Margaret Cho: Fresh Off the 'Bloat' and On the Road Again

by Robert Nesti
EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor
Saturday Sep 23, 2017

Margaret Cho began performing comedy at 16 and has never stopped. This month she's on the road again with a new show called "Fresh Off the Bloat," which she is bringing to 11 U.S. cities and 13 European ones before the end of the year. It marks her first tour in three years and promises to be even more outrageous and pertinent than her earlier ones. "Y'all, it's been a while but I am back and better than ever with the news that you need..." she says on her website. "You didn't think I was gonna let Trump have all the fun to himself now did you?

"This is my sickest show to date," her website continued. "My grandmother said, 'You look like bloated as if you've been found dead in a lake after several days of searching.' (Koreans are the most savage of all the Asians.)

"This time, I'm talking about being fresh off drugs, drinking and on the brink of suicide and I've come back to life. I've finally been fished out of the river Styx."

And it has been a pretty eventful year for Cho, even by her standards. She went into rehab at the suggestion of friends and just stayed there for months, had a celebrated blow-out with fans in a New Jersey club and a very public spat with actress Tilda Swinton about multi-cultural casting. She also found her niche on "Fashion Police," which is finding its own level after its disastrous run with Kathy Griffin. Her most recent CD, "American Myth" was nominated for a Grammy, and her pet project -- a sitcom about an Asian-American family running a pot dispensary -- has been picked up by TNT.

EDGE spoke with Cho recently as she heads out on the tour.

EDGE: Why the title, 'Fresh Off the Bloat?' 

Margaret Cho: I had a show many years ago called 'All American Girl' and more recently there is another popular Asian-American show called 'Fresh Off the Boat.' This is my take on that, whether it is the bloated nature of politics or the bloated quality of my own crazy, addictive life. I like a pun, so that's why 'Fresh Off the Bloat' is a good idea.

EDGE: You have said that this show is about 'drugs, drinking and being on the brink of suicide.' There is some heavy stuff there...

Margaret Cho: Yes. There is, but it is also kind-of funny. It is also ridiculous and crazy. I think I am really lucky to have survived it all so I am happy to have a story to tell.

EDGE: What will you be talking about in terms of that stuff?

Margaret Cho: Well I went away to a sober-living facility last year. Some people stay for 28 days, I stayed for over a year. So there is a lot there to tell, but I think it is great to come out of it and be able to talk about it and write comedy about it. It was really sick, but it is really funny.

EDGE: Why did you stay that long -- was the food that good?

Margaret Cho: The food was really good, but I stayed for the company. Everybody was really crazy. It was really the right thing. I loved it.

EDGE: Speaking of surviving, how are you handling post-election trauma?

Margaret Cho: I don't know. That's really crazy. I don't understand why this happened. I blame NASCAR and energy drinks. I don't know what is going on and I don't know why it is happening, but it is and we have to learn from it. It is the only thing we can do.

EDGE: What would you tell someone who is traumatized by Trump's election?

Margaret Cho: I would tell them that it is going to be okay. That we are going to get through this. That we have to get through this. But it is fucked up, and we have to get out of it.

EDGE: If given a choice, President Trump or President Pence?

Margaret Cho: I don't know. That's a horrible choice. Trump is bad enough, but Pence is just evil. I don't know. He really is evil.

EDGE: If you had five minutes to speak with Trump, what would you say?

Margaret Cho: I would try to convince him to resign. I would tell him that it is not a good job for him and he can't do what he was planning to do. There was nothing behind his Presidency except just to say that he would run and say he could do it. But it is not good for anybody now. And I would also ask him to get rid of Pence because he's no good for anyone.

EDGE: Congratulations you are working on a new show called 'Highland' that got picked up. What is it?

Margaret Cho: Yes. Thanks. We are working on the pilot right now for TNT. It's a great show. I can't wait. It's about me and my Asian-American family that gets caught up in the big marijuana boom in Los Angeles, which is a crazy thing.

