Margaret Cho’s Rhythm Method
By Tim Parks
When of you think of Margaret Cho, a few words immediately spring to mind with “outspoken” and “hilarious” topping the list. However, you can now add a new one to use in conjunction with the comedian.
And rather than simply giving you that information, why don’t we kick it old school with a nod to the beloved game show, “Match Game,” and have our imaginary panelists and contestant fill in the blank?
Just consider me your own personal Gene Rayburn and Charles Nelson Reilly all rolled into one.
Since we have a space constraint to contend with, we’ll just jump into the “Super Match” portion of the show. Fran, a housewife from the San Fernando Valley, has picked Brett Sommers who chimes in with “Cho Mama,” while Richard Dawson offers up “Cho Job.” Fran finally turns to Charles Nelson Reilly, who looks resplendent in his captain’s hat and neckerchief ensemble, spouts out, “Cho Tex, you know, for those heavy Cho days.”
Well, even if they didn’t guess that it was “Cho Dependent,” which just so happens to be the name of both her new music CD and current stand-up tour, Fran is leaving with a lovely parting gift. You can never have enough Rice-A-Roni in your cupboard; it is the San Francisco treat, after all!
Ok, onto our regularly scheduled interview, already in progress. The Rage Monthly caught up with Cho (don’t worry, this won’t lead to a make-believe “America’s Most Wanted” scenario, ok?), about her latest tour topics and how she decided to branch out and employ her own special brand of the rhythm method to her Cho Dependent CD.
We also literally shot the sh** about what her most embarrassing onstage moment has been, and what fans may be surprised to learn about her, aside from the aforementioned “mishap.”
Something that fans are clearly aware of is the fact that Cho, who is a staunch advocate for GLBT rights, has often used her time onstage to raise awareness on a wealth of issues that impact us as a community. She said that her “Cho Dependent” tour will most definitely touch on a number of hot button topics.
“It’s a lot about Prop 8 and gay marriage and what’s happening in California,” she explained. “And all of the horrible stuff I’m so angry about it. And also, I’ve been living in the South for the last six months, in Peachtree City, Georgia (where she films the show “Drop Dead Diva”), which is a really small town and an incredibly homophobic place. It’s weird to confront it where you live, because I’m not used to it.
“So, it’s a lot about that, a lot about immigration, and my family history, stuff about my mom; lots of fun family stories that I haven’t gotten to tell yet. So it’s good, it’s a lot of different stuff.”
One thing that also fell under the “different” category, but wasn’t exactly of the “good” variety was her most embarrassing onstage misfortune, as she explained.
“Well, one time I was taking Meridia,” she recanted. “This was many years ago, and it’s this weird diet drug from the ’90s that would extract the fat from your food and then makes it shoot out your hole. And it’s so disgusting and gross! “So I was performing, and wearing all white, and it would shoot out of my hole in orange grease, because the pills have an orange capsule that looks like pepperoni grease,” Cho laughingly described. “And I’m doing my show, and I’m killing, but I’m also shooting oil out of my hole while I’m talking. I realized I had to finish and I walked off stage backwards. Fortunately the car was next to the backstage, and I just left and could hear the applause as I was driving away. Because of diet issues, I have sh** in my car more than any other female entertainer. Some people have Grammy’s, and I have sh** in my car. That’s the kind of performer and person that I am.”
Cho is also the kind of performer, anal leakage aside, who tells it like it is, and that sometimes has her asking herself, “Did I cross the line with that joke?”
“Oh yeah, all the time,” she responded. “I’m never one to shy away from things; there’s just jokes that I think are really brilliant, but so mean that you can’t really do them. Like I was doing one where I said I really love drugs, but I don’t want to OD. So I made a list of all the drugs that I did, so I won’t die, I made a Heath’s Ledger. I think it’s a genius joke, but it’s so mean, and I love Heath. But I think people should cross the line; that’s just part of it.”
A new part of her stage repertoire will include performing songs off of her CD, which entailed her enlisting the help of musicians Ani DiFranco, Tegan and Sara, Jon Brion, Grant Lee-Phillips and others. However, there was one artist in particular that motivated the project.
“It’s all kind of inspired by Bette Midler,” Cho said. “I always think of Bette Midler as a comedian, and she is not officially, but she really is. She’s a really funny performer, and yet, she has this amazing voice.
“So I wanted to make an album, that was amazing musically, and even though I don’t have a voice like Bette Midler, I can belt pretty good. What’s great about the album is that it’s really beautiful music, but it’s also funny lyrics, too. I think it works on a couple of different levels, which I love.”
And, what’s not to love about a tracklisting that includes the tunes, “Your Di**,” “Eat Sh** and Die,” “Gimme Your Seed,” “Calling in Stoned,” “My Puss” and “Captain Cameltoe.”
Speaking of the tracklisting…Amazon.com felt the need to let buyers beware that all of the songs, with the exception of one called “Lice,” were “explicit” – you would think that would be fairly self explanatory, ok? And, not-so-surprisingly, customers who buy Cho Dependent are apt to purchase the latest CD’s by Scissor Sisters and Kylie Minogue… hmm, that’s queer.
“Oh, I love that!” Cho exclaimed upon hearing that bit of information. “That’s perfect!”
Something else that struck Cho as perfect is how the songwriting process was a natural offshoot of writing standup material.
“Standup comedy, in a lot of ways, is like songwriting in that it’s about the economy of words, using the right words and finding the right way to say things in a brief and clever way that fits the rhythm of what you’re doing.” she stated. “Songwriting is something I was prepared to do; it came fairly easily, because of just understanding the way language works and what I could do with it.”
Something that fans may have a hard time understanding is that underneath it all, Cho is actually, gasp, a shy person. She has, after all, been very candid about her personal life during her performances, and was equally so when relaying this part of her that most people don’t get to see.
“I think that ultimately I’m a pretty shy person,” she said. “And I don’t really have an outgoing personality, in general. So that I’m quiet is a really surprising thing for people, I think. I’m often at a loss for words, which is o.k., but it’s something that people can’t believe. For me, you want to perform and to be strong and be powerful. But at the same time, it takes too much energy to maintain that kind of wild energy all of the time.”
You can catch Cho’s wild side on September 23 at The Grove of Anaheim and September 24 at Humphrey’s Concerts By The Bay. To purchase tickets and to stay current with all things Cho, log onto www.margaretcho.com