In the name of comedy, there isn't a subject that's off-limits for Margaret Cho. Her stand-up routines plow over sensitive topics like race and sexuality, G-spots and drugs, with just the right amount of raunchiness. She also does a hilarious impersonation of her mother and her ode to being a fag hag brings me to tears every time.
Margaret is a sassy, tattooed woman with many different roles, including comedienne, actor, author and most recently, recording artist. She's an activist, in the truest sense, using her voice and her comedy to start the important conversations many of us are too afraid to spark. She also, unfortunately, has lost her voice. I was calmed with the fact I wouldn't have to nervously stutter over the phone with one of my comedic idols, and wracked my brain for days thinking of interesting questions to send to her, ranging from "Why are you so cool?" to "Will you be my Facebook friend?" Our correspondence is as follows:
Xpress: What was your focus and inspiration for your current tour?
Cho: I am trying to figure out which songs are going to go on my comedy-with-serious-music project. I am doing an album called Guitarded with Andrew Bird, Jon Brion and Patty Griffin and some other amazing folks, and I want to fine tune this material. It's a little difficult right now because I have lost my voice, which is terrible, but I refuse to cancel shows, so I am doing it all using the text to speech program on my Mac. However, I will be back and better than ever by the time I get to Asheville. Some of the silent portions of the show may be incorporated into the regular show because it's going so well!
What are your pre-show rituals?
I used to drink Diet Coke and Pellegrino, but now I cannot have any kind of carbonated beverage, which is really hard. I need to go to CA — Carbonation Anonymous. It's really hard to give it up and I am not sure I can do it alone.
It's pretty widely accepted that most comedy comes from a place of insecurity and defense mechanisms. How has becoming more comfortable in your own skin affected the way you view things as a comedienne?
I have a lifetime of insecurity and defensiveness to fall back on.
What words of wisdom do you have for young Asian-American women trying to understand their identity as it relates to their family and communities?
I say do what you want. You have to live your life. So many Asian Americans forfeit their dreams in order to satisfy their families, and all that leads to is a very painful midlife crisis. I say just do what you want now.
I know that you have a recurring role on the new show on the Lifetime Network, Drop Dead Diva, which deals a lot with the main character struggling to accept her new reincarnated and less-than-perfect body. Can you talk more about this project?
I am one of the stars! I love Drop Dead Diva! People love it. It's all about self-esteem and this is very important for everyone to have. I think people respond well to the show because they see themselves in the lead character — played beautifully by Brooke Elliott. It really is a show about how society makes certain people feel invisible, and we have to fight for visibility using our own gifts, and this is a very real and earthly situation explored in a fantastical setting. I think it just makes people feel good.
Can you talk about your involvement with Prop 8 and why it's important to you?
I have been involved with marriage equality since 2004, and it is important because I want our community and our relationships treated with the same respect and dignity that the "mainstream" community takes for granted.
Finally, what's your favorite sex toy?
Hitachi magic wand! I am also fond of Betty Dodson's vaginal barbell — which was stolen out of my luggage by someone at the airport!!! I need a new one but they are hard to find.
who: Margaret Cho
what: Stand-up comedy and music (for mature audiences)
where: The Orange Peel (www.theorangepeel.net)
when: Wednesday, Sept. 16 (early show at 7 p.m., late show at 10 p.m. $22 advance/$25 doors.