Gay is in the heart

Margaret Cho speaks to the Daily about love, comedy and revolution

Amy Danielson

All work and no play make Margaret Cho Ö something something (incredibly funny and rich). She doesn’t like parties. There is no time in her life for hobbies. Yet somehow, Margaret Cho manages to be one of the country’s most amusing celebrities. Through her intensely provocative and often shocking comedy, Margaret Cho deals with issues close to her heart. She gives exposure to serious subjects like gay rights and women’s body image issues – topics currently glossed over by the media due to more pressing global concerns.

“A lot of issues aren’t being paid attention to Ö like women’s issues, health issues, education. All these things are being put on the back burner,” Cho said in an interview. “They’re not being dealt with because everybody’s obsessed with national safety.”

As her current show, “The Revolution Tour,” progresses, Cho alters her act to reflect the news of the moment. Through the humor of her personal experience, Cho makes an impact on serious matters. By joking about the George W. Bush administration or even bodily functions, Cho reveals the hypocrisy of the world. She makes the real seem artificial and laughable, transforming it back into the realm of tangible and manageable. Her routine is autobiographical, and while much of it seems completely contrived, she insists it’s all true.

“But some of it’s toned down Ö oh, I can’t say that, because that’s too much. At the same time I have a lot of sanity and control. I don’t think it’s shocking myself, it’s just natural,” Cho explained during a phone interview from Los Angeles. “I live an over-the-top lifestyle. I venture where other people wouldn’t go in life.” However, contrary to the persona she exhibits on stage, our conversation was surprisingly serious. Of course, she takes her work extremely seriously, and the topics we discussed were especially significant. This isn’t a live comedy routine after all, but a phone interview. Yet it felt so surreal to discuss politics with Cho, when an interview devoted to fisting and other risqué topics was what I had imagined.

Instead, we discussed war, media-perpetuated fear, gay rights and racial discrimination.

“I think the media and the government work hand in hand and try to control how we think through fear. Everything is controlled through paranoia. It’s never ending; there’s always something around the corner looming Ö something mysterious and dark,” she said.

I told her about the movement instigated by Minnesota Family Council President Tom Prichard to remove gays and lesbians from coverage under Minnesota human rights law. Cho was appalled and plans to discuss the issue at her March 20 show in Minneapolis.

“If you disparage human rights from a certain group, then you essentially are promoting the idea that hatred against that group is justified,” she said. “Homosexuality is about love Ö people need to get that into their big fat heads.” I called her attention to the fact that there are inflexible types on both sides of the issue. “There should be, but we’re better. We’re just so much better. It’s sick.”

Inevitably, Cho’s comedy is like a therapy session – for a night, the audience connects with both her and each other. By making herself vulnerable and sharing her pain with the audience, Cho feels better while relating to someone else at the same time.

“I notice that when I share something horrible with someone, I always feel better if they understand me,” she said.

Although Cho is engaged to a man, she continues to identify with gay people and fight for gay rights.

“I’m not a homosexual, technically, but I am politically,” she said. “I am in my heart and my soul. And that doesn’t make me less gay; I’m totally, totally gay.” She believes that sexuality doesn’t determine gayness, but rather politics or “what you are inside.” It’s about who you support, not who you have sex with, according to Cho. It’s a radical idea, but that’s fitting for Cho.

One thing is certain about Cho: She doesn’t care what people think of her. After the tour, she plans to reward herself by flying to Japan to have work started on a full body tattoo.

“I think I’m old enough. I don’t think my parents would get mad,” she said.

No, but what will the Tom Prichards of the world think? Odds are good that Margaret Cho doesn’t give a damn.

“The Revolution Tour” comes to Minneapolis on March 20 at Orchestra Hall, (612) 989-5151

Amy Danielson welcomes comments at [email protected]