Margaret Cho: Divorce and Rehab to sold-out shows

Margaret Cho photo by Sergio Garcia
Margaret Cho photo by Sergio Garcia

Margaret Cho is moving forward with movies and TV

Margaret Cho photo by Sergio Garcia
Margaret Cho photo by Sergio Garcia

Life came to a standstill for Margaret Cho. Coupled with back-to-back adversities from the cancellation of her six-season Lifetime series Drop Dead Diva to the demise of her marriage to long-time partner Al Ridenour. Then she entered rehab for alcohol and drug addiction. Nevertheless, through it all, Cho prevailed. She has embarked on her most successful tour yet with Fresh Off The Bloat, now entering its third year. Plus she has a new podcast, appearances in NBC’s Law & Order: SVU, the upcoming feature film Friendsgiving. Margaret Cho does not hold back and divulges all in her most intimate conversation yet!

The Fresh Off The Bloat tour has become your most successful tour to date, with more dates consistently being added. Is your upcoming performance at Englewood’s Bergen PAC an extension of Fresh Off The Bloat or an entirely different concept?

Margaret Cho: It is a continuation of the tour, but with brand new material. The show continues to change and evolve based on current events and what is taking place within the news media. There is a lot going on within the world as far as Trump is concerned, which makes the show very exciting. The tour is pretty incredible because it is constant movement, and continues to transform based on what is going on politically.

This summer, you launched your podcast, The Margaret Cho. As a comedian who is routinely interviewed in the press and media, what is it like to step behind the mic and interview others?

MC: This is such a different process which has become thoroughly gratifying for me. I feel as though I have learned to be a good interviewer from being interviewed in many different manners over the course of my career. Hence, for me, this is invigorating.

Who has been your favorite interview thus far?

MC: I would have to say Kathy Griffin was a particularly special interview. Kathy is a really good friend of mine and has been through so much following the notorious photograph which truly derailed everything in her life for a while. It is astounding how destructive that whole experience was for her, yet at the same time, to see how she has transcended today illustrates she can survive anything. It is an incredible story; Kathy Griffin is amazing, and I enjoyed getting down with her.

Have you always longed to host a podcast, or was this more of an experimental opportunity?

MC: Yes! I had actually done a podcast at the very dawn of podcasting in 2012. So it was exciting to revisit—and get it right this time around. Plus, I have listened to so many podcasts for quite some time that this was the perfect avenue to venture back to.

You guest star on the current season of NBC’s Law & Order: SVU as a massage parlor manager tied up in a sex trafficking sting operation. Can you tell us more about this role and your experience starring in such a powerful television series?

MC: This is a very exciting role because (laughs) I get to play the villain, which is so new to me! Working on Law & Order: SVU was exciting because I have known Mariska Hargitay for a long time; she actually guest-starred on my ABC television series All American Girl in June 1994. It was great to work with her because it felt like we were coming full circle. As far as my case goes, it is based on a true story about a human trafficker trafficking people from China for sex work. It is an extremely intense storyline and a very different role to play because my character is so evil and conniving, albeit relatable. While working on Law & Order: SVU, I realized when you play a villain, the person you are channeling is not aware they are a villain. In reality, no one ever identifies as a villain; they always have their own reasoning for their behavior. Thus, it was my job to find a reason to justify my character exploiting people.

Margaret Cho with her dog photo by Gor Megaera
Margaret Cho with her dog photo by Gor Megaera

Did you find working on Law & Order: SVU made you yearn to play more of the villain or darker character moving forward in your acting career?

MC: I think so because there is such a different energy that you put into the performance when playing the enemy because you really have to search within and ask yourself, “Where am I this dastardly? Where am I selfish enough to justify hurting people or abusing people in any way?” As an actor, it is a very different kind of feeling to go for.

Your sitcom, All American Girl, turns 25 this year. Looking back at your career, would you consider doing either a reboot or a similar sitcom today?

MC: I would love to. I adore reboots and admire the idea behind them with discovering a new route to tell the original story. I have been feeling very nostalgic lately, and now is the perfect time to attempt to do something like this.

You are currently working on the American comedy film Friendsgiving which also stars fellow comedian Wanda Sykes and a plethora of other big names. Can you tell us about your role in this movie?

