A Cho of force

Jason A. Michael
By | 2003-03-20T09:00:00-04:00 March 20th, 2003|Uncategorized|

Margaret Cho is the Energizer bunny of comediennes. She just keeps going and going and going. Or, actually, maybe she’s the Timex of comediennes. She takes a licking and keeps on ticking? All analogies aside, Margaret Cho is something special. Just when you think you can count her out – like, say, right after ABC dumped her after only one season of the sitcom that was supposed to launch her career into the stratosphere – she regroups and comes back quicker than roaches.
The comeback, of course, started in 1999 with her stunningly funny one-woman show “I’m The One That I Want.” The off-Broadway spectacular spawned a national tour, a feature film and a best-selling book. The follow-up, last year’s “Notorious C.H.O.,” also spawned a tour and a film. And now, Cho is launching her third show in four years and has plans to – you guessed it – once again tour, do it off-Broadway and release it as a film. (Actually, two films: one of the show, itself, as well as a “the making of”-type documentary a la Madonna’s “Truth or Dare.”)
At that pace, even the Energizer bunny would get tired. So how does she do it? How does she keep coming back fresher and funnier than ever?
“I write a lot,” she explains. “I write to earn my space on the planet. I love my work, and I love the audience that I get to play to. I find real joy doing stand-up comedy. I always wanted to do it and this is who I am and what I do.”
But what is it about who she is and what she does that keeps folks coming back to see her and hear her autobiographical comedy year after year?
“The story doesn’t stop,” she said. “It keeps going. It’s like going to see your friend and you haven’t seen your friend in a long time. And you have all this background information about them, and it’s about how we’re all growing up together. I think that’s part of it.”
The other part, she theorizes, is her unique take on the world and how it enables her to reach an audience that has been silent for far too long.
“They haven’t heard their own voice out in the media at all, especially young gay people, young lesbians, young people of color,” she said. “They don’t have a voice that speaks to them. ‘Will and Grace’ does not define what these kids go through … it’s just not a reality for them.”
Reality for all of us, these days, is the prospect of going to war. And that’s, of course, just what Cho takes on in her new show, aptly titled “Revolution.”
“It’s about Che Guevara,” she said. “This show is all about uprising. It’s about creating change through small acts of revolution that we’re all capable of. We all have that potential … to be powerful revolutionaries.
“This is, like, a philosophy than can change a nation – and I think we need changing,” she continued. “Not to say that I’m some kind of messianic force. But we all are, everybody is, collectively. It’s a great idea and it’s also funny. I think it’s the best work that I’ve done and I’m really proud of the show.”
Cho is also proud of another project she’s working on. In between shows, on planes and in the backseat of long, black limousines, she’s working on an inspirational book. But don’t expect it to be like any motivational tome you’ve ever encountered before.
“I really hate those books, those shitty, New Age, ‘Chicken Soup For Your Assholes,'” she said. “So I’m writing a book that’s like daily affirmations, but they’re all, like, horrible stories that are really funny but tragic. They’re almost like these drops of blood that’s, like, life – real and uncensored; and how life can be so funny and so great and so horrible at the same time.”
So now that Cho has found her voice, would she take her revolution back to television if given the chance?
“I wouldn’t do a sitcom, because to me it’s not rational,” she said. “I think that the closest thing to my dream show would be something like on Fox News Channel, like Bill O’Reilly’s show, where I could just sit and go off on what’s happening in the world. I would like a venue where I could just shoot my mouth off about whatever I want. And then at the end have a fashion show and make-up tips.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.