8 SEP 2016 - 7:28PM

Margaret Cho on sexism in Hollywood, comedy and losing Robin Williams

Outspoken comedian Margaret Cho talks about sexism, misogyny and the shock of losing Robin Williams with Marc Fennell.

By Marc Fennell
Source: The Feed

Margaret Cho is a trailblazer: the Korean-American started doing comedy when she was just 16 years old.

Back in the nineties she co-created the very first all-Asian sitcom on US television - All American Girl.

But a TV executive told her face was too fat, leading her to get hooked on diet medication, booze and eventual kidney failure. She channelled her rage on to the stage.

Her stand-up comedy tackles her history of being sexually abused as a girl, racism, sexism, being out and proudly bisexual.

And yes, her very Asian mum.

As someone who has spoken openly - on stage and online - about being a sexual assault survivor, Cho says there's something empowering about tackling the subject in such a public forum.

"It's about showing your level of skill, also, as a comedian... Your level of skill is determined by how serious a subject you can tackle.

"The fact is rape and comedy have now become very connected with Bill Cosby, Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris. Every continent seems to have their own version.

"So we have to deal with it because it's what has happened news wise because of their actions."

As someone who freely admits to putting "everything out there" with her comedy, Cho has struggled to block out some of the more damaging aspects of fame leading to issues with eating disorders and addiction in her youth.

"I think that when we look at a sort of idealised body, this idea that we have to be a certain weight, it's put upon us by misogyny that's in the media," she says.

"The way we have these expectations about a woman's body, these diseases that are about eating disorders they're really this internalised version of misogyny, of sexism, of body hatred.

"It's all very sexist."

Growing up in the industry, Cho had several mentors and friends who helped her along the way including the man she describes as her "comedy grandfather" Robin Williams.

The Academy Award-winner passed in 2014 after taking his own life and Cho says it's something that still occupies her mind to this day.

"It was really something that none of us expected from him... he was always closed off and complicated ... but there was always this sense of him taking care of the community and the people around him.

"But we had never thought to ask him if he needed help. That's something we have to live with, the fact that we never asked him if he was okay and obviously he wasn't.

"It's really difficult. We never got to see if he was okay, we never asked, and it was incredibly selfish and incredibly difficult.

"We never thought that that would end up something he would do, suicide never seemed like an option."