Growing up in San Francisco in the ‘70s as a Korean- American, comedienne Margaret Cho was surrounded by a melting pot of old hippies, ex-druggies, burnouts, drag queens, and many in the Chinese community.
”It was a really confusing, enlightening, wonderful time,” she says. “When I was about 8, I saw Joan Rivers on TV and I understood that was my purpose. I never looked back after that.”
Ms. Cho began writing her own jokes at 14 and performed professionally for the first time when she was 16. She often talks about how she really didn’t fit in with anyone, and feels she has become the so-called “Patron Saint for Outsiders,” speaking for those who are not able to speak for themselves, and encouraging people who can to use their voice to promote change.
One of Ms. Cho’s earliest successes came when she took first prize in a stand-up contest and won the opportunity to open for Jerry Seinfeld. In the years that followed, Bob Hope featured her on one of his prime time specials, Arsenio Hall introduced her to late-night audiences, and it wasn’t long before she became a national celebrity.
In addition to a promising stand-up career, Ms. Cho was given her own sitcom in 1994, an ABC, All-American Girl, which mirrored her life as a non-conformist Korean American woman with liberal views. Unfortunately, the show was deemed “too radical” at the time and it was cancelled after one season.
Five years later, Ms. Cho’s groundbreaking, off-Broadway one-woman show, I’m The One That I Want, toured the country to national acclaim and was made into a best-selling book and feature film of the same name.
More success followed, including films, more books, and sold-out tours. In 2007, Ms. Cho joined Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Harry and Erasure as hosts of the True Colors Tour, benefiting the Human Rights Campaign. The next year she starred in The Cho Show, a VH1 reality show that explored her life and her family — although she describes it more as a “reality sitcom.” She was even on Dancing With the Stars.
Her longest-running TV role to date was on Drop Dead Diva, which aired for six seasons on the Lifetime network.
”That was a very fulfilling experience,” she says. “It let me talk about the things I talk about, like body image, and women feeling good about themselves.”
Ms. Cho continues to tour and will being her standup to the Stress Factory comedy club in New Brunswick through March 26.
”I’ll be talking about the presidential race, racism, sexism, Trump, invisibility, strength... hopefully, there will be lots of laughing, catharsis and healing,” she says. “I’m a Bernie supporter and I’m deeply disturbed that Trump is trying to encourage his followers to disrupt and cause violence at his events. We are living in scary times.”
Next month, the three-time Grammy and Emmy nominee will release her newest studio album,American Myth, on her own Clownery label.
”It’s a lot of songs about loss, grief, rage, love and even sex,” she says. “It’s an exciting record and I’m thrilled to finally put it out. My new video for the song ‘Anna Nicole’ will be released soon. It’s my homage to her. She was a beautiful soul.”
Also on her docket is another TV show in development called Highland, which Ms. Cho hopes to see on the schedule next season.
”It’s about the big marijuana boom in Los Angeles, and a Korean-American family in the middle of it,” she says. “It’ll be a new kind of family, a new story. I’m currently putting the pilot together with my producing partner Liz Sarnoff from ‘Deadwood’ and ‘Lost.’ It’s going to be a comedy drama.”
Last year, Ms. Cho was one of the hosts of TLC’s All About SEX, a late-night call-in talk show. It’s just another facet of Ms. Cho’s diverse career.
”People come to see me, or buy my records and/or DVDs because my point of view satisfies a lot of what needs to be said out there,” she says. “More than anything, that makes me really proud.”