Margaret Cho gets serious about music, dancing, tattoos

Categories: Comedy
Miss Cho if yo' nasty
Margaret Cho's comedic motives, heritage and body type have been dissected more than a pile of frogs in a 5th grade science class. At the end of the day, Cho is a fierce and funny ambassador for the Korean American community who makes amazing jokes about her parents, loves the gay community, loves sex (sometimes with women) and has starred in more TV shows at 42 than most comics will in a lifetime. But we wanted Cho to put in her own words.

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Clockwork Cho-range
When we called Margaret last week, she was in a serious mood and had just woken up. Sleeping on a tour bus and taping a major prime time show (Dancing With The Stars) can take a lot out of you, and she kept the interview pretty low key. Here's our chat with the comedy heroine about her new album (featuring some of her musical idols), her tats, famous people, and dancing on TV.

 I always ask everyone I interview about their impression of Minneapolis. Do you have one?

 I've been there many times although I haven't spent a lot of time there because when you're a comic you don't get to do very much. It's very meaningful for me cinematically. I love Prince and Purple Rain and Paisley Park and all that, it's cool, but I don't really know that much otherwise. I've worked there a lot but I never get to do anything!

Your fans are diverse across the board and many of them are in the GLBT community, which thrives in MPLS. Lisa Lamapnelli performed at the State a few weekends ago and she was encouraging gay rights, as does Kathy Griffin, and I've heard Louis CK talk a lot about this as well. What is it about modern comedy and this topic? Do you think the outreach is always genuine?


I do think it's genuine and it's important because the spirit of comedy is outsider art. Kinship with the gay community is very organic and so yeah, i think reaching out is always very authentic and very important. It's really good for comedy and good for the community in general. It's something I've done for years.

Let's talk about your new musical album Cho Dependent. You said the artists gave you guitar lessons and singing lessons? What was that like? Who did you learn the most from? I learned the most from Grant Lee Phillips and well as Ben Lee and John Bryant. Those guys were so helpful to me in learning how to play. GLP probably the most in terms of understanding the guitar and then John Bryant probably the most helpful in building confidence and finding my voice as a musician. Ben Lee taught me so much about production on a very technical level.

You were involved in the production?

 I was involved in every part. I learned every aspect of it and what it takes to make an album. It's so involved and so rewarding and when you're making music it's just so amazing that an artist can hear a demo and can build it into something so beautiful and magnificent musically. I'm so moved by that. So much to learn still.

 If you could pick one of the songs on the album to be a radio hit, which would you pick?

There are so many different genres of songs on there. Andrew Bird and I would love for our song to be on the country charts. Hey Big Dog is my sentimenal favorite because it's about aour relationship with animals and how there are no love songs between people and animals, really, and there should be. The relationship is so precious.

 I'm sure there a lot of people who go to your shows and expect you to just to stand-up. What has the reaction been when you break into song?

Well, there's still a lot of stand-up in the show so there's just so much more jokes. I've written all this new material that I really want to get out. I tried to balance that between the music and make it all work as one big show. Ultimately that's what I am, a comic. But I've found most people are really excited about it and if anything, want more music.

There was a lot of music in the Sensuous Woman tour, where you really bared your body and all your tattoos. What was your first one?


I wanted to be tattooed since I was 12. I grew up around people who were verrry tattooed and they were always encouraging my parents to let me, but I never got to until I was much older. My first piece was a huge stomach and back piece of snakes and flowers by Ed Hardy, and I wanted the first piece to be very, very big. And now my whole body's tattooed but leave my arms from my elbows to my wrist blank because I'm still an actor and so I need versatility within my own skin.

You've obviously met more famous people than most people will ever meet, times ten. Did anyone really surprise you with what they're really like?

Fame is an odd thing. When you meet famous people you have an impression about what they're really like, so when they're not, it's not them, it's me. Even what they look like can be different. Often people that are famous don't even look like themselves or what you'd think. It's weird to be in this world where you meet people and you're a fan of their work and you meet them and they're an asshole. Or you meet them and they're great. Or you meet them and you hate them, but you still love them for their work. It's weird.

Have you ever razzed anyone famous and felt guilty later? No, everyone I've talked about I feel I've treated fairly. It's never really that personal, either. Because I don't know them in general. I always think, if I make fun of somebody what if I had to face them?

Last question: Dancing With The Stars -- why?

 I think it's an interesting social experience. I kind of wanted to do something different and I love dancing. I did a measure of dancing in Sensuous Woman, which is my burlesque style. So I wanted to bring that kind of theatricality to a show which I think is important to have variety and have fun. I think I don't take it as seriously as people are on the show. I just want to have fun and give it my all but at the same time be myself.
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