THE SCOTTISH SUN
BACK TO
MARGARET CHO
TOUGH TALK 

Comic Margaret Cho has slated string of Hollywood A-listers but admits she regrets branding Jimmy Krankie actress racist for Ab Fab movie role

The Korean American star — who shot to fame in the US smash series All-American Girl — has never been afraid to turn her brutal brand of comedy on anyone

By Matt Bendoris
10th September 2017, 10:25 pm
 
Updated: 11th September 2017, 11:11 am

COMIC Margaret Cho is one of the most controversial figures in Hollywood after taking down a string of A-listers and presidents — but she admits she now regrets tackling pint-sized Janette Tough.

The 48-year-old fiery stand-up and actress has made headlines for her high-profile battles with a host of famous faces.

Margaret Cho is changing attitudes in Hollywood

But when she branded the 4ft 5in Scot — who plays Wee Jimmy Krankie — racist for starring as Japanese fashion designer Huki Muki in last year’s Absolutely Fabulous film, she came in for a backlash of her own.

Margaret says: “What’s so funny is I had no idea The Krankies were so famous. I’m an American so I just didn’t know.

“Then I’m talking about a British institution that the Brits are very loyal about.

“Suddenly I had this huge backlash with people saying to me, ‘Don’t you understand The Krankies are of huge cultural significance — this means nothing to you because you’re American’.

“So I took that on board. I get it now. Totally. The joke was on Janette’s height. Not being Asian.

“It just didn’t translate for me because I’m always campaigning about race, so it was an education when people were saying, ‘The Krankies are beyond race’.”

That’s some a climb down from the woman who considers no topic out of bounds.

The Korean American star — who shot to fame in the US smash series All-American Girl — has never been afraid to turn her brutal brand of comedy on anyone, including her Face/Off co-star John Travolta from the 1997 box office smash.

She once said the 63-year-old screen legend was: “So gay — like Oscar Wilde gay. It’s not even like I’m outing him, because it’s so obvious. That’s like outing Liberace.”

Margaret also Terminated Arnold Schwarzenegger with this zinger: “That m**********r be ORANGE. I am not against people of colour, but that is a f****d-up colour.”

President George W. Bush was also a regular target, with her once declaring: “I would feel a little bit better if Bush could say the word ‘nuclear’ correctly.”

And after losing this year’s Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album, Margaret shouted on live TV: “F*** Donald Trump!”

Margaret with chat king Jay Leno

Matt Damon also came under fire for The Great Wall after he was cast in the film set in 11th century China, with her claiming: “It’s bulls**t. It’s not anything that makes any sense.”

And she also turned on Scarlett Johansson this summer for playing a cyborg heroine originally named Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost In The Shell as another example of ‘whitewashing’.

She seethed: “I just can’t understand why Hollywood doesn’t really embrace the idea of Asian actors playing Asian roles.”

Last year she had a mega spat with Tilda Swinton after the 56-year-old actress was cast as The Ancient One – another Asian character in the original comic books – in the Marvel blockbuster Doctor Strange.

Margaret accused the Scottish-based actress of treating her, “like her house servant” during a discussion about diversity, forcing Swinton to release the full text of their email exchange.

And she lashed out on Twitter about Janette Krankie’s Ab Fab movie debut.

She tweeted: “Have some respect. Hire Asian actors for Asian roles. I’m disgusted.

“Yellow face is racism. I am f*****g sick of yellow face.”

Janette, 70, later revealed the controversy forced movie chiefs to turn her silent role into a speaking part when she surprises guests on the red carpet at a fashion show by declaring: “I need a p*sh.”

Jimmy Krankie is a Scots comic legend

And she quipped: “It’s definitely the first time I’ve been accused of being racist — and The Krankies have played the Chinese policemen in Aladdin several times over the years.”

However, Margaret insists she still considers herself a stand-up rather than an activist.

She says: “My first job is as a comedian, so it doesn’t matter what people think politically, they have still got to enjoy what you are doing.

“I think celebrity activism can be kind of weird, like Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon when they were always talking about Tibet.

“When I was younger, I’d be like, ‘What the hell has Tibet to do with your latest film?’.

“Then I went to Tibet and realised why they were because it was terrible.

“But I still like my entertainers to entertain first and foremost.”

However, her campaigning has started to inflence Hollywood.

Last month Deadpool actor Ed Skrein stepped down from the Hellboy reboot after the 34-year-old Brit said he hadn’t realised the role of Major Ben Daimio was of mixed Asian heritage.

She admits: “I think I have raised people’s consciousness. We’re living in a time of change and social media is a big part of that.

“It was a really good decision by him and is something that’s needed to happen for a long time. I hope more actors do the same.”

The San Francisco-born star will play Edinburgh later this year with her Fresh Off The Bloat tour.

Janette starring in the Ab Fab movie

And although she had never heard of The Krankies, she knows plenty of other Scots comics.

She says: “I’ve played The Stand in Glasgow before so it’s exciting to come back to Scotland.

“My friend Bruce Devlin is a stand-up and he’s hilarious. I like brutal comedy. I think all comedy should be honest and ruthless.

“I kind of I equate my style of comedy to Frankie Boyle.

“I think he’s amazing. I don’t know him personally, but I have been following his work for a long time now.”

Margaret will then return to the US to make her new series Highlands for the TNT network.

She says: “It’s a comedy drama about a Korean American family who are very involved in the marijuana boom.

“It’s named after a street in Los Angeles called Highland where our store is. I liked the name too because you go to the ‘high land’ when you’ve been smoking marijuana.

But before she goes home she plans to go and see The Krankies in their Dick Whittington panto in Manchester.

She says: “I would love to meet The Krankies and I would really like to see them in panto. I’m sure I’d have a laugh with Janette.

“There’s so much I still don’t understand about Britain – but I’m learning.”


My 30 Rock filming was hard

MARGARET has been a screen regular for quarter of a century — but ended up getting nominated for a Primetime Emmy for a cameo role.

The entertainer made a hilarious appearance as Kim Jong-Il on Tina Fey’s US show 30 Rock in 2011.

She later returned to play the late North Korean dictator’s son Kim Jong-Un.

However, Margaret reveals even though she shared a screen with co-stars Alex Baldwin and Tracy Morgan, she never actually got to meet them.

She explains: “The scenes I had with Tracy I actually did with his double, so you only saw the back of his head the whole time And it was the same with Alec Baldwin.

“The only person who is there all the time was Tina Fey who oversees everything.

“But I loved 30 Rock and also playing a man is funny too.”