is taking revenge on rapists, one laugh at a time
Cho is a funny woman but her comedy is fuelled by a sense of rage at
the bad things that can, and do, happen to people.
Cho is quite apologetic about only now making it over to Australia with
her latest stand-up show, the PsyCHO Tour, after already taking it across
the US, Europe and Asia.
don't know why Australia's last," she says. "It's not last
in my heart, but it's just worked out that way, unfortunately."
a very big heart, as it turns out. The comedian and activist is a fiercely
bold and controversial flag-bearer for empowerment and equality. Over
three decades in comedy, the 47-year-old Korean-American has remained
a loud, taboo-busting voice for the marginalised, speaking out against
rape culture, homophobia, racism and bullying.
show, touring nationally and as part of the Just For Laughs festival
at the Sydney Opera House, is an ever-evolving work. She says she tailors
it to what's happening in the present news cycle, or political issues
relevant to where she's performing.
she applauds our stance on gun control: "Australia has a generation
who have grown up without that kind of gun violence that we see daily
in America, unfortunately.
is no awareness or thought of it and I think that's beautiful and that's
something that I would like America to get to, but we've never been
able to in any way.
violence has got worse and worse as the days progress and it's a daily
thing now which is really upsetting. There's a lot to be discussed there
and why this is happening."
feature in the show as it's travelled the world, she says, is dissecting
the "strange phenomenon" of Donald Trump and how he's rather
spectacularly damaging the credibility of US politics.
gross," she says. "I mean I don't understand exactly what
he's doing but it's a real mockery of American politics, that this office
was once thought of highly. If you were running for president you really
did have a great sense of the great dignity to that process, but it's
been entirely lost. That's just gone out the window completely.
crazy but he's just bizarre. His entire campaign is bizarre. His entire
appeal is bizarre. The way that he looks – he doesn't blend his
eye make-up into the rest of his orange face. He needs a moistened make-up
sponge. I'm like, 'Does he have a mirror?'
then he sexualises his daughter, which is very upsetting to me. It's
so gross, who does he think he is? It's gross. It's a gross campaign:
it's racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, you name it, everything
Cho launched a campaign of her own, for survivors of sexual violence.
It was a drive on social media tagged #12DaysofRage, the launchpad for
Cho to reveal her own experiences of abuse and inviting others to share
about how she had been molested by a family friend between the ages
of 5 and 12, and also said she was raped in her teens by another attacker.
time she released a song I Wanna Kill My Rapist, where in the accompanying
video Cho and a band of young girls are warriors, taking justice into
their own hands, amid lyrics including, "Now you're dead/Gun to
your head/Cause what you did/I can't forgive."
a pleasantly plodding alt-rock anthem – its subject matter aside
– features in her PsyCHO show. She says tackling such a heavy
topic can be done with some levity, but is also geared towards being
healing and empowering.
a survivor of different kinds of things that have happened to me over
my lifetime and I know that predators really exist in the shadows,"
she says. "When you can shine a light on it, it's very important."
the response from her audience has been strong, with fellow abuse survivors
stepping up to engage with her.
it's overwhelming. You find that sometimes people can't even share their
secrets with people who are closest to them and they reach out to me
with these kinds of stories that have happened to them.
would never betray their truth but it's alarming how many people have
so much secrecy around their lives or have to still maintain life with
their abuser, which is awful. There are so many things that are so bad,
that I can't understand why this would happen, especially to a child,
to anybody really, it's awful."
wanting to leave her childhood behind was the driver for pushing her
into comedy, having dropped out of high school and instead performing
as a 16-year-old in a comedy club above her parents' bookstore in San
came quickly – she won a slot to open for Jerry Seinfeld, who
became an early supporter of Cho and remains a somewhat unlikely mentor
and friend, given his mainstream fodder, to her some three decades on.
and controversial content and messages are unsurprisingly a magnet for
internet trolls, but she takes the tack of not engaging due to some
pretty powerful ammunition up her sleeve. She says if people attack
her, she has acquaintances who can quite readily deliver a troll's personal
information such as social security, home and work details.
is a civility that I want to maintain, because I have too much of an
advantage. You can scare them really badly, but I don't want to do that.
That's really awful, no matter what they say about how fat I am. I don't
care," she says, laughing. "Calling me fat does not equal
me having all of your business, all of your pin numbers, all of your
codes. I really have too much power in that arena."
reclaiming it and the rejection of control over women is the heart of
Cho's work, but at the same time she says she hopes that her stand-up
audiences get an "abdominal workout" from laughing so hard.
hope] that it's enjoyable as entertainment but then maybe you might
find something in there that could actually genuinely help your life,
which I always look for in every entertainer and every artist.
whatever they do, you do want to say, 'Oh well, this is inspirational
and aspirational too, like a life lesson.'"