- PHOTOS BY PIXIE VISION
- THE TALENTED MS. CHO: In addition to stand-up, Cho has written two books, developed a fashion line, released an album, and parodied Kim Jong-Il on 30 Rock.
Margaret Cho is an open person. There is absolutely no doubt about that. Regarding sex, politics, drugs, race, and even the size of former beau Quentin Tarantino’s penis, the 45-year-old comedian is almost uncomfortably honest. It’s a brazen attitude and approach that has cultivated a devout legion of fans and likely provoked even more during Cho’s nearly 30 years of doing stand-up. Her latest show, “Mother,” which she will bring to SLO’s Performing Arts Center on July 12, is possibly her most revealing and personal yet. And that’s from someone who once wrote a three-minute rap called “My Puss.” I recently spoke with the fearless and multi-talented Cho about her tour, sexual politics, and how the Westboro Baptist Church is good for comedy. Sadly, no talk of Tarantino’s girth. I just didn’t have the balls.
NEW TIMES You’ve been touring your new show, “Mother,” for a while now. And your actual mom has been a central part of your comedy for years. I guess what I’m trying to ask is: “That well’s not dried up then?”
CHO I think so. Also, as I get older, my relationship with her changes. It’s always shifting. I think that a lot of times when women don’t have children, which is my case, we’re looked at like, “Well, what do you do actually?” like, “What is your goal?” My attempt is to mother everybody. Even if you’re not necessarily a parent, you can still find yourself in that. That’s the position that I find myself in. I’ve become kind of the mother fag hag.
NEW TIMES What about your material? How has that changed over the years and over the course of this tour?
CHO It is always changing and growing, and you approach it a new way every day. As for most comedians, including me, the art of it is immediate. It’s affected by what you do and where you’re going. Everything’s always different. I think it’s more that people are excited to hear a new take on bisexuality, which is actually the only take on bisexuality anywhere. So, this is really the only time that I’ve talked about that identity, and it’s a strange identity within the LGBT community because the bisexual element, we’re often silenced. You don’t see a lot from the bisexual community, so the show has a lot to do with that.
NEW TIMES Why do you think bisexuality is so absent in the media?
CHO It’s a weird thing to discuss. I’m not sure. And then, it’s always very different for men. Women have more instances where they are talking about their sexuality and their identity. But, for men, there’s almost universal silence when it comes to bisexuality. It’s just harder for women to come out in different ways. To come out as bisexual is very difficult. Women I think have the ability to have more fluidity in our sexuality, but it’s hard to know.
NEW TIMES Do you see yourself as a role model then?
CHO Yeah. I mean, I like to present these ideas with like: “Why don’t we try this?” “Why is this like this?” My job is to question society and to call into question these social mores. I think that’s a positive thing. I don’t know if it’s about being a role model, but it’s more about showing an example of someone who is not afraid to question things.
NEW TIMES Dave Chappelle’s recent show at Radio City Musical Hall had a set about how gay rights have replaced race in comedy. Do you agree with that?
CHO Well, I think there is a sense of the civil rights movement happening within the LGBT community that’s very important and very strong. And that can be compared to civil rights movement with African-Americans in the ’60s. That same polarizing and same, very politicized struggle. So, in a sense, it’s a true. I think society has changed dramatically since the ’60s civil rights movement, but I think it is totally legitimate to say that there is a huge civil rights movement happening, mirroring race politics. I think comedy helps us look at different sides of it and to be able to point at what’s going on and comment on it. You know, there are certain things that we can talk about that everybody’s going to be universally against and that’s really fun, like the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s produced a lot of comedy and I think that’s really positive.
NEW TIMES What are the current issues that interest you at the moment?
CHO Just the violence in our society now. You know, there are so many things that are being acted out on the world stage that are really alarming. It’s things like Boko Haram and ISIS.
NEW TIMES What happened in Santa Barbara recently, too. That hit close to home, so it was pretty personal.
CHO It’s a really personal thing, and it’s very much a reaction of people being fearful of women feeling empowered. Young men are really doing the only thing they have left which is to act this out with violence. It’s a thing that can disintegrate into social media fights, too. It’s really awful, but I think for women—we’re outraged. We have had enough of this patriarchy. There’s a need to talk about guns like that. I’ve never really thought about guns. Never thought about it. But, it’s something that I really am thinking about and really think, like, why is this happening? What can we do about it? And there’s a weird glorification of someone like Oscar Pistorius. You don’t ever hear about Reeva Steenkamp. You don’t hear about his victims.
NEW TIMES How do you then decide what you’re going to cover in your show?
CHO It’s a variety of things. It’s what’s happening to you, what’s happening in society. For me, it’s always included my development as a person. But it’s also in tune with what the audience is feeling, too. I think when you’re talking about things that are very honest and true, people can’t help but identify, so that’s good.
NEWTIMES Even if the topics are controversial?
CHO I don’t know. When you’re in service to laughter, it can be controversial in a way. But, we’re all really in service to a joke and nobody can really deny the goodness in that.
Send your best controversial joke to Jessica Peña at firstname.lastname@example.org.