Margaret Cho has achieved a reputation as an icon within the world of comedy and within the LGBT community, having acquired a solid career within a highly competitive industry and continuing to give her all to the fight for equality. Several years ago, however, Cho experienced a devastating downward spiral that included hit after hit (and not in the chart-topping manner). After six seasons, the Lifetime series Cho starred in, Drop Dead Diva, was cancelled, Cho divorced her husband of eleven years, entered rehab citing substance abuse issues with alcohol and drug use, and it was rumored she was still struggling to move past the childhood rape she endured from her uncle.
Today, Margaret Cho is back and stronger than ever. Sober, engaged, and embarking on a critically acclaimed world tour, Fresh off the Bloat, which includes shows throughout the United States and Europe. It has been seven years since Cho last spoke with Out In Jersey. Today, Cho opens up in what may be the comic’s most personal and candid interview to date.
You often incorporate a theme into your tours and performances. Given the title, and especially given the political climate, is there a lot of immigrant satire with Fresh off the Bloat?
Margaret Cho: Yes! I feel there has to be. The title was meant to dramatically hint at such. The tour really delves into the dysfunction we have to endure as awaken people in an unpredictable nation. I blame Nascar and energy drinks for breeding all of this (laughs). I feel like that has something to do with it.
What can fans and attendees expect? Is this tour similar to or a sequel of The Assassin Tour?
MC: I view Fresh off the Bloat more so as a continuation of Revolution. That tour was very much about trying to cope with the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, going to numerous wars, and a plethora of changes. It was as though we woke up into this new dark world, which was hard to accept, and unfortunately I feel we are experiencing the same situation today, a 2.0 of sorts.
During The Assassin Tour, your shows featured heavy political commentary on former President Bush. You mentioned Bush was “not Hilter but could be if he applied himself” and was “the most embarrassing president in history.” Has Donald Trump given you greater material to work with, and moreover, do you liken him to Hitler?
MC: Absolutely! Trump is the worst. You thought it could not get any worse…and then it did! That is where the irony comes in. You thought it would taper off at some point, yet he surprises us every time he speaks and tweets. He embarrasses the nation every day. I liken George W. Bush to that crazy psycho ex who no longer appears as threatening compared to who we are presently dealing with. It is just awful. The fact that Trump makes many yearn for the Bush Presidency speaks volumes in and of itself.
Today, Trump is president. While we have made significant progress in the past ten years with the legalization of same sex marriages, since the election, there have been rollbacks on various Obama policies Where do you see LGBT rights going? Do you see Trump as a two-term president?
MC: No. I do not even see Trump completing this first term. I doubt it. He can’t sustain it, clearly. I do not even believe he wanted this job in the first place. Regarding the transgender attack, it is beyond insulting what Trump is doing, especially given the fact that he has never served in the military, let alone even been in boot camp. He has no right discussing anything to do with the military. He has no say to discuss who can or cannot serve in the military. It is important, now more than ever, for the LGBT community to really stand our ground during these erratic times. As we have recently witnessed, Trump obviously is willing to side with Nazis — let that sink in — and the state of LGBT affairs is going to get crazy if we don’t ensure our voices will be heard louder than ever before.
Since you do not foresee Trump completing his first term, do you feel as though the rollbacks he initiated will progress or will they be walled off due to either public outrage or a lack of support?
MC: We all believed Hillary Clinton would be president. Look where that belief got us. You have to take action in today’s society. I hope he gets walled off. Does that mean he will? The bottom line is there is no way to tell which way he is going to go. I do not have complete certainty which is why taking action and becoming involved is more crucial now than it ever was, especially if rights can be pushed to be taken away so fast.
When you say you do not believe Donald Trump ever intended to actually become president, are you suggesting his entire campaign was a public relations stunt to garner attention for his business ventures gone wrong? Secondly, do you feel the electoral college should be abolished?
