The times, they are a-changin’ – and not always for the better.
Margaret Cho is all too aware of this, with her Twitter feed often bemoaning the rise of Donald Trump, police brutality and the continued mistreatment of LGBTQIA people. How then does Cho face up to issues like these while also maintaining her role as an entertainer and a stand-up comedian?
“I think that you have to find some way of coping,” she reasons, speaking from her home in Los Angeles. “Comedy and humour are coping mechanisms. With so many things going on in the world, it’s a way to come to terms with it all.” Unprompted, she jumps into a tirade directed against Omar Mateen, the former security guard who opened fire at a gay night club in Orlando, Florida. “I’m still not over what happened in Orlando – it was Latin night, it was an 18-and-over night, and you had this dumb queen who couldn’t handle rejection on his dick app,” she says. “He decided to take it out on a gay bar, and I consider the gay bar to be a holy place. It’s a place of peace, and it was maybe the first night that a lot of those young people were finding acceptance.”
2016 has been a very busy year for Cho – she served as a co-host on the late Joan Rivers’ Fashion Police, voiced a character on Family Guy, continued the world tour she begun the year before (the punningly titled Psycho) and made an appearance on Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, the web series hosted by Jerry Seinfeld that does exactly what it says on the coffee tin. In the episode, released back in June, Cho explains to Seinfeld about a haywire gig back in March where she had a meltdown of sorts at a New Jersey comedy club called the Stress Factory. From there, Seinfeld takes the initiative to set up a return to that same venue with Cho in order to moderate a discussion between her and the disgruntled attendees that walked out on that very night.
“Jerry and I have had a great relationship that has lasted for 30-plus years,” Cho says. “He’s very parental and protective, even though he’s not that much older than me. I enjoyed doing that show, even though going back to that club was difficult. Clubs like these are very important places – they’re where comedy is born, and by having this spat with them, I really felt as though I had tarnished their reputation. It’s a small club, and it’s a venue owned by a comedian, and those places really need to be nurtured. I got that audience back to sort of discuss what it is that happened, and they were thankfully so lovely and so open to the idea. I find it’s better to take things head-on in that way. I was so grateful for the entire experience.”
If that wasn’t enough, Cho has been lending her voice – literally – to an art form removed from the world of comedy. In April, she released her second studio album of original music, American Myth. According to Cho, it’s a chance for her to explore other ways to get her ideas out into the open – a dance between the elements of comedy and tragedy. “I make music for fun and for my own entertainment,” she says.
“It’s a way of creatively expressing myself in a different way. I really enjoy the process – it’s really exciting and it’s fun to do. It opens itself up to a whole bunch of other stuff, too – I get to collaborate with other artists that I love, I get to make music videos, I get to make music videos with other people, I get to work with a whole different crew who are all amazing and creative.”
It would be amiss not to bring up Cho’s appearance in Peaches’ ‘Dick In The Air’ video, which saw them in full-body suits covered in fake fur that happened to have a – you guessed it – dick attached. “The suits were really itchy!” laughs Cho. “They got stretched, and everyone wanted to pull on the dick part – especially mine, which was very long. They got itchier and itchier and more bent out of shape as we went along – and we were shooting for three days. Peaches is a real innovator – she is a real visionary force in music.”
Cho is set to return to Australia this September, with a run of capital city dates lined up and a key appearance at the Sydney Opera House booked in as a part of the Just For Laughs festivities. Cho has been coming to Australia for many years, but instead of seeing the Union Jack and the Southern Cross, all she sees on the Australian flag is the rainbow.
“My initial experience was going there for Mardi Gras,” she says. “I got to see Australia – across all of its breadth and width – as a whole gay nation. I can’t think of it any other way. The culture, the cities… I mean you even have a state called Queensland. It’s a gay place in my head – I really love it. We haven’t seen marriage equality in Australia yet, but I just know that it’s coming. I know you guys aren’t gonna let New Zealand fuck you like that.”