Margaret Cho, ahead of her new show, agreed to give Jake Basford time to answer some burning questions.
After texting our Editor in a panic saying ‘It’s one minute after – have they forgotten?’, our Skype request was accepted and we hit the video chat button. Later, Margaret Cho told us, ‘it’s really great for me because normally I use Skype for sex, and your recording on it so I’m a little bit concerned now…’. Pretty much the average online chat then.
The reason for Mistress Cho’s appearance was due to her new show coming out, Mother, which is due to be hitting the London stage later on this year, so we had to ask what inspired it: ‘I wrote these dirty jokes that were just so filthy and so wrong but they were so well written that I thought that the best thing to do would be to just put together a show called Mother and fill it with these dirty, rotten, raunchy jokes’. That’s something we like to hear, but we had to question the focus on family, to which she responded, saying that, ‘there is a number of reasons, but for me it’s about finding a way to connect with people, and family stuff for me is like trying to figure out what is ‘foreign’ and what is ‘asian’ and what are these different parts of myself. The other part the show is how in the gay community we forge family ties between ourselves, because a lot of times a lot of [gay] people are divorced from their families’. ‘We love maternal figures like Madonna and Lady Gaga, and even a flawed mother like Whitney Houston, is a powerful figure. So the show is about my mother, but also how we in the gay community need motherhood and need mothers’, she went on to say.
Margret then said something that we didn’t expect, amongst the discussion of family and motherhood: ‘I’m a tran-mother, because I have a lot of tran-children, because that is my role in the gay community… I realised that this is my thing, this is what I’m good at’. It turns out that she is a huge supporter of tran rights, and when we asked she explained that, ‘for me it is very painful because surely you would think that we are all marginalised, we are all queer, we are all in this together, and a lot of times there is this separation or this need for separation in there and I think that’s really painful’. We mentioned a reference that Christine Burns had made in a recent blog post about how an equalities campaigner turned to her and said that she should wait for the LGB rights before seeking equality for herself as a trans-person, and Cho replied by saying, ‘it’s unfair – are we not all queer, are we not all marginalised, are we not all minorities and why is this more important than that?’. She explained that, ‘as a bisexual our community too is overlooked by the larger GLBT entity, so the B and the T often have the most marginalisation’, explaining why she might be more sensitive to trans issues than your average lady.
It quickly became apparent to us that aesthetic was an important thing to Margret, so we asked if her look was consciously sculpted: ‘Oh yea, well to me I wanted to be that kind of motorcycle mama thing, but also kind of, a little bit my own way… bikes are always a symbol for me of the young gay men that I grew up with who would ride me on the back of their bikes, and the dykes on bikes, who I would always see at the Gay Pride, and they’re so empowering’. When we mentioned the odd relationship that bikes have with masculinity, Cho concurred, saying, ‘when you look at an artist like Tom of Finland, he has a lot of biker imagery, and it is like that hyper-masculine that it becomes homoerotic, and then you add great images like the dykes on bikes and they’re so masculine themselves that it’s really feminine and it’s so queer. I just love that play on gender’.
After gushing about her role in Sex and the City, we had to ask what her favourite part of her career thus-far has been, and to our surprise she told us it was to do with her recent role as Kim Jong Il in 30 Rock, because, ‘it’s cool to get a[n emmy] nomination for being in drag… I did some of that show last year and this year, so every time I get to play him it’s really fun, and it was great to play him after he died too. I think that’s really exciting’. But where did she get the voice from, Team America? ‘I don’t know what he sounds like outside of Team America, because they don’t know what he sounded like because there’s no real recorded sound of him that we can access, because it’s a very controlled public image. So for me it was all about finding it within my family’, which makes us think that he may turn out a little bit gay.
After Mother has finished touring, Cho will, ‘go back to work on Drop Dead Diva’, which shows on Living TV on Sky, ‘and then after that I will continue on with the Mother tour for the rest of next year and I have a bunch of songs that I have put together for another album of music but I’ll probably do the tour first and have a separate thing for that’. Awesome. Did you know that Margaret sang? ‘Every once in a while I’ll do a gig where I just do small isolated shows’, because, ‘I try and keep Alzheimer’s and arthritis at bay, so I do things with my body to keep fit’.
We told her she didn’t look old and left her to the rest of her press day in peace.
Margaret Cho will be performing her new show, ‘Mother’ at the Leicester Square Theatre, London from 26th-30th October. For tickets book online now