MC: Totally. Completely. I do not think he expected to win nor did a majority of America. You know how when you make a mistake yet you do not want anyone to know you made a mistake, so you keep pretending you intended to do that very mistake? We’ve all been there, and I liken the situation to that. This applies to both Trump and the electoral college. Except this “mistake” led to Trump holding the most important and most prominent position in the entire world — being the leader of the free world. To fall into that, and to not have sincerely wanted it from the get-go, is beyond infuriating.
There has been a lot of discussion within the media regarding the ironic link between comedians and depression. Do you find this to be accurate and if so why?
MC: To be honest, it is true. Comedy itself is a coping mechanism, that many of us do to merely survive. If you have a highly adept coping mechanism it just points to your own depression. It’s real. It’s something many of us in the field face. My depression is legitimate and not a public relations stunt… the comedy sector of the entertainment industry is where real clinical depression runs rampant. I have to combat a lot and I refuse to take any antidepressants. I do involve myself in many coping measures such as extensive exercise. You have to do what works for you.
Why do you feel this exists to begin with, though? Why is there such a heavy correlation?
MC: I liken it to the tears of the clown. Many of us are crying on the inside yet smiling and laughing on the outside. While I can tell you that I feel this is something I was meant to do, and I am tremendously grateful for my career, it is interesting how there is such an archetype.
It’s been several years since your divorce. Would you be open to marrying again and do you find that you have more chemistry with females than males or visa-versa?
MC: I will get married again. I would love to get married again. I am bisexual and presently engaged to a man. I am so grateful that we have same-sex marriage. I feel that is such an integral part in how the world has changed and progressed, especially in those who are not part of the community being able to better understand us and realize that we are more alike than different, and do not deserve the stigmas which were previously spouted against us albeit some elements of society still try to keep the typecasts alive.
Do you mind telling us a little bit about your fiancé?
MC: He is the greatest. We are very happy. Outside of my performances, I like to keep the relationship private to some degree. I am not on a reality show and do not need that storyline (laughs).
You have always been very candid and open in your line of work. How has your divorce, stint in rehab, and various personal struggles affected Fresh off the Bloat? Is this your most vulnerable show yet?
MC: I definitely think so. I am certain my universal breakdown gave birth to my best work yet. I love a good crazy stint in a hospital — it is oh so very glamorous to be in a straight jacket for a bit — to get a time out (laughs). In all seriousness I needed it and I do not think getting the help you need should be stigmatized as rehab has grown to have such a negative connotation. I do not feel as though it is a bad thing to get out of your own way for a bit.
Did that downtime help you professionally and creatively?
MC: I believe it always helps when you are able to stop and view the world in a different light. When you are able to be introspective, reevaluate all aspects of your life with the fullest integrity, you can further progress spiritually, emotionally and physically.
You have a devoted following. What has been your most eccentric and/or bizarre experience with fans?
MC: It actually took place in the northern New Jersey area. Following a performance, I was at a nightclub. I had two male fans in front me discussing whether or not I was Margaret Cho. I abruptly interrupted their conversation, proclaiming “it’s me, bitch” and I allowed them to enjoy my bottle service, and we drank on/off for the remainder of the night. Spontaneous moments like that I love and live for. While I do not drink anymore, and in hindsight some of the things I did before I was sober were disgusting (laughs), I still love getting crazy. I am a party girl at heart, and that is not going to change. I love to do the aforesaid shit minus the alcohol.
What is your favorite gay club in the area?
MC: Everything has changed and is always changing at a rapid rate within the gay nightlife circuit. I used to frequent the now closed Splash in New York religiously. That was my favorite! Today, since becoming sober, I am more of a restaurant type of girl. I love to visit Lucky Cheng’s Drag Queen Restaurant — it is beyond fabulous. Today, it is one of my favorite spots when I am in the area!
Any last words for our readers?
MC: I am very grateful to have so many fans, and that to me is genuinely my greatest achievement. To have made such a great career and to have garnered such a wonderful alliance with the gay community, being able to be who I am no holds barred is everything. We have grown together, survived so much, and I am so grateful to still be around. Thank you!