Margaret Cho The Exclaim! Questionnaire
Published Aug 21, 2010Comedian Margaret Cho adds another hyphenate to her career this month with the release of her first all-music album Cho Dependent. Working in the comedy music world forged by the likes of Weird Al Yankovic comes naturally to the 41-year-old, who describes herself as a "longtime backstage staple." Recruiting the likes of Ani DiFranco, Grant Lee Buffalo, Fiona Apple, Tegan and Sara and Andrew Bird as co-collaborators, she found a natural connection. ""Most standups want to be musicians and most musicians want to be comics ― it's something we all have in common."
Cho found common ground in the writing process as well. "There's similarity in songwriting and joke writing ― it's the importance of economy of words, making sure your message is as concise as it can be." Don't be scared that Cho is abandoning her stage-pacing and joke-telling though: upcoming tour dates will include a handful of songs, but will mostly be a standup tour before she goes back to her supporting role on Lifetime show Drop Dead Diva, and then back to the studio for a follow-up music album. For next time she's recruiting even more Canadians, including Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew and New Pornographer Carl Newman.
What are you up to?
I'm in Provincetown, MA and I'm working on my standup show Cho Dependent, which is also the album. The standup portion is taking up most of the tour, so it will be mostly a standup tour, with a little music in there, but it will be mostly comedy. So I'm just working on new material.
What are your current fixations?
I'm super obsessed with peanut tofu and Steve Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant who went off last week and is going to be a reality TV star I guess ― I'm very excited about him, he's a gay American hero.
Why do you live where you do?
I live in two places ― I live in Atlanta, Georgia six months of the year working on Drop Dead Diva, which is a TV show that I'm on, and I live is Los Angeles, where I have a family, I'm married, I have dogs, I have a wonderful life there. But I barely see it because I'm on the road a lot.
Can you name something you consider a mind-altering work of art?
Broken Social Scene's You Forget It In People is a mind-altering, mind-blowing work. I love Kevin Drew ― I'm in the process of writing a song with Kevin that will be on my next album ― and there are so many reasons why. He's just a great singer, songwriter and performer and the band is phenomenal, and I just love what he does. It takes you to another place, musically, and it can transform and change you.
What's been your most memorable or inspiration gig and why?
I think every gig is inspirational. I think it's amazing that I can still do it and still enjoy it and still live it. I've been a comic since I was 16, so it's very meaningful to still be able to do it.
What have been your career highs and lows?
Highs, I think now, releasing this album has been a major high because I've been working on it for a long time and it's these collaborations that I'm really so proud of with people that I love ― Tegan and Sara and AC Newman and Grant Lee Phillips. I don't know that there have been any lows. I'm still shocked that I'm able to do it, I think every day is a high.
What's the meanest thing that anyone has said to you, before, during or after a gig?
Nobody really gets in my face. It never happens around gigs ― I think people are too scared of me ― but people say shit in other venues at other times, but I never remember any of it. I've had hecklers, but I know how to handle it quickly. It's not been a problem. You have to defuse it. You have to be very masterful.
What do you think everyone should shut up about?
Trying to keep gay marriage from happening in California. I don't know why these groups have to keep blocking our equal rights. It's so ludicrous. Why are there religious beliefs somehow relevant to our lives? They have nothing to do with our lives. They should just shut up.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
Well, I really dislike that I'm quite lazy ― I'm quite content to just lay there and do nothing. I like that, but I also dislike that. It feels good but it's not productive.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
What advice should you have taken but you didn't?
I pretty much have tried to heed all good advice. I guess maybe I should have kept the house I was living in close to the Hollywood sign, but it's been about 12 years.
What would make you kick someone out of your band or your bed and have you?
Everyone in my band is so hugely famous, that I'm too honoured that they'd play with me. I wouldn't kick anyone out of my bed either, because I'm so glad that they want to do it.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
I think I should probably qualify for a Juno. I work with so many Canadian musicians on this record and on my next one: Tegan and Sara, AC Newman, Kevin Drew, Lucas Silveira of the Cliks, Tommy Chong.
What was the first LP/cassette/8-track/CD that you bought with your own money?
That would be a 45 of "Le Freak" by Chic. A great, great record. I'm friends with Nile Rodgers and I'm trying to get him to play on my next record. He's just an icon. That, and the theme to Ice Castles by Melissa Manchester ― I think it's called "Through the Eyes of Love."
What's been your most memorable day job?
I used to be a phone sex operator, but I also worked at FAO Schwartz, which is a big toy store, at the same time as a Raggedy Ann doll. I didn't have time between shifts, so I would take off the yarn wig and go to the phone sex place and do phone sex with half a Raggedy Ann costume. I got hit on a lot as a Raggedy Ann doll at the toy store. I've never had so much attention. People do fetishize that doll or something. This was far before anything like cosplay was in vogue.
How do you spoil yourself?
I just eat. All different kinds of fudge and chocolate.
If you weren't doing comedy, what other career would you like to try?
Veterinary medicine. I'm really good at figuring out with what's wrong with animals. I can pretty much fix them ― to a limited extent. That's what I would go into.
What do you fear the most?
Spiders. So maybe I can't be a vet.
What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
Pretty much everything. I'm 41, so I don't have a lot of time left. The passage of time really makes me want to get it on.
What's been your strangest celebrity encounter?
One time I did shots with Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev, Jane Fonda and Ted Turner. And we got wasted. I mean, fucking wasted. With Gorbachev. It was this weird event ― it was about the environment, and they'd brought over Gorbachev to preside over this green expo. Ted Turner is such a cowboy, to welcome them, we were all going to do shots of vodka. It was like a party that seems like you're at Madame Tussaud's.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
I would love to have Lord Byron over, and serve him the peanut tofu dish I've been making, it's delicious.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
My mom's very happy with what I do now. She wasn't always. I started so young ― my parents were worried about me.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
Björk's "Hyperballad" ― I've already thought all that through. It's such a weird song, it's really romantic and beautiful. It's a perfect funeral march for the modern age.