Margaret Cho discusses new comedy album

MHN: When you first started your career did you ever think you would put out an album?

I always wanted to. It’s something that I had thought about for a long time, doing a comedy album but that was stand up comedy. I love the 70’s records like Steve Martin and Cheech and Chong, those have a lot of music on them. So that to me is a tradition of comedy that hasn’t been explored for a while, but it’s something that I wanted to do for a long time.

You worked with various artists on Cho Dependent, who was your favorite to work with?

The most fun probably was Ben Lee because it was just so easy. He supported me so much through the whole process, taught me a lot and I learned a lot from him. He has a new baby and his wonderful wife, Ione Skye, is just great and so I really enjoyed the time that I spent with him…he’s phenomenal.

Have you figured out what songs you’re going to play live?

Well it’s mostly a standup show. It’s hard for me to not do that [since] I still feel like such a stand up [comedian]. Ben’s going to join me for some shows, it’ll be different places but I feel like this is still essentially a stand up tour.

What’s the ratio of comedy to music?

Probably like 80 to 90% comedy, and some songs.

What similarities and differences did you find between song writing and your comedy act? Anything that surprised you?

Well it’s a rhythmic kind of work, you know trying to find words that make sense that will fit in a certain framework and also are funny. It is similar, song writing and joke writing…If you’re good at one you’re probably good at the other, it makes sense. But it is a lot more challenging to actually write songs and then sing them. You know to become an instrument, and be in the song- it’s really hard to be a singer.

In a couple interviews you’ve used the word “murder ballad” to describe your song titled “I’m Sorry,” did you coin that term yourself?

No, no,no — that’s actually a style. It’s kind of a traditional American form of songwriting. You know a lot of folk songs are about murders and horrific events that would happen in earlier times. So it is a traditional kind of writing.

I was wondering about the painting on your album “Cho Dependent.” Did you have to sit still for hours?

No, I was actually already sitting. It was during a tattoo session. Shawn Barero, who’s a fantastic artist, photographed me while I was getting tattooed by my favorite tattoo artist Mike Davis. So he photographed me and painted it from the photograph.

What tattoo were you getting?

I was getting the peonies on my chest.

You are very well known in the queer community — were you ever worried about how your involvement would affect your sales?

No. I mean it’s just who I am and it’s who I’ve always been. When I was really young it was an issue because I was trying to work in television…but I was never willing to be anything other than myself. My work is so self-revelatory and self-incriminating I never could really feel like I could represent myself any differently.


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Top photo: Comedian Margaret Cho (promotional photo by Austin Young)