After a six year hiatus, Margaret Cho has a new album, American Myth, once again packed with socio-political statements, cultural references and, of course, lots of glitter. With songs like “I Want to Kill My Rapist,” it’s a good bet Cho hasn’t lost her activist zeal. What she has gained though is the special co-host title for E!’s Fashion Police and a stop over in Philly at Helium. I talked with Cho about her single and homage to the fallen supermodel, “Anna Nicole,” body image and the absurdity over the current “bathroom debates.”
I wanted to start by asking you about being a product of the ’90s. What you would bring back from the ’90s into today’s world if you could.
Oh gosh, you know zines? Remember those? They were great. Of course they still exist, there’s a huge sort of alternative scene and sort of websites and blogs have taken the place, but there’s something that was just so great about zines. They were all just so diverse and funny and cool and interesting. It was a big, big scene and I loved that.
Did you have a favorite back in the day?
I liked Ben is Dead, I liked, gosh there were so many, I can’t remember their names now. I had Factsheet Five so I would circle all of the ones that I liked and get them in the mail. There was one about the little boy from E.T., grown up. They had this girl that was really obsessed with him, she was really funny. She was like, I forgot what it said, but something like, it was a zine about stalking. I don’t know why I can’t recall the names, probably menopause.
So why did you wait so long to make another album?
Oh, I was just busy doing other stuff. I was touring, I was working on a show calledDrop Dead Diva, I was doing a bunch of other stuff. But I make music all the time, it’s a constant in my life. Garrison and I wrote most of the songs on the record, Garrison Starr is a wonderful singer songwriter, she produced the album, so we just had some time to do it, so we did it.
What’s your favorite song off the album?
I really like “Anna Nicole,” which is a single, the video is out now, it’s a story about Anna Nicole Smith, who was really the first wave of social media bullying and getting trolled a lot. That was really hard for her, but she was quite the legendary figure. My song is my version of “Candle in the Wind” for her and I love it. I love all of the tracks, I think they’re beautiful.
“Anna Nicole” seems like a rare show of respect and admiration. We’re used to seeing her gawked at or made fun of.
I think that’s important. People were just so awful about her and to her. It was just wrong and I think all of that really contributed to her death. And it’s really horrible. When you think about the impact she had when she first appeared in the ’90s, she was someone who was just so beautiful, but out of the Heroin Chic thing here was this woman who was large and so beautiful and I think she helped a lot of people understand the idea of acceptance of your body, a real body, a full figure. That curviness was so inspiring to see that it was being celebrated in the Guess ads. So her power as a beauty icon shouldn’t be underestimated, I think she was really amazing.
Speaking of body images, how do you feel about the controversies surrounding attempting to make bathrooms inclusive to the transgender community?
Well, I’ve been a part of the LGBT community for many years and went through a lot of people’s transitions. This is my family. And it offends me to think that people are actually afraid of a transgender person in a bathroom. That’s the most insane thing. Nothing has ever happened, an incident where a transgender person has done anything in a bathroom. Insane. I think Target has the right attitude. They are coming out in support of equality and sanity. But all of these anti-LGBT bills I think are a direct reaction to the Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage. We have a start toward equality and that’s very threatening to homophobic and bigoted people.
Philly. Good? Bad?
Very very in love with Philadelphia. I’m furious about Catherine Knott. I’m glad she’s going to prison but it’s not for very long. Justice was not served because her father is a police chief. When you have these homophobic crimes, they need to be seen as hate crimes. I got in a real fight with some people about the Mummers. (laughs) The Mummers, I understand the tradition of it, but to use it to make fun of the transgender community at a time that’s so difficult and hard for us, is very disappointing. But I love hoagies!
May 19-21. Helium Comedy Club, 2031 Sansom St. heliumcomedy.com