Margaret Cho’s Comedy Rules for Writing Honestly + Staying Inspired


The following interview for Backstage’s on-camera series The Slate was compiled in part by Backstage readers just like you! Follow us on Twitter (@Backstage) and Instagram (@backstagecast) to stay in the loop on upcoming interviews and to submit your questions.

Margaret Cho is a comedy legend for a reason. Joining Backstage for an Instagram Live interview, she spoke about more than just her new indie film “Faith Based” (now available on VOD and all digital platforms) and the Netflix animated feature “Over the Moon,” breaking down how she approaches writing autobiographically in her work and why it’s been important for her to pave the way for other minority voices in Hollywood. Plus, she offered advice about voice acting and for those chasing the dream. Catch all that and more below!

In addition to “Faith Based,” Cho has always valued independent filmmaking.
“The autonomy that auteurs have, it’s all about how we can tell our stories with this independence. The authorship, we can do our own thing, and we can be in control of it. I love that and how our voice comes through in our filmmaking and it becomes our own. Sofia Coppola comes from that, so does Wes Anderson, and then this a sort of gold standard.”

Her upbringing impacted how she approaches religion and morality in her work.
“It’s really important to be able to separate religion from morality and art and values, and I think when you can’t separate values from religion, then you get really messed up stuff like social conservatism, or moral majority, crazy messed up stuff like that. You have to be able to separate values and morality and money and see things differently. Because then you just get crazy about social conservatism. That’s the thing that I want to steer clear from [as an entertainer]. I think that everything has to be valued differently, and you have to think about things independently. It’s really important to not get so fenced in with these social constructs. I think that comes from being queer. It comes from being from San Francisco. It comes from being  very much a liberal-at-heart thinker. I always want to try to weigh things individually.

Tell your truth with your writing.
“I think it’s really important to just write your stories and to not be afraid to tell your truth, and to come from the heart, and to just speak your mind and to find your voice and to just really let it come forth. Often people are going to try to stifle that, people are often afraid of the truth. Be aware of when people try to stop you from doing things. If there are people trying to stop you, you’re probably right.”

In “Over the Moon,” Cho takes on voice acting for an animated musical film.
“Voice acting is really different. It’s actually pretty robust. It takes a lot to express yourself vocally, because you have to put all of it into your voice and project all of it right there sonically. As a singer, I’ve done a lot of it in my voice anyway, in a singing capacity. But to do it in a character as a voice is a lot harder. So it’s a very different kind of thing [than live-action], and it’s a little newer for me, but I really enjoyed it, it’s really fun.”

Heed Cho’s No. 1 piece of advice on staying motivated as a performer.
Everything is a sort of emotion-forward, so every project, or everything that you do each day is an investment in the next day. Everything pays off the next day. Everything you put away as an investment in your tomorrow. That’s a really good thought. Everything that’s positive will pay back in dividends the next time, whatever that is, so if it’s positive, it’ll be more positive the next day.”

eir styles, which become their signature. At first [Hollywood is] like, ‘What are these people doing?’ And then it become