Being truthful means as much to Margaret Cho as being funny. And to prove it, she’ll stare down embarrassment (perhaps you’ve heard her describes sh—ing her pants while driving in her car?), misery (after her disastrous short-lived series, All-American Girl, she went into a drug-fueled tailspin that became the basis for a little piece of genius called, I’m the One That I Want), and alienation (being “uninvited” to an HRC event celebrating GLBT unity to avoid controversy re-defines the word “notorious”) – usually with hilarious results.
A self-described “fag hag” “raised by drag queens” who’s had a lesbian experience of her own, Cho always uses the terms “us” and “we” when talking about the gay and lesbian community. Never at a loss for words or without an opinion, the writer, performer and gay icon talked to AfterEllen about her upcoming feature film, Bam Bam and Celeste, hosting Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors tour, the lack of Asians on television and racism.
AfterEllen.com: What motivated you to write Bam Bam and Celeste?
AE: Bam Bam is a gay high school boy played by your friend and comedian Bruce Daniels, and you play Celeste, his best friend and fag hag. Why did you choose to tell that story?
AE: In the movie, your characters get taunted and harassed a lot — Bam Bam for being gay, and Celeste for being a freaky sort of girl.
AE: Was that something that happened to you in real life?
AE: It’s not just the kids who are cruel in your movie. There’s a reoccurring scene where Celeste’s neighbor throws his morning newspaper at her head as she walks to school.
AE: Well, it made me want to slap him.
AE: All-American Girl was canceled after only one season in 1995. And we haven’t seen another Asian-American series on network or cable TV since. What’s the hold up?
AE: With the exception of Sandra Oh and a very small handful of featured actors, Asians don’t represent to the degree that other minorities do. I’m waiting for a Chinese version of Everybody Hates Chris.
AE: I read a message-board post written by a Korean American expressing dismay that the Virginia Tech shooter was Korean. What are your thoughts about that?
During Virginia Tech, South Korea had to offer condolences, and that’s just weird, because that kid was American. And yet so much of his identity was wrapped up in his Koreanness, because that’s what was used to define him.
We’re not defined like white people are. Like if a white person had done it, they wouldn’t say “white shooter,” but with this one, it was all about … that Korean shooter. People [were] questioning who we’re letting into this country and all this. So it’s a very difficult thing.
I mean, I can’t explain what happened. But people even complained that my special was on TV after the thing happened because my name is Cho. Everyone complained to the networks, saying, “That’s in bad taste that you show that in light of recent events.” And it’s like, I had nothing to do with it. It’s not like he’s in my family, but they’re treating it like he was my family.
AE: Some people are racist idiots.
AE: Maybe we sometimes buy into our own stereotype: Work hard and don’t make waves. Maybe it’s time to make waves.
AE: You’ve also always been extremely vocal about gay and lesbian rights. This June, you’ll be hosting Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors tour. How did you get involved with that?
AE: Did you know Cyndi already? You both seem to be cut from the same cloth.
AE: In the past, you’ve said you’re waiting for the next “trash-talking , s—-starting, fag-hag girl comic” to come along and take your place. I can’t think of anyone on the horizon who could do that.
AE: Maybe you need to have a daughter.
AE: You’re making movies, doing online projects, and you’re a prolific blogger. Do you think you’ll ever give up doing stand-up?
AE: I hope so, too. You’ll be imitating your mother, but it won’t really be the imitation. It’ll just be you at 60.