Before the Oscars red carpet, Margaret Cho a hot ticket in Salt Lake City

By  connect
First Published     •    Last Updated Feb 26 2016 10:51 am

(Courtesy Photo) Comedian Margaret Cho will perform Feb. 25-26 at Salt Lake Cityís Wise Guys Comedy Club.

Interview » Ahead of her gigs at Wiseguys, comedian talks music, fashion and boycott.

Margaret Cho's most vivid Utah memory — or possibly nightmare — involves buying booze at a state liquor store.

"I went in and was shocked," she said. "It was almost like going to a methadone clinic."

After more than three decades in the entertainment industry Cho — a stand-up comedian turned singer, actor and, most recently, fashion commentator — continues to offer fans razor-sharp wit and socially aware commentary.

Her work has helped pave the way for today's top female comedians. Or as The New York Times pointed out recently: "As a pioneer of self-awareness and sex-positive storytelling, Cho was dealing out honest, NSFW routines long before Amy Schumer became a household name."

Cho will perform those "Not Safe for Work" routines at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Salt Lake City's Wiseguys Comedy Club. The first Saturday show is already sold out, with limited availability on the other shows.

Her Utah stay will be short, as she must be in California by Sunday for the Academy Awards, where she will work the red carpet as the new co-host of "Fashion Police" on the E Network.

Once awards season is over, Cho looks forward to April and the release of her new studio album, "American Myth," the follow-up to her 2010 Grammy-nominated debut album, "Cho Dependent."

Even with all that's going on in her life, Cho was cool and calm during a recent telephone interview from the road, where she talked music, comedy, fashion and an Oscar boycott. Her comments have been edited for space and clarity.

How did you move from stand-up comedy to singing?

My family is very musical; both my parents are musicians and my mom was a singer. So I've always been around it. Because of that, I've always done a little music at the end of my shows. It's something I enjoy. I can get away with subject matter in music that I can't in other situations; it allows you to be little more free.

Did you ever take singing lessons or play an instrument?

I took music lessons as a little kid and I've had a lot of coaching as an adult. Singing lessons helped to position my voice and get more out of it. I've also had some producers who have taught me a lot about how to sing. I play the guitar, but only casually and when I'm composing.

You wrote many of the songs on "American Myth." Where do you get your inspiration?

It's a lot about people. There are songs about loss and getting older and losing people that you admire. It's the state I feel we are in. Last year was more difficult because we lost Robin Williams and Joan Rivers; and rock stars like David Bowie, who I really loved and admired. It's weird, because the songs have a feeling of loss, but I still feel it's a celebration of their lives.

What do you think about the state of women in comedy today with the success of stars like Melissa McCarthy, Tina Fey and Amy Schumer?

It's great that there is this renaissance going on. When I started, there were women comedians, but we were pretty isolated. There were always a few of us, but we were working so we never saw each other. There was no community or camaraderie. Now there are more women and this solidarity. But I'd like to see more women out there getting the big deals and comedy specials. In general it is still male-dominated and I'd like to see more equality.

What's your opinion on the lack of diversity at the Oscars?

This is the second year in a row there hasn't been any diversity in major acting categories. Last year people thought of it as a fluke. This year they realize it is a systematic exclusion of people of color. I can't boycott the red carpet because of "Fashion Police," but I can boycott the rest of the ceremony. I'll watch Chris Rock because he will do a great job and bring a lot of awareness to make a point. He should be hosting and pointing out what is wrong.

Do you feel like that kind of change has happened with marriage equality, an issue you have been an advocate for?

I've been fighting for marriage equality since 2004. It's been a long steady battle and not something that happened overnight. It may have seemed like it happened fast, but we have been working on it for many years. It's been gratifying, but it's not over. Now the shift is going to be on adoption rights and hate-crime laws in each state and about shifting toward true equality.

On a lighter note, let's talk about your new gig on "Fashion Police" and stepping into Joan Rivers' shoes?

It's great to do something that was so important to Joan. It was a favorite part of her career, and it's an honor to be there telling jokes and keeping her memory alive. There's no way to replace her. I'm not in any way connected with fashion at all. Everybody else is so much a part of it and I'm an outsider. But for me it's fun, hanging out with Melissa Rivers [Joan's daughter] and doing something that Joan would want to stay alive.

How would you describe your fashion style?

I don't have any sort of fashion style or need to think about it. I'm all about comfort. I don't really care. I allow stylists to work for me.