Margaret Cho - representing the B in LGBT

By Bryen Dunn

August 2019

Margaret Cho grew up in San Francisco, where her parents ran a bookstore that specialized in gay literature, so it comes as no surprise that many of her friends and supporters are from within the LGBT+ community. “I grew up and went to grammar school on Haight Street during the 70s. There were old hippies, ex-druggies, burnouts, drag queens, and Chinese people. To say it was a melting pot – that’s the least of it. It was a really confusing, enlightening, wonderful time,” she says.

She dabbled in a variety of interesting jobs, including a phone sex operator and dominatrix, before she started doing the stand-up comedy college circuit. It was in the 80s that things started to change for her, as she began getting gigs working alongside notable names as Jerry Seinfeld, Arsenio Hall, and Bob Hope. By the 90s she was the first Asian-American woman to have her own network sitcom (All-American Girl), and since then she has dabbled in burlesque, music, writing, acting, and fashion along the way, during her four decade career path to where she is at today.

Cho is playing a couple of upcoming Canadian dates on her most current tour, Fresh off the Bloat, that includes Montreal Pride on August 16, and Winnipeg on October 4. Launched in the fall of 2017, the tour has travelled worldwide, and is somewhat based around her time in rehab in 2016 for drug, alcohol, and sex addictions, and an attempt at suicide. Dark topics for comedy, yet it has been described as her “sickest show to date, providing razor sharp insight with her takes on addiction, abuse, activism, and Asianness.”

When asked if there were any topics that might be considered too taboo to discuss on stage, she simply answered, “No, none that I can think of.” She’s not afraid to discuss her sexuality openly, and in her current show she proudly boasts, “I’m bisexual, so I am the B in the LGBT,” joking that the “B is often silent… except in porn.” She was quoted in Huffington Post as stating, “Maybe pansexual is technically the more correct term, but I like bisexual because it’s kind of 70s.” She also once told Rolling Stone magazine that she’s a “dick widow,” referring to herself as a woman whose friends are primarily gay men.

She cites her comedic inspirations were Joan Rivers, Robin Williams, and Kathy Griffin, and now she’s an inspiration for many up and coming women. Some of her accolades to date include, being ranked as Rolling Stone magazine’s 50 Best Stand-Up Comics of All Time, and CNN named her one of the 50 People Who Changed American Comedy.

Television viewers may recall her role as Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un on 30 Rock. The similarities don’t stop with this portrayal either. Her Korean name is Moran, which was the name of Kim Jong Il’s production company when he was a film director, before a dictator. Wait, what? She was also a contestant on Season 11 of Dancing with the Stars, paired with dancer Louie Van Amstel. Always one to stir things up with a no holds barred approach, she wore her Rainbow Dancing Dress on one episode, and proclaimed, “I am very proud to have been able to wear a gay pride dress on a show that is so conservative.”

With a reach of over a million on her various social media outlets, she uses her voice to challenge and advocate for various causes, including politics, bullying, racism, and LGBT rights. In 2007, Cho hit the road with Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Harry, Erasure, The Dresden Dolls, and Toronto indie-rockers, The Cliks, to host the True Colors Tour benefiting the Human Rights Campaign, which made a stop here in Toronto.

“I love Toronto and can’t wait to go back,” she exclaims. She’s also had a long affiliation with the city. She worked with The Cliks on their video for “Eyes in the Back of My Head,” in which she appeared as Lucas Silveira’s lover. As a guest on the now defunct CBC show, The Hour, she told host George Stroumboulopoulos that she loved the Canadian indie-rock outfit, Broken Social Scene, and wanted to be part of the band. Right then and there, Stroumbo called band member Kevin Drew live on the air to pass along her message.

Recently she was working on Highland, a dramedy about a woman fresh out of rehab who has to oversee her very needy, very dysfunctional, Korean-American family. Sounds like something she might have some knowledge on, but she advised that it has been shelved for the time being, but not dead.

Cho’s latest venture is her new podcast with Earios launched last month, simply titled, The Margaret Cho, where she interviews a variety of interesting individuals. The 36-episode first season features guests such as celebrity stylist Jonathan Van Ness, legendary tattoo artist Kat Von D, and fellow comedian Michael Yo, to name a few. New episodes are released each Tuesday.

“I am a big fan of all sorts of podcasts and I thought it was about time to put my own hat into the ring! I really think it would be good for you to have my voice in your ear talking about all sorts of things while you clean your house or drive in soul crushing traffic,” says Cho. “It wouldn’t just be me, but also my famous friends talking to you while you sort and fold, and drive, and bathe. Basically, we have a really interesting conversation and in the end, we will all be better people with clean homes that we don’t mind driving to and from. I’m going to have some well known names, as well as others that people should know about, or soon will,” she states.

Always one to support the LGBT+ community, she recently hosted the closing ceremonies at WorldPride in New York City earlier this summer, that featured musical guests, Jake Shears, Deborah Cox, and Melissa Etheridge. “I had such an amazing time. There’s no place I would have rather been than onstage representing my community,” she said. She is also taking part in the upcoming Voice for the Animal Foundation fundraiser on September 27 in Santa Monica, with Lily Tomlin and Kevin Nealan.

Speaking of animals, her adorably cute adopted chihuahua, Lucia, is a bit of a star herself. She travels with Cho around the world, attending events, and garnering her own notoriety on social media sites. “I bring her everywhere with me. She’s my baby,” Cho proclaims. Make sure to keep your eyes, and ears, open for what Ms. Cho and Ms. Lucia get up to next!