Margaret Cho, Nothing Is Too Private for a Punch Line
By RUTH LA FERLAAPRIL 10, 2015
“I can’t think
of a thing that should be hidden,” Margaret Cho said on a
blustery Sunday in early March.
It was the morning after her wildly kinetic performance at the Gramercy
Theater, and she was feeling brash. “My sexuality or experiences
I’ve had that
amused me, I’m willing to share,” she said.
That she did. Brighteyed
and pinkcheeked, swaddled against the
elements in a kaleidoscopically patterned scarf and a hat shaped like
cinnamon bun, she offered, as she does onstage, the embarrassing minutiae
her daytoday life.
In life, as in the show,
nothing — not her age (she is 46 and “I don’t get
period all the time,” she said), not her recent divorce, nor the
crawl serpentlike all over her frame — is too private, too sacred
humiliating to be turned into a punch line.
That includes the public
upbraiding she endured for what some saw as her
racist impersonation of the North Korean strongman Kim Jongun at
Golden Globes in January. “I’m not playing the race card.
I’m playing the rice
card,” she tweeted soon after that cameo. And she slyly taunted
racially mixed audience the other night, saying, “People want
to tell Asian
people how they feel about race because they’re too scared to
tell black people.
She routinely targets people’s
insecurities, including her own, dispatching
them with welltimed zingers. But at the Dream Downtown hotel restaurant,
Ms. Cho was unsmiling, even subdued, not at all like the cheeky persona
projects in her ninecity comedy tour, ending in July, or on “All
her latenight show on TLC.
Yes, she’s a committed
bisexual, with an aversion to oral sex. True, she’s
looking for someone with whom to father a child, undeterred, it seems,
recent miscarriage, a sad event she nonetheless saw fit to mine for
“When I got pregnant,
it was such a triumph,” she said. “I enjoyed being
superior to everybody else.” After her loss, “I was even
more superior: Now I
Between bites of what she
guessed was chopped “chicken something,” she
peeled away her wraps to show off the Solitaire, a jumpsuit she designed.
my dream garment,” she said of the black twill utility onesie
with no fewer
than six pockets.
Ms. Cho, a repository of
savvy fashion references, said the item put her in
mind “of something a girl in a Virginia Slims ad would wear.”
It was also a
kind of armor, she suggested, against the unseemly ogling that plenty
women put up with.
“That scrutiny, that
intense body shaming still exists,” she said, along with
“all that talk about the things that we’re supposed to have
— like a thigh gap.”
Who says a pair of shapely thighs need to be separated by a wedge of
“My thighs are definitely meant to chafe,” said Ms. Cho,
who freely admits to
battling weight issues.
She refuses to be shamed,
her chatter on “All About Sex” racy enough to
tackle onetime taboos like polyamory, B.D.S.M. and sex toys. “Life
racy,” she said.
Her taste for the subversive
extends to ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat,” a
dyspeptic sitcom about an AsianAmerican family. “AllAmerican
own similarly themed 1990s television comedy, famously bombed.
Not that she is bitter. “It
was a different time,” said Ms. Cho, who advised
the creator of “Fresh
Off the Boat,” Eddie Huang, during the show’s
Even now, her Korean heritage
remains a frequent target of her acid
observations. Her mother seems unconcerned. Except, said Ms. Cho, “She
doesn’t know how I can manage to talk that long.”
In the school lunches her
mother fixed, “everything had eyes,” she said.
The recollection seemed a prompt, propelling Ms. Cho to whip on her
head straight to the Chelsea Market across the street.
She scurried past the fashion
boutiques and made a beeline for (what else)
the fish market, artfully stocked with gleaming cuts of salmon, Cajun
and tiger prawns.
All that inventory was “a
little surreal,” Ms. Cho said, “very Prada meets
Schiaparelli.” Pointedly, she added: “Everything’s
so fresh. The eyes are so
Surely, Mom would approve.