Though her act in the Smith Center Saturday night focused on topics like menstruation and colon hydrotherapy, in person comedian Margaret Cho is serious and soft-spoken. In an interview with The Hatchet, the 33-year old comedienne talked about her act, her message and some things on the horizon.
Cho has tackled several forms of media, ranging from film to the written word, in her 17-year career. She has appeared in films such as John Woo’s Face/Off, and released several live-performance videos. She wrote and starred in her own one-woman Broadway show, “I’m the One That I Want,” and has a best-selling book of the same name.
Cho made one of her most controversial breakthroughs with her ABC sitcom “All-American Girl,” a show that made comedy out of themes of her own ethnicity, Asian. Despite the show’s short run, Cho said she was grateful for the chance.
“It was a chance for me to work with all these great Asian American actors . just amazing, amazing people,” she said. “It was good to be able to connect with them and be able to have that experience.”
Being a woman made it hard for Cho to break into the entertainment industry. Being an Asian-American woman made it even tougher, she said. But the comedienne managed to break barriers in the industry and bring minority issues into mainstream comedy.
Cho’s quiet and reserved manner out of the spotlight contrasts with her wild, onstage personality. While she is open about discussing her career and influences, offstage she’s not the fowl-mouthed spark plug a college journalist hopes for.
Cho’s most recent endeavor is her touring comedy act titled “Notorious C.H.O.,” which recently finished a U.S. tour with a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall. Cho will continue with performances in Australia for the next month. Cho spoke highly about touring the country, although she admitted it can be an ordeal at times.
Cho’s dominance in the college circuit stands out in her long comedic career. She began much of her career performing for college students, and as the turnout at the Smith Center Saturday proved, still flourishes in it. It was her fifth GW show.
“I usually go back and do universities when I’m in the process of writing a new show, which is what I’m doing now,” Cho stated, “I’ve actually played this university quite a few times over the years.”
While a lot of her material remains the same for university performances, Cho said she enjoys other opportunities a college show allows, such as a Q&A at the close of her show.
“When I go to universities I have more of an opportunity to talk to students. It’s a really good opportunity to talk about what everybody wants to do with their lives and help them out and it’s a way to combine this kind of motivational speaking that I do, and comedy.”
Cho did just that in her GW appearance. She amused audiences with some crude humor about sex and body image. She used a number of hilarious vocal impressions to tell stories of her mother and other important people in her life.
Toward the end of the act, Cho turned from comedian to motivational speaker, tackling serious issues of racism, sexism and body image. She urged all artists, especially minorities, to pursue their dreams regardless of those who may criticize. She addressed student questions, which extended into a discussion about women’s issues and feminism.
One theme Cho incorporated both seriousness and humor for was Sept. 11 and the terrorist attacks on America. She made jokes about anthrax while also reflecting the importance of patriotism and unity during times of crisis.
Cho remarked that the events of Sept. 11 altered several aspects of her tour.
“When September 11th happened it was right in the beginning of everything, so there were a lot of things that changed and moved around and became more topical,” Cho said. “I generally don’t do that much topical material, but I became fonder of doing that as this progressed, as the situation progressed.”
As for her future, Cho is currently working on a new book and continues to tour. For a comedian from a minority background, Margaret Cho has managed to make a major impact in the humor world. And, from the looks of it, it’s far from over.