Margaret Cho Talks About Rehab, TruckNutz and Glory Holes

We talk to Cho ahead of her three-night stand this week at Zanies

 SEP 13, 2017 9 AM

There’s little Margaret Cho hasn’t done — from stand-up to film and television, in roles including creator, director and star. She’s written books, hosted podcasts, belly-danced and rapped. She’s been a relentless supporter of the LGBT community, fought for human rights and appeared on Dancing With the Stars. Buts she also temporarily left it all behind. In the midst of the 2016 presidential election, Cho entered rehab to focus on her mental health. But now she’s back, returning to the stage with her Fresh Off the Bloat Tour, which is quite possibly her most personal offering to date. Before a three-night stand at Zanies, Cho talked to the Scene about her new show, Donald Trump and the dark depression that forced her out of the spotlight for a year.

I’d love to hear more about the Fresh Off the Bloat Tour. It sounds like the new material is deeply personal.

I think so — I think you always want to strive for that. There is always something to be gained from getting really deep and raw-y. I love saying “raw-y,” that’s my favorite. I think this show is really great — I’m really proud of it. It’s certainly a very exciting time, a crazy time. Getting into all the stuff with Trump and how crazy that is — I don’t know why that seems to be happening, but it’s really wild.

Are you finding inspiration in that? Has that made it harder to try to be funny?

There’s a lot of inspiration, a lot to talk about and a lot of common ground. A lot of people are really confused about this. I feel like it’s NASCAR and TruckNutz — this is really something to do with that kind of culture. I don’t believe that America is a racist country, I don’t believe that this is what we are capable of doing, and I don’t think that this is the right president for us in any way. That’s slowly being proven daily.

Does it feel extra important to you then, as an Asian woman living in America, to be especially loud? Because I would also imagine that’s really exhausting.

It’s exhausting, but it’s also important. It’s also very invigorating. You want to speak your mind and have your voice. I’ve been doing this kind of stuff since Reagan was in office. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I do know that it is a crazy time to be alive and to watch this play out.

You’ve always been super honest about your sexuality, your experiences growing up, but it sounds like some of this material is going to go into mental health and drug addiction, which are new topics for you.

Yeah, I think you need to address those kinds of issues. I lived in rehab for a year when I was coming out of this really bad depression, and I think that’s really funny. It’s crazy to just kind of drop out of society for a year. I was busy with coloring books — give me coloring books. I just needed to go, “Hey, I can’t do this, I have to just go back to kindergarten.” It was literally going back to kindergarten. I had macaroni stuck to construction paper. I was making all sorts of weird collages and stuff. I know that it’s weird, but it’s funny too. I was in a therapeutic environment — I had to leave, everybody around me died. They were all dying of alcohol and drug addiction and depression. I was around a lot of people who just didn’t want life. I love that I got clean. Very few people get to spend that much time on themselves. That’s a big part of the show, too. It’s really cool to just go, “I’m done with life — coloring in coloring books for a while, call me back.”

I also have depression, and it sucks, obviously, but I have done some hilariously dumb shit because of it. From the outside, for somebody who’s never experienced that, it might seem kind of dark to find humor in that.

It’s funny! We do stupid stuff. You just do crazy stuff when you’re depressed. You just can’t see that anything is possibly good in life. That’s clinical. That’s not a natural way to be. When you deal with it, and you put yourself in the therapeutic environment to deal with it, like it is cancer, you find that there is treatment, and you can get through. 

I think it’s great that you look at what’s happening in America right now, and you still want to tour. There are so many people who would say, “Nope, I’m going to stay home.” To face the nation like you’re doing, is that exciting?

I think it’s really the way to go. Seriously, you go to places and you think there’s going to be a lot of Trump supporters. … I was just in Alabama, and I had all these assumptions that it was going to be Trump supporters, and it wasn’t. It was Huntsville, so it was like, “They’re not rocket scientists — well actually they arerocket scientists!”

Yeah, some of them are! The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is there.

Yeah, it’s cool. I can’t make assumptions about who lives where and what this country is made up of. It’s all different, and it’s all really interesting. I think we as a country have to become very united. It sounds corny.

We have talked about a lot of heavy shit. What is something right now that is bringing you a lot of happiness?

Hamilton just opened in L.A., and I went to the premiere. It was just great, just perfect. Incredible show that is all about the diversity of America and what our country really is about. I loved it. It’s just magical and beautiful, and the songs are so great. This particular production is astounding. That’s what I think is really great, that we have art that we can turn to. I also love the Trump urinals. My friend is making Trump glory-hole covers, which are really a massive hit. There’s a lot of really great art.

I can’t imagine anybody being able to get a boner around his face, is the only problem with the glory holes.

I know, that’s hard — but it’s the thought of it. So I love it.

Playing five shows Sept. 14-16 at Zanies