|ALLENTOWN MORNING CALL|
Comedian Margaret Cho, coming to Sands Bethlehem, finds plenty of material in world of Trump and Harvey Weinstein
By John J. Moser
November 15, 2017
Much of comedian Margaret Cho’s material in her 25-year career has focused on sex and politics — and sexual politics.
So what better time for Cho to be hitting the road again than in a world where Donald Trump is president and has made politics round-the-clock conversation, and disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein has done the same for sex.
“This is a crazy time,” Cho says in a recent phone call from her hometown of Los Angeles. “Every day there’s something. Every day something different. … Politics is always part of what I do, so this is a major part. There’s a lot about the bloated nature of politics.”
Cho’s new “Fresh Off the Bloat” tour stops at Sands Bethlehem Event Center at 8 p.m. Friday, and Cho says there will be a lot of material about both Trump and Weinstein.
Cho, 48, has been open about being sexually assaulted and raped by a family friend as a teen, and says revelations about Weinstein have both triggered bad feelings, and has been cathartic in that she can deal with those feelings by expressing them publicly and through comedy.
On her 2016 album “American Myth,” she even sang a song called “I Wanna Kill My Rapist.”
“The song is really cathartic,” she says. “It’s not about condoning violence, but it’s actually about visualizing some of kind of cathartic release. And I think that’s powerful in that context.
“And so I think people can look to the song now and feel some sense of freedom from what happened. It’s a tough thing — I’m a survivor myself, and so I get that feeling of being triggered by all that happened. But I feel like returning to that song helps.”
Cho says her show also deals with other serious subjects, such as her recent sobriety, and moving out of a dark period in which she contemplated suicide.
“That’s real, too,” she says. “And that’s really important to address. I think depression and comedy actually are very common together. Most comedians that I know are very depressed and are very suicidal — you see it a lot. Most comedians acknowledge that and know that it’s real. But very few actually dive in and talk about it. So I’m excited that I get to do that.”
Dealing with such topics has long been a hallmark of comedy, she says.
“That’s kind of where a lot of comedy comes from,” she says, pointing to the late Richard Pryor, who was nearly killed in a 1980 incident in which he set himself afire while smoking cocaine, then addressed the incident in his comedy routines.
“He was able to kind of go and talk about it in comedy, and it was incredible,” she says. “So there’s a long history of this kind of stuff in comedy, so that’s really great to be able to do.”
Cho says she was able to escape depression by “just finding a way through it. I am really happy now in my life, and I worked really hard to get here. And so I’m really glad about that, and it’s nice to share that with people and do comedy about it.
“I think that’s what my work has always been about, and what I’ll continue to strive for is to find a place of honesty with my comedy.”
Of course, not all of Cho’s material is so depressing. She says other topics include race — “like about white-washing, like hiring a white actor playing an Asian role.”
Cho knows a good deal about representing Asians in TV and movie roles. She rose to prominence starring as the rebellious teenage daughter of a traditional Korean-American family in the 1990s ABC-TV sitcom “All American Girl.”
She even was nominated for an Emmy Award for portraying Korean leaders Kim Jong-Il and Kim Jong-Un on the sitcom “30 Rock.”
But most recently, Cho was co-host of the E! Channel’s snarky “Fashion Police” with fellow comedian Joan Rivers and, following Rivers’ death, her daughter Melissa Rivers. The show will end a seven-year run with a finale on Nov. 27.
“I loved Joan Rivers and I love Melissa Rivers, too,” Cho says. “They’re good friends and it’s sad to see it go. I love everybody on the show. We had a great time.”
One of Cho’s more odd diversions was last year’s album, “American Myth,” a collection of comedy songs that included the aforementioned “I Wanna Kill My Rapist.” The disc was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album.
In fact, it was Cho’s second album of musical comedy. She also was nominated for a Grammy for 2010’s “Cho Dependent.”
“You know, every once in a while, I really have to sing a song,” Cho says. “There’s, like, something that is in me that just really needs to express itself musically, and so that’s always been a part of my work, too. But yeah, I love to make music. I love my band. It’s something that I’ve always done and will always do.”
She says that, as with her stand-up material, her songs use material from her real life. For instance, one song, “Anna Nicole,” tells of a real-life occurrence in which she kissed the late Playboy centerfold and model/actress Anna Nicole Smith.
“We were at her house,” Cho says. “She was having a party and it was weird — the only people who were there were me, the wrestler Chyna, who’s now gone, and Kathy Griffin. And it was the weirdest party.”
Cho even wrote some of the music for the new disc.
“Sometimes I hear a song and I have to sing that song, you know?” she says “You get, like, very inspired by certain things and so I love that. I just have these music ideas that want to be songs, to be out there. And so I did it, so now that’s definitely a bigger part of my work as a musician.”
But Cho says her new show won’t have a musical element.
“There’s so much comedy — so many jokes — I don’t have enough time,” she says.