Things went wrong the first time 40-year old comedian, actress and “gay icon” Margaret Cho, raised as Moran Cho in San Francisco during the swingin’ 1970’s, tried to “go Hollywood.” Her 1994 sitcom All-American Girl, which featured America’s first all-Asian-American TV family, could’ve been a historic success but became a catastrophe due in part to ABC’s confusing criticisms (sometimes “you’re too asian” and sometimes “you’re not asian enough”) and insistence that Cho lose weight for the starring role. She ended up being hospitalized for kidney failure after starving herself for weeks, and the depressing experience has been fodder for Cho’s racy stand-up act ever since.
Cho has finally returned to sitcoms full-time, co-starring in the commercially-successful Lifetime Television series Drop Dead Diva. The show is very tame compared to Cho’s notorious and hilarious career as a stand-up comedian, but she’s still out there on the road doing her solo thing. Cho’s current tour (which hit a snag recently when she lost her voice) makes its way Boulder next week and I interviewed her recently for a Boulder Weekly that basically never happened because her interview answers were surprisingly bland.
I’m still excited to see Cho perform at the Fox Theatre on October 5th, but as for the interview: it could’ve been my below-average questions, but apparently Cho is much like the Grateful Dead: you gotta see her live.
Anyway, see for yourself:
Adam Perry: How did you lose your voice? Or more importantly: how does a comedian go weeks without speaking?
Margaret Cho: I lost my voice because I used it too much while sick. It was terrible but I got used to it fairly quickly and then I kind of liked it. I was relieved of the responsibility of talking and that was relaxing. I did silent shows, which Jon Brion suggested, and he read my material as I acted it out. He also sang for me. It was very cool. I realized I have a lot to offer beyond my voice.
AP: As a musician, music journalist, and longtime fan of your standup, I’m really excited about Guitarded. How did the idea start and how did the recording go? I heard Andrew Bird will be on the album.
MC: I broke my months long silence to talk to Andrew Bird on the phone. It was very surreal. He’s amazing and it was great writing and recording with him. He’s such a genius and I’m a longtime fan. I don’t think the record will be called Guitarded. I’m still thinking of a title. I wanted to do songs with funny lyrics and serious music. I started singing on the True Colors tour with Cyndi Lauper. She taught me a lot.
AP: I lived in San Francisco from 2002-2008 and we have some mutual friends there, including the wonderful Kellita from Hot Pink Feathers. Living in such a liberal town, you’d never expect that much if not most of California is actually very conservative. What happened with Prop. 8?
MC: Oh I love Kellita! Yes I cannot believe Prop 8 passed in California. It’s really upsetting but only a minor setback in the big picture. I think what happened is that religious organizations from other states got involved, which isn’t fair or right but this is how these people operate. I just can’t believe the level of ignorance that exists in our country. It’s depressing and sad.
AP: Your first experience with sitcoms was apparently traumatic, but ostensibly inspired a lot of material for your stand-up career. What’s different, what’s similar, and what’s better about working on Drop Dead Diva?
MC: Well, it’s different because this time I’m a supporting player so my workload is a lot easier. I love the writing on Drop Dead Diva. Its wonderful, and the acting is so great! Its such an honor to work with such talented people.
AP: You recently worked with both Liza Minnelli and Paula Abdul – who’s crazier?
MC: They’re both beautiful and amazing and I felt like the crazy one.