Comedic Crusader Margaret Cho Drops in to Play the Chelsea 

...and gets an LGBT advocacy award

CONVERSATIONSWednesday, October 5 2:38pmBy Lissa Townsend Rodgers
Margaret ChoDusti Cunningham

“I’m not sure what an honorarium is,but I’m excited to get one,” laughs Margaret Cho. The comedian is being honored by The Center as its Qmmunity Advocate of the Year at the LGBT organization’s annual gala—and following it up immediately with a comedy set at the Chelsea. That sort of multitasking isn’t new to Cho, who started performing stand-up more than two decades ago. Since then she also has worked as an actress, author, singer, fashion designer, dancer—and yes, she even turned up on Dancing with the Stars.

Cho has also been an advocate for LGBT and women’s rights, using the no-bullshit brashness that characterizes her comedy to speak out for others. She’s encouraged by recent progress, but with reservations. “There’s still far to go, but it’s going in the right direction. I’m really proud of the Supreme Court decision about marriage equality, and going forward from there,” she says. “But then you go backward with the bathroom laws for trans people in North Carolina. So it’s about combatting inequality constantly.”

“I’d love to be doing stand-up comedy for my entire life. I started young because I wanted to be in it. It was a profession that I had admired from afar when I was a kid.” As she’s gone from working at coffeehouses to casino showrooms, comedy has changed, especially with the explosion of the internet. “There [are] so many ways to connect with people, whether it’s Twitter or videos or some kind of blogging or whatever,” she says. “There [are] all these different kinds of media for comics to reach a person online.”

Her next project will take her back to the sitcom: “I’m developing a show called Highland, which is a comedy about Korean-Americans in the medical marijuana industry. They’re making a lot of money really quickly—it’s like a big gold rush. … It’s the natural progression of Koreans owning liquor stores—of course after that, they would go into the pot business,” she explains. Coincidentally or not, Cho is also one of an increasing number of celebrities who have been honored with a namesake marijuana strain: Margaret Cho-G. “It was a surprise,” she says, noting that she wasn’t involved in the development of the hybrid strain, but will have a hand in future horticulture. “I have a couple strains that are in development, being worked on in Colorado. I don’t exactly know what the properties are or what they would be. I don’t really smoke pot—it’s a really cool industry, though.”

Like most comics, Cho has performed many times in Vegas over the years, but it’s more than the work that keeps her coming back. “I love it for the history,” she says. “When people would perform at the Sands. The casinos and the glamour, it’s a very 1950s, 1960s thing. People would do the big variety shows.” She wouldn’t mind doing a similar style of show herself—she probably came closest cohosting the Miss Exotic World burlesque competition here in Vegas with El Vez in 2006. “I’d love to have dancers. I’d love a big production with movable sets.” Given the many intriguing turns that Margaret Cho’s career has taken, from stand-up to sitcom star to advocate for social change, it seems totally reasonable.

Margaret Cho

The Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan, Oct. 8, 9 p.m.,  $35-$75, 702-698-7000,