Q&A with Margaret Cho

Margaret Cho's mastery of stand-up allows her to make sense of the world through the "weapon" of comedy, finding peace in negativity and wringing optimism from dark subject. We spoke to Margaret about her tour, her releationships with the late Robin Williams and Joan Rivers, and her favorite things.

--Adam Downer

GGM: Everything I’ve read about your current tour makes it sound really intense and incisive. Can you explain for me the psyCHO tour, and what inspired the material?

MC: The long title is: There’s No I in Team, but There Is a Cho in Psycho. It was about my trying to make sense of all the violence that’s going on in the world and why there’s so much death and violence towards women? I’ll talk about all the issues connected with that, so I talk about Bill Cosby and Jian Ghomeshi, and also the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram, and all these things in the world producing all these nightmares and trying to find some strength and peace around it by using comedy as a weapon if you can. The goal of the show is taking on a lot of different things. Grief is a major topic, such as how do deal with the grief of Robin Williams and Joan Rivers’ passing, who were major people in my life who are now gone. It’s all about tackling darkness with comedy. It’s your ace in the hole, or whatever. It’s an important thing to approach life with this coping mechanism.

GGM: That makes me wonder, how can you make these intense, serious subjects funny?

MC: I think it’s really just approaching it as a problem to solve. Then you have kind of an optimistic take on it, and a resourceful take on it.

GGM: How do you find audiences reacting to the tour so far?

MC: I think they’re really loving it! I think it’s been an encouraging time. I think I’m entering a level of mastery with stand-up comedy where I’m able to do challenging things like this, and I’m proud of that!

GGM: You’re known as a safe haven in comedy for people who feel disenfranchised. Why do you think that is?

MC: I think because I really do belong to so many different minority identities, so my minority status is so legit. I’m a woman of color. I’m politically progressive. I’m queer. All these things are very important to put out there to send a message that all these different people are safe in my shows because I’m so different. It's sort of carving a placee for yourself in the pantheon of comedy.

GGM: You mentioned Robin Williams and Joan Rivers earlier. How do you think these comedians influenced you?

MC: I think Robin was a really influencing person because I could not get away from his real status and star power. In the 70s and 80s, I learned how to do comedy because I kept having to go up after him. He was the doorman at the Holy City View, which was the comedy club we all went to, and after he became really famous, he came back and did sets every night. I always had to go on after him, and I don’t know if he did that on purpose, but it’s how I learned how to do comedy.

GGM: How about Joan Rivers?

MC: Well, Joan was my friend and champion for years and years. She was someone I looked up to and wanted to emulate, then grew to become close to. I miss her so much and it’s really hard. It’s something I really haven’t found peace in, but it helps to talk about it in the shows.

GGM: Can you tell me some comedy movies that you thought were hilarious or inspired you?

MC: I love Withnail and I. It’s a British comedy, really over the top and funny. I love British comedy in general. I love Absolutely Fabulous. Comedy movies are so magic. I love those old 70s ones like Groove Tube and Kentucky Fried Movie. Those are really good.

GGM: How about TV shows?

MC: For comedy TV shows, I love Key and Peele, and of course, Amy Schumer. She’s really my star. It’s so genius and she’s so brilliant. And a lot of that legacy of comedy that’s very filthy, funny, and feminist comes from what I’ve bene doing for years and what Joan’s been doing. You can really see the progression, the way people pick it up and run with it, the way society learns to deal with it and accept this feminism, so I love that, and I love Amy.

GGM: Are you listening to any music right now?

MC: I’ve been going back to listening to super 80s Darkwave music. I look online and see what was on 120 Minutes, because I think that was a really good time for music, late 80s—early 90s. I had much more enthusiasm about music then, so I think it’s a good time to revisit.

GGM: How about books? Are you reading anything?

MC: I’m reading a book called Vodka and Limelight by my friend Yuri Kagan. It’s really cool! He was a gay bartender, and it’s a story that’s pretty risqué and fun!

GGM: Are there any clothing brands you rep?

MC: I like jumpsuits. I like my design for Jumpsuit Betabrand. It’s being produced right now. It’s a way you can be in the world without having to carry a purse because there’s an intensely organized pocket system.

GGM: What’s the last thing you splurged on?

MC: Ooo, I’m not really that person, but I guess it’s just when I bought a lot of socks last week (laughs).

For tickets to Margaret's "The Psycho Tour" show head to http://www.margaretcho.com/

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