Margaret Cho


Margaret Cho, the racy, raunchy, perfectly wonderful comedian will be performing at the Paramount in Austin on October 23. We had a chance to talk over the phone about her tour, called "Mother," and so much more.

I was lucky enough to be in Marfa a few weeks back, and I got to see you perform. I had no idea you were a singer!

Thank you! I had a good time. I was excited to go out there. It’s sort of like, those kind of places that are so hipster and cool to go … Marfa is like this new oasis,  it was a lot of fun. Davíd [Graza] is my really good friend and I was really thrilled to come out and hang out and sing.

Can you talk a little bit about why you love singing and songwriting?

It’s a little bit like comedy, but also branching out slightly … and different kinds of song writing. Oddly enough, I do a lot of it in Austin. Much of it is based in Texas. I go to Austin and I work with Davíd, who is a wonderful artist. I do music with him, and it’s all sorts of different genres. We do it in El Paso and Austin and then go to Marfa and perform. It’s a fun thing for me. I do a little bit of it in my standup, and I might do one of the songs in my performance at the Paramount.

It sounds like you have a big spot in your heart for Texas! Will you touch a little bit on your tour and what we can expect to see when you’re here?

I love coming to Texas because it’s a very diverse place, and Austin especially is so amazing. My show is called “Mother,” and it’s a little bit about my mother—who I talk about a lot in my performances—but also the idea that I play that role certainly in the gay community and certainly amongst my friends. I’m like a maternal figure. It’s about coming into that age of being a grande dame and being called “Mother,” which is something that I get called a lot. I really treasure it.

This isn’t the first time that you’ve taken “Mother” on tour, is that right?

I’ve been working on it kind of a part of the world at a time. I did a bit of it in Australia with it, and I took some time to work on Drop Dead Diva—which I work on some of the year—and then I went to little bits of Europe with it. I’ll go back to Europe with it after doing the US. It’s like, every time I have sort of a break from doing filming, so I’ve been working on it for a bit.

So in addition to your show, Drop Dead Diva, you also have a YouTube channel, a podcast and a blog that you update very regularly. How do you have time to breathe?

I think it’s all kind of the same sort of creativity: everything is all sort of filtered through comedy. Podcasting is really great and fun, and it’s also part of of my social life, too. A lot of stuff I do, like YouTube stuff, is all people I’m really close with, so that’s sort of a nice way to get together and hang out. Everything is sort of tied into social stuff and having fun.

Has being in command of your own multimedia empire been empowering for you?

Yes! You can kind of control the content and you can say what happens and what doesn’t happen, and it’s a very satisfying thing. And that’s what I love about all this new kind of social media, like podcasting, you really can have control over what you’re doing and it’s so great.

To change gears completely: you’ve been in an open marriage (with artist Al Ridenour) and you also identify as queer. Do you ever get tired of people asking about those elements of your life? 

I’m fine talking about it! I think people are curious, and I think it’s because there are such clear ways people have of defining themselves in sexuality and traditional forms of relationships. I always feel like I just kind of try to approach it honestly. My marriage really is wonderful and it works very well, and it’s also something I don’t really think about all that much, and I think other people struggle with jealousy and they struggle with identity. People who are in a relationship, they can’t imagine having other partners, or they can’t imagine negotiating that, but I can’t imagine it any other way. It’s just kind of the way that I live and the way that I am. And I don’t know if it has that much to do with my sexuality, either. I think my queerness is pretty separate from my being polyamorous. I think that’s, it’s connected but it’s also just sort of disconnected, too. It’s hard to exactly align them. I don’t think you need to be queer to be polyamorous, I don’t think you need to be polyamorous to be queer. They’re different experiences. But I don’t mind discussing it—I do talk about it in my new show, too. That’s a big part of it, about my sexuality and about that divide.

Why do you think the term ‘queer’ is such a great fit for you?

It’s great because it sort of explains politically where I am, and it includes that I am also heterosexual, too, and that I’m also homosexual, and that there are identities that do coincide in me. It’s totally a political term. “Queer” was often used around AIDS fundraising and AIDS awareness in the late 80s and early 90s, and I’ve always been really fond of that term and that political movement, so that makes sense to me.

You’re very public with your marriage, your sexuality, your identity as an Asian-American woman and your body image. How do you stay down to earth when you’re under constant scrutiny? 

It’s good because, if you’re a writer, it’s something to write about and elaborate on and to have fun with. I’m really happy to share all those things. I don’t have the same kind of attitude about privacy as a lot of people, so to me, it’s fun to use that as a tool for writing and as a tool for sharing and as a tool for people to feel less alone in their experiences, especially with body image stuff. It’s hard for people to deal with it, so when you can find a way to share what happened in your experience and maybe alleviate someone else’s burden by sharing that, it’s great.

And it informs your comedy, as well.

Yes. It’s good to get that kind of subject, where you can maybe help people feel better, and you help yourself feel better. Comedy is a mechanism to cope as well, so it’s all good.

Well, I’m so looking forward to seeing you back in Texas. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me!

Thank you so much!