Margaret Cho photo by Sergio Garcia
Margaret Cho photo by Sergio Garcia

MC: I am a Fairy Gay Mother (laughs), which is kind of self-explanatory alongside Wanda Sykes and Fortune Feimster, both of whom are hilarious. It is always a pleasant experience working with my friends. I genuinely love those girls. I also got to become acquainted with Kat Dennings, who plays Abby. I really get excited to meet the new children of comedy. I had a great time working on the film. Lately, I have been getting much more involved in the acting side of my career, which is exhilarating.

Rolling Stone named you one of the 50 Best Stand-Up Comics of All Time. Outside of yourself, what other comedian in the industry do you have the most respect or admiration for?

MC: Always Wanda Sykes. Wanda is where I would like to be professionally and personally. I admire Wanda’s ability to perform stand-up, act, write, produce, etc. I also have tremendous respect for her work in social affairs, politics, race relations, and feminism. Additionally, I have to give praise to Kathy Griffin, who represents resilience to me. Kathy is a great example of standing up for what you believe in, no matter the repercussions or judgment. Wanda and Kathy are both special to me—I mean—they are the only other two better at karaoke than myself (laughs).

As we make our way into 2020, what are your thoughts on the political climate today, and going back to our 2017 conversation; do you still believe Trump will be a one-term president?

MC: Well, we are hoping for impeachment. However, I feel like now we are actually realizing the possibility that there may very well be a second term. Impeachment is vital, albeit we are also up against matters which are even more important such as addressing climate change and global warming, which we are late at, to begin with. Thank God for young people who are the ones paying attention. They will inherit this earth and will have to live with what we’ve done to it. We need to get Trump out of office and address these detrimental matters which he has ignored.

Who do you believe has the best chance at getting him out of office?

MC: Elizabeth Warren. I love her, and I think she is the most realistic candidate in terms of winning the election. I think she is the most prepared, and overall, one badass lady. With that being said, I love Bernie Sanders, albeit I feel his chances have slightly diminished given his unfortunate health issues as of late. We do not want to elect him, and then God forbid something horrible occurs. I also love love, love, Pete Buttigieg. I think he is a really solid candidate. I think a Warren/Sanders ticket or Warren/Buttigieg ticket could be the way to go. At this point, it almost doesn’t matter who is there as long as it’s not Trump (laughs).

You recently stated that you would not mind dying alone. Has your divorce or sobriety changed the way you view relationships?

MC: Yes, at least in the sense that I recently came to the realization that I have been partnered my whole life, and my identity has become, to some degree, centered around being partnered. In my adult life, I have never been single for more than a few weeks. Let’s be honest—that is really strange. I had an epiphany where I thought to myself that I need to reevaluate this, find out if I enjoy being alone, and I have the suspicion I do because every time I get into a relationship, I am ultimately trying to get out. I will take all sorts of routes to get out of a relationship, whether it is being polyamorous, which worked for a point in the early 2000s, to getting involved in the leather scene. Turning 50 for me has been about introspection. Why I am living this way?  What is important and what is not? I do not know if always being confined to someone serves me well. So I am trying to stay single during my 50s.

You identify as bisexual. Even in 2019, there is still a stigma when it comes to bisexuality being regarded as a cloak or half-truth. Why do you feel there is still such a stigmatization?

MC: I think a stigma still exists because people do not like something that has variables. It is hard for people to accept something that is not fixed or defined simply. It goes against the idea that being gay is a choice. I also feel some people who originally came out as bisexual before admitting they were either gay or lesbian exhibit internalized shame, and in turn, view anyone else who identifies as bisexual as a fraud. Essentially, you are dealing with people’s baggage about identity and the definition of what it means to be queer. I find that there is still a lot of prejudice within the LGBT community itself. If I want a dick tonight, I’m still bi (laughs).

In closing, where do you feel we need the most work as a community?

MC: We need the most work in safeguarding the lives of trans women of color. There is some representation, such as on shows like FX’s Pose. However, I think we need to begin to realize there are people who have to face a lot of dangers every day in lieu of their queer status. Safety is the most important thing to all of us and especially where trans is concerned. I think we have done really well with young people. For example, in 2011, we had so many young gay males committing suicide, and since we have addressed the suicide epidemic, it is improving. We must do the same for the trans community and assist the minority within the minority.

See Margaret Cho at Bergen Performing Arts Center on Thursday, November 14th at 8 pm.