handing things over to the Democrats.
Maxim Magazine readers named you the second worst comedian of all time (right after Sinbad). That's got to be a badge of honor for you, right?
Well, I think that's really great. I mean, I should have been first, but since they're very sexist of course it had to go to a man. You know, it's the most racist, sexist view of what things are about, so I take it as a great compliment.
I've always thought of Maxim readers as date-rapists who are too chicken-shit to buy real porn, so if you're pissing them off you must be doing something right.
A lot of things right!
Besides stand-up, another of your interests is burlesque. What is The Sensuous Woman?
The show is a burlesque show, it's comedy, it's music, it's dance:it's a lot of fun. It's a big collaborative effort. I'm actually working on that right now and bringing it all together, so I really love that project.
It stems from your belly dancing, right?
Yes. I've been a dancer for a few years now, and so it's a wonderful thing and I love it, and I'm really enjoying hanging out with dancers and doing this for fun.
Body image has been a major theme of yours in the past, and considering you do some of the burlesque dancing yourself, The Sensuous Woman seems to be an evolution of this. Do you still struggle with your body image?
No, I really have a different view of it nowadays. I mean, I've really changed a lot of my opinions about all of that, you know? And I think that it's important for people to do that, to get to that point where you have a real sense of acceptance about yourself:it's a really freeing place to be in.
I'm trying to encourage people to be there, to come there. Through my work I do kind of show by example of being there. It's a great thing, so I'm happy to share that wherever.
Are you a comedian who does political material, or a political activist who happens to do comedy?
I think they're both very separate. I look at my career as being a comedian who does political material, and my activism:it's a little bit different. I take that as almost a separate section of my life. It's equally important, but a totally different life.
What do you consider your role in the comedy world?
I don't know! I think I'm like the mom, because I've been around for a very long time. I know so many comedians and I'm very nurturing towards them, and I'm always kind of around. Like, I still hang out doing open-mikes and stuff. I give a lot of encouragement and a lot of maybe not advice but a lot of words of comfort and I try to be helpful.
I really think it's important to build up the next generation and be there for them.
Which current comedians do you enjoy?
I really admire this guy named Ian Harvey. He's a transgendered comedian. He was a woman, now he's a man:there's no other comedian like that.
Which comedians influenced you?
Probably Roseanne Barr a lot. Brett Butler a lot. Bill Hicks:huge influence. Rosie O' Donnell:very big deal for me. Chris Rock is another one.
Then, people that are sort of in my peer group:I still admire a lot, such as David Cross, or Dave Chappel, or Wanda Sykes. They're all so heroic, and so funny, and so inspiring.
Margaret Cho, thank you very much for joining us here at Lawrence.com and good luck with the tour!
Thank you very much!