She sounded a bit tired in the phone interview. Between guest starring on a hit TV show, planning her “Mother” comedy tour, singing, embracing her new passion of riding motorcycles, starring on “Drop Dead Diva,” traveling, writing her blog, and answering the same questions from reporters all day, Margaret Cho has a right to be a bit reserved when not “on” in front of an audience.
But Cho is still thrilled to be nominated for an Emmy for her guest actress appearance on “30 Rock.” She actually played a man — well, two men — to receive the Emmy nod.
“It’s great. I really love that show. It’s an honor,” Cho said of the nomination.
Cho’s parents came to the United States from South Korea due in part to the Kim Jong Il regime and the hardships he brought to the entire Korean peninsula. Cho’s mother loved seeing the cruel dictator get a bit of a comeuppance as he was portrayed and mocked by her daughter.
“It was fun getting to make fun of something they were aware of,” Cho said.
Plus, Cho added, no makeup was necessary to make her look like Kim Jong Il and his son. Without makeup and with the help of a fat suit, her appearance to the now dead dictator with the big square glasses was not a huge jump for Cho.
The major battle was trying to figure out what he sounded like — there are not many recordings of the reclusive dictator, who died last year, so Cho’s imagination was able to run wild. Perhaps just like the character she portrayed.
Cho is well-known for not only being funny but for poking fun at serious political issues in her comedy and her work — and not just crazy North Korean dictators.
The Aug. 19 episode of Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva” focused on the fact that gay men cannot donate sperm according to federal Food & Drug Administration guidelines. The ban has been in place since 2005 due to concerns of STDs and HIV.
Bringing awareness to this and other LGBT issues is the kind of writing and that makes Cho love working on the show so much.
“I think we bring some things that are in the dark out into the light,” Cho said of the show, now in its fourth season. “This episode was a great example of what this show does. We definitely do a lot of that.”
‘Nothing is sacred’
But, wait, let’s talk about “Mother,” the tour that comes to Atlanta’s Punchline on Sept. 16. Cho knows she has almost made an industry of mocking her mother on stage — her exaggerated (or maybe not so exaggerated) accent, her obvious displeasure with some of her daughter’s choices.
But Cho’s fans know her mother is probably one of the coolest people on the planet, especially toward the gays. Anyone remember the skit where Cho impersonates her mother telling the audience about her “daddy’s gay friend” in Korea? Check it out on Youtube; the moral of the story is good.
Cho said compiling all the stories, jokes and morals from her mother into one show simply made sense. Her mother is tickled to be the focus of a tour and has never minded, too much, people laughing not at her, but with her.
Cho said she and her mother share a deep bond, as evident on stage in Cho’s stories about her parents, and behind the scenes, the two are great friends who love to drink wine together for hours at a time.
The show taps into both motherhood and queer culture with no holds barred, Cho says.
“My all new standup show, ‘Mother,’ offers up an untraditional look at motherhood and how we look at maternal figures and strong women in queer culture. It’s probably my edgiest show to date, filled with riotous observations on race, drugs, sexuality — gay-straight-everything in between, celebrity, culture, politics — nothing is sacred,” she says.
Of course nothing is sacred.
This is Margaret Cho.
Top photo: Margaret Cho brings her ‘Mother’ tour to Atlanta on Sept. 16. (Photo by Austin Young)