As her fans are well aware, Margaret Cho isn’t exactly afraid to offend. In fact, the comedienne is infamous for her angry rants and shockingly frank and personal talk about sex, often making her shows an uncomfortable experience for the unsuspecting puritanical set, but a beloved experience for her faithful followers.
But don’t mistake her profanity and vitriol for apathy. In fact, all of that rage and provocativeness comes from caring deeply about sensitive issues such as rape, addiction, racism, homophobia, body image, sex, eating disorders and more – and Cho is willing to say what others can’t – or won’t – to get her point across. In short, Cho is dead serious about her comedy, because it means so much more than just a laugh.
See for yourself Friday night as the no-holds-barred performer brings The psyCHO Tour to the Fillmore Miami Beach, where she’ll take on whatever is driving her crazy at the moment. And if we get lucky, Cho will actually marry one happy same-sex couple onstage (yes, she’s been given the power to officiate weddings, believe it or not), although at press time, she had yet to find a willing pair to take the plunge in Miami.
Cho talked to Miami.com about the show, her struggles with addiction and self-destructive behavior, why and how she was deputized to marry gay couples, and whether any subject is too taboo for her to tackle, plus moving and hilarious tributes to her late “father” and “mother” in comedy, Robin Williams and Joan Rivers.
How similar will this show be to your Showtime special by the same name?
It’ll be vastly different. For me, comedy is always changing and growing. I filmed that in March, so already the show has evolved past the material that I was doing on the special, but it still has retained the spirit of trying to create social change with comedy, and trying to turn anger and rage into jokes that heal. I think that’s the principle of it. I think people who have seen the special will really be excited, because it expands on the themes that I started on the show.
What are some of the things that you’re most angry about, that you want to address?
Weight. I think that is something that affects so many people. It’s not just women – it’s men, too, and I think men have a harder time with it, because they’re not supposed to give voice to their abuse. And I think when you’re able to talk about it, it really helps. And so that for me has been really a shift in the way that this show has grown and changed, is to find a way to take your abuse and murder the rapist that lives inside of you, because that can often turn into eating disorders, self-mutilation, addiction, depression, suicide. There’s a really good way to release that anger and release that rage, and stop that pain that we endure after being victimized. It’s going from being a victim to being a survivor.
You’ve talked a lot about your own addiction and problems with prescription painkillers, and today you’re looking really well. Will you talk about that as well?
Yes, and that’s something that goes along with having been a victim and turning it into being a survivor. I internalized all that shame and suffering and then became very self-destructive, and so when you can recognize that within yourself, you can actually start to heal. And I am feeling very well: I’m actually green and sober, which I think is a nice thing to be. I only smoke pot [laughs] – that’s my only vice. It’s a really legit thing, and I’m not exactly promoting that for everybody, but for me it works very well.
Another issue very close to you is the deaths of Robin Williams and Joan Rivers, basically your father and mother in comedy – will that also be part of your show?
Yes, and I have a little bit of a different take on that, too, now that it’s been some time. But that’s always really beautiful to share, and to recognize that comedy is not performed without a mentor and an apprentice. And now that my mentors are gone, I have to find that rung of the ladder and get up there myself and go up a notch and also bring my apprentices, which are vast – people who have been influenced by my work. It’s very exciting, and most exciting of all right now is Amy Schumer, who continually thanks me for my influence, and I’m so grateful for that. I really love her, I love her comedy, and I love what she’s doing for women. Every day, she’s taking her message out there – whether it’s for feminism, whether it’s for body image, whether it’s for anti-gun violence. There’s so many things that she’s doing that I’m so proud of, and she’s gracious enough to thank me for the inspiration.
One thing that both of you have in common is that you don’t seem to be afraid to say anything, to “go there.” Is there anything taboo for you, that you won’t say?
No, I try to find it, and I haven’t found that yet. So I have to keep trying, I guess [laughs]. I’d like to find that line. I search for it every day. Certainly, there’s gotta be something, so I’ll keep trying until I get there.
People love to hear about your real mother – will she again be a big part of your show?
Oh yes, and also talking about my mother’s reaction to my victimization. She’s got a really funny take on all of that as well. So there will be a new side of her that people haven’t seen, which I think is exciting.
What inspired you to want to marry people at your shows?
I was deputized to marry gay couples in the rotunda of City Hall by [San Francisco Mayor] Gavin Newsom in the mid-2000s, and that was really tremendous, because marriage equality hadn’t been realized yet, so in a sense Gavin Newsom was breaking the law, and he was allowing gay couples to marry. It was really tremendous to go to the site of Harvey Milk’s assassination, which is the most tragic thing in gay political history, and then to go back to marry gay couples at the site of this tragedy is very, very healing. So I wanted to bring a bit of that to each show.
Your act is a mix of bravado and self-deprecation. Is that your natural personality?
Yeah, but also it’s heightened, as are most things in entertainment. I like that, because it’s gotta be highbrow and it’s gotta be lowbrow, and I feel that I’m talking about a lot of stuff that’s very important, and maybe sort of falls just outside my jurisdiction as a comedienne, whether it’s rape or homophobia or gun violence, racism, sexism – all these things which are pretty big topics to take on, but when you have a real sense of humility about it and a real sense of joy with comedy, too, I think for me that’s where the perfect combination is. You can’t be so high and mighty that you forget about poo-poo jokes.