Post-rehab, Margaret Cho has ‘come back to life’ for her ‘Fresh Off the Bloat’ tour


A comedian’s job, Margaret Cho says, is to push boundaries and be offensive. That’s how you get to her preferred type of comedy: the severe kind.

“I think that’s the best, when it’s just really harsh and honest,” says Cho, who brings her latest stand-up show, “Fresh Off the Bloat,” to the Warner Theatre on Saturday. “There’s a lot of brutality and severity, and that’s what I’m always fighting to get to.”

Cho uses her brash comedy to riff on topics like racism, sexism, abuse, homophobia and rape culture — drawing heavily on her own experiences as a feminist, bisexual Korean-American who speaks openly about having been raped and abused. But “Fresh Off the Bloat” marks a bit of a rebirth. “This time, I’m talking about being fresh off drugs, drinking and on the brink of suicide and I’ve come back to life,” she says. “I’ve finally been fished out of the River Styx.”

In 2016, Cho entered rehab to focus on her mental health after her friends staged an intervention (she thought she was going to a party and showed up with wine). “I loved my hospital ‘Girl, Interrupted’ moment,” she says now, reflecting on the year she spent getting better. “I just kind of dropped out [of society], and I think getting away is fabulous. You learn how to find a place for self-care, whatever that looks like — so for me, it was all about trying to find a way to live in the real world.”

Cho grew up in San Francisco, where her parents ran a bookstore that specialized in gay literature. She started doing stand-up in the ’80s and has since appeared in movies and TV shows (including memorable turns as Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un on “30 Rock”); released two albums of songs; written books and designed fashion lines.

As the first Asian-American woman to star in her own network sitcom (the mid-’90s’ “All-American Girl”), she frequently critiques issues like diversity on TV, especially in her stand-up.

“It’s a lot about race and comedy and television, it’s talking about whitewashing, it’s about how things have and haven’t changed,” Cho says. “There used to be very little representations [of any minorities], and now we have some. It’s not the best, but it’s getting better.”

Cho hasn’t concealed her disdain for what she calls the “vile” President Trump and says she plans to tear into “disgusting politics” throughout the tour. “He’s a major issue in my life, and a lot of people are really scared,” she says. “How do we survive this? It’s nuts.”

Coming to D.C. — less than a mile from the White House, no less — will weigh on her show, she says: “It’s like coming to the center of American politics, where it all starts and ends. Everybody there has a stake in politics and is somehow ensconced in political life. There’s a lot to get into.”

Maybe it seems ironic or contradictory to laugh at the topics she discusses, but Cho is adamant about the healing power of humor. It’s a coping mechanism, she says, and joking about pain can help alleviate it. “I think sometimes it’s really the only way we can fight back and survive,” she says.