When comedy matriarch Joan Rivers passed away in September, her fans were left grieving. For comedian Margaret Cho, the process meant honouring her mentor through the outlet she knows best – comedy.
“There’s no ‘i’ in ‘team,’ but there is a ‘Cho’ in ‘psycho’” delves into the comedian/actor’s relationship with Rivers, bisexuality and queer politics, and her rage for the ongoing problem of violence against women.
And it’ll be hilarious.
Monday Magazine: How do you balance wanting to deliver a message with writing things that are, simply put, funny?
Margaret Cho: It’s not about preaching. It’s about ways to find catharsis for everyone. Everybody’s got the same feeling of ‘How do we deal with this?’ All of this violence is happening against women, and with the NFL, how do we process it? There’s a way that we can find our strength. A lot of that comes through rage. Treating that with respect and humour is very powerful.
MM: Is this something that you even consider now that you’ve had so long to develop your voice?
MC: It’s a process that I’ve learned because I’ve been doing this for so long. The writing has changed, but I’ve always stayed the same as a person…The themes and topics mature as I grow more mature.
MM: Your standup has dealt with addiction, self-confidence issues and pressures put on you from within the industry. Is that an ongoing struggle and something that you want to be a role model for?
MC: It’s something that I worried about, with this show in particular. Addiction is something that haunts me and I think it haunts a lot of people. And what happens is as soon as you get rid of one thing, it turns into something else, so you’re constantly trying to chase it and it’s very difficult. I don’t know how to be a role model for that. All we can do is tell our story.
MM: How did you come up with the Kim-Jong-il/Kim Jong-un (characters on 30 Rock) and how concerned were you with who you might be pissing off?
MC: Oh, I don’t care. It would be great if I was pissing them off and it would be my right to, because I am actually of North Korean descent. And my Korean name, Moran, is actually the name of Kim-Jung-il’s production company. There is a level of symmetry there.
MM: Do you remember why you first wanted to tell your story on stage, and have you considered stopping?
MC: I would never stop. I always wanted to do this. I always knew this was the right thing. This is my life and that’s how it goes. This has always been my identity.
MM: Performing since you were 16?
MC: Actually, I started at 14…As soon as I figured out what (comics) did. It was seeing Joan Rivers that made me say: ‘I want to do this. This is who I want to be.’ And that’s why her death is so hard, because this is who I’ve grown up modelling my life after for so long. … Ever since I was seven or eight, I committed to being a comedian. I knew that’s what I would do.