Margaret Cho: Our president is a problem but I'm grateful to be alive

IF her 22-year career displays anything, it’s that Margaret Cho is a total champion against discrimination.

The Asian-American comedian burst on to screens in the mid-Nineties during the two-year run of sitcom All American Girl, upon which she built a successful stand-up career critiquing social and political issues, especially regarding race and sexuality.

And in the tumultuous political climate we find ourselves in 2017, it’s particularly important she stays optimistic. Referring to Trump’s presidency, she says: “It was such a step backwards, a real shock and such a disappointment.

“Of course, it’s scary to realise that this can still happen. But I also think we’ve learnt a lot since.” Cho sees the unexpected election of Trump as a contradiction to the open and liberal America she had experienced over more than two decades in her career. The comedienne came on to the scene at a time when minority visibility – whether that be black, Asian, gay or even female – was minimal in the industry.

Still, she soldiered on, and has seen first-hand how the world has changed around her in the last two decades. “When you’re a little different, it is hard. I was one of the first Asian-American comedians out there. There were very few women and people of colour – it was a very different time. But I was able to continue to work, strive and succeed.

“It’s just about visibility and trying to rise above it. We couldn’t even exist before but now we can. That’s exciting. I’m really grateful to be alive and able to see and experience the changes happening in the industry.”

Stand-up comedy has always provided a social commentary of sorts, though it has only been more recently that issues surrounding race, gender and sexuality have gained mainstream prominence. Cho herself identifies as bisexual, and a feminist and – despite the current political climate – is happy to see other issues gain some light.

“There’s so much to talk about [in regards to racism and sexism]. There are so many changes in the way that we view everything, especially now, with all of the different sexual misconduct and sexual harassment cases being talked about.

“It’s all new territory for feminism, too. We’re seeing women in a lot of power at the moment, which is really great. It’s so important.” Of course, the way the world is constantly changing means Cho has more material to work with but she knows she’s far from done. “There’s just so much to say. I don’t understand why Trump hasn’t been impeached over all of his sexual misconduct. That to me is really strange. Things aren’t good in that sense. They’re better but they’re still not great. Our president is a problem.”

Cho comes to Brighton Dome next weekend with her latest show, Fresh off the Bloat, which explores her past struggles with drugs and features anecdotes from her Korean grandmother. Of course, she’ll also touch on more broad issues. While the entertainment genre may look at things in a humorous way, stand-up has always formed a narrative for speaking out against the world’s social injustices and horrors.

“I think comedy is really important – it offers this social commentary and has always been an outsider art form. It’s been really instrumental in social change and it’s important we keep hold of that.”

Though Cho loves the travelling that her work affords her, she said the most important side of her work would be to be recognised as a voice for equality – her ultimate goal in moving forward.

“I just always want to keep on going with this. I love learning and to me it’s the best life. I love that I’m able to just do what I do and go on the road.

“But I would love to know that my work was seen as playing an integral part in levelling the playing field, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, everything. That’s what it’s all about for me – equality.”

Margaret Cho, Brighton Dome, December 2, 7.30pm