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MARGARET CHO

Multi-threat talent Margaret Cho is unmasked for JFL Northwest

American comedian Cho was the Poodle in season one of the Masked Singer. Now she's bringing her stand-up act to Vancouver

Updated: February 12, 2020

JFL Comedy Festival

When: Feb. 13-24

Tickets and info:jflnorthwest.com


One of the most popular shows on TV is Fox’s The Masked Singer.

The show is kind of a fever dream mixed with a singing competition. Each week celebrities hide their identities under elaborate costumes (this upcoming season will include among the 18 contestants a llama, banana and astronaut) while they sing (apparently) their hearts out in a bid to woo the judges and of course America.

Comedian Margaret Cho, who will be in Vancouver for a JFL Northwest comedy festival show (Feb. 15, 7 p.m. at the Vogue, tickets $39 at eventbrite.ca), was the Poodle in Season 1 of the show. The current popularity of the show that started in Korea is no surprise to Cho. She agrees the wacky talent show is a kind of antidote to the emotional and politically polarizing heaviness that many are feeling these days.

“There’s something innocent about it, which I think is something that is needed,” said Cho over the phone from her home in Los Angeles recently.

“I think we do need something we can kinda come together on that’s very playful. It’s unique, and at the same time it’s something very important because we need a childlike wonder about things. I think it’s really sweet.”

It’s also free of labels and unconJFL is just one of about 100 stand-up gigs Cho does each year. While shows like this one make up the base of her three-decade-long career, she says she also needs variety for complete happiness. “I think they all kind of work together to make for a balanced life. I love acting. I love music,” said Cho. “To me it is really special to do all these different things, but comedy is a constant. It’s something that is always happening so that is the most important part of my life.” Cho grew up in San Francisco where her parents ran a gay bookstore. A self-identifying bisexual, Cho has always been a vocal supporter of LBGTQ communities and, in turn, those communities have supported her work. “I love that. To me that’s still a big part of my identity and kind of my purpose. So, yeah, I love that,” said Cho about her fan base. “I love being queer. I love the queerness of my existence. It’s the essence of who I am.” It’s also a big part of what she wants to talk about, but it by no means is her only topic when she takes to the stand-up stage. Like many comedians who call America home, the current state of their union is loaded with potential material. And really, isn’t it better to laugh than cry? “What’s good is there is a lot to say and there is a lot to deal with in all of these issues,” said Cho. “There are things that I have talked about for a long time, whether it is racism, sexism, homophobia. All of these things have a big effect on our lives now, so there is a lot to say and that is what’s great about comedy — that I can go out and do that.”scious biases, as a singing egg and pineapple are equally nutty.

“Identity is put aside and right now there is so much caustic friction that people have about identity in particular, and so when you remove that sort of aspect of it and just look at the purity of somebody’s voice, I think there is a tenderness there, and a humanity,” said Cho.

And for the record: It is hard to sing in a mask.

“When you’re singing you’re never enclosed in something, so it is really hard to tell how you are doing. Sonically, it is very different,” said Cho.

While Cho can throw down as a glamorous singing poodle, do successful sitcoms, host a podcast, design clothes, and act as a BDSM expert on the Netflix show Explained, the Grammy- and Emmy-nominated comic always manages to find her way back to the stand-up stage — a place she has called home since she was 16.

Cho is part of a JFL Feb. 13-25 line-up that includes comedy headliners Hannah Gadsby, Bill Burr and Patton Oswalt as well as up-and-coming stand-ups, improv and sketch performances, hit podcasts and even short films.

JFL is just one of about 100 stand-up gigs Cho does each year.  While shows like this one make up the base of her three-decade-long career, she says she also needs variety for complete happiness.

“I think they all kind of work together to make for a balanced life. I love acting. I love music,” said Cho.

“To me it is really special to do all these different things, but comedy is a constant. It’s something that is always happening so that is the most important part of my life.”

Cho grew up in San Francisco where her parents ran a gay bookstore. A self-identifying bisexual, Cho has always been a vocal supporter of LBGTQ communities and, in turn, those communities have supported her work.

“I love that. To me that’s still a big part of my identity and kind of my purpose. So, yeah, I love that,” said Cho about her fan base. “I love being queer. I love the queerness of my existence. It’s the essence of who I am.”

It’s also a big part of what she wants to talk about, but it by no means is her only topic when she takes to the stand-up stage. Like many comedians who call America home, the current state of their union is loaded with potential material. And really, isn’t it better to laugh than cry?

“What’s good is there is a lot to say and there is a lot to deal with in all of these issues,” said Cho.

“There are things that I have talked about for a long time, whether it is racism, sexism, homophobia. All of these things have a big effect on our lives now, so there is a lot to say and that is what’s great about comedy — that I can go out and do that.”