EDGE: You are an advocate for legalization, which is still cresting nation-wide. What do you think of this marijuana boom?

Margaret Cho: I don't look at it as good or bad. It is just something that is happening and is its own thing. It is very enormous and is something we have to deal with. And I deal with it with comedy.

EDGE: You also have a new album called 'American Myth?' that was nominated for a Grammy. What is it?

Margaret Cho: The album is made of has anthems, but also different kind of songs that I have written, whether it is singing about Anna Nicole Smith or about a fat pussy. There are all kinds of things going on, but I loved making that record. I love to make music. It has always been part of my life and is something I will always do, except for this show -- 'Fresh Off the Bloat' -- I am not going to be singing because there is so much material. But music is a big part of my life. 

EDGE: How much of 'Fresh Off The Bloat' about politics?

Margaret Cho: It is about everything. It's all about what we are dealing with now and it is all very funny.

EDGE: You were on 'Dancing With the Stars,' what was that experience like? 

Margaret Cho: It was really weird and crazy and not much fun. It is terrible. You have to dance for six hours a day, which was horrible. I am good for two hours, but after three, I am no use to anyone. It was just very hard. I couldn't keep up with the rehearsal. I would sit down and act like a diva. I really didn't like it. I am not an athlete -- those are the people that thrive on that show. Those people who are always getting to their personal best. I am not that kind of person. And performing live -- that was the worst.

EDGE: And now you are on 'Fashion Police.' Did that come about because of your relationship with Joan Rivers?

Margaret Cho: I loved Joan -- it's all about Joan. She was so smart and so good at understanding how fashion worked. You know it is sad I lost a lot of my older friends -- Garry Shandling, Patty Duke, my friend Anna and, of course, Joan Rivers. It is sad to see to see that generation of performers who were so important to me in my development in comedy and Hollywood leave this world. But I love being on the show. I love making Melissa laugh.

EDGE: What have you learned about fashion?

Margaret Cho: Everything. I had no real understanding. But I am so lucky to have learned so much. I think that it is an incredible art form and I feel fortunate to comment on it, and we have a lot of fun.

EDGE: You have played both father and son -- Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un . Will Kim Jun-un be making an appearance again in the future?

Margaret Cho: I don't know. I hope so. That would be great. It is kind-of a dangerous thing to do, but at least I am not going over there any time soon. You don't want to be on their shit-list for sure, but I am not sure it is so great.

EDGE: Is it difficult to get made up to look like him?

Margaret Cho: No, actually. It is alarmingly easy. It takes less time to make me up to look like a lady. It is harder for me to look pretty than to look like Kim Jung Il or Kim Jung On. It is very easy for me to be turned into both those guys.

EDGE: Last year you had an extended conversation with Tilda Swinton on social media about her playing an Asian character in the film 'Doctor Strange.' It was very public and pretty contentious. Have you heard from her since then?

Margaret Cho: No. But I talk a lot about it in the show. My feeling is that Asian actors should be playing Asian roles. That's just my position on it. It's hard because she had a lot of excuses for playing an Asian character and she wanted to defend doing it. But I talk a lot about it in the show. I never saw the film -- I didn't think that was appropriate, but good for them.

EDGE: So do you think your voice is being heard on this issue?

Margaret Cho: Yes. For sure. We are making an impact. Things are changing, which I think is really amazing and I am glad for that.

EDGE: You have been described in a good way as being one of the most dangerous comics working in America today. Do you consider yourself dangerous? 

Margaret Cho: I want to be dangerous. You want to be courting disaster at every turn. Danger is daring. I love it.

EDGE: And what's most annoying you now in American life?

Margaret Cho: It is Trump. We need to get rid of Trump. And those crazy white supremacists that are out there. They're nuts and it is nuts. We need to get rid of them.

Margaret Cho's "Fresh Off the Bloat" tour begins on Saturday, September 23 at the Chicago Theatre, 175 North State Street, Chicago, IL. It continues December in cities throughout the United States and Europe. For a full list of dates, visit her website.