Margaret Cho has never been subtle about speaking her mind, which can be quite effective with all of the platforms she has in media, both social and mainstream. From attacking right-wing policies on LGBT issues to openly calling herself a fag hag, the 44-year-old comedienne has made a career out of getting her point across.
Vanyaland caught up with Cho last week to do a little 617 in preparation for her Boston gig. Having come off her Lifetime show Drop Dead Diva being renewed for a sixth season just days before, she was in good spirits to talk about the genius of Amanda Palmer, Morrissey coming out of the closet (and then darting back in), and the delicacies of North End pastries.
:: SIX QUESTIONS
Michael Christopher: We’re talking just a couple days before Halloween, which makes it an opportune time to ask, what frightens you most?
Margaret Cho: I’m not going to be able to eat that apple because it’s got razor blades in it [laughs].
You’re sort of like the female Henry Rollins; you do music, acting, standup, voiceovers? Is it safe to say the former Black Flag frontman is your greatest inspiration?
Yes, I think he’s great. We both did work with the West Memphis 3 which, you know, resulted in these guys being freed from prison, and it’s a really great thing to be able to say that we worked on that — but he is awesome.
Having worked with some notable musicians in the past — Andrew Bird, Ani DiFranco, Ben Lee — you’ve also worked a lot with Amanda Palmer, who is one of the most polarizing artists out there. What do you think it is about her that makes her either loved or hated so deeply?
I love her and I think she’s really great. I think it’s because she’s just so strong and so specific and honest… when some people hear her music, they see that kind of level and they can’t get enough of it. I’m on that side — I think she’s a genius.
Celebrities coming out of the closet is something you’ve advocated quite a bit. Morrissey just released his autobiography which intimated that the first time he felt love was with another man. Yet he was quick to say that he was not gay but, “humansexual.” Is that frustrating to hear something like that or is it just Morrissey’s way of saying he is bisexual?
Well, everybody has got their own way of talking about it. He’s not had a definition of exactly what it is or what he has been all this time, but he admits to whatever — specific incidents in his life that are honest and true; but he doesn’t want to use those blanket terms. I think that that’s fair, that you can kind of choose your own level of honesty with yourself and then if you’re really honest then it really doesn’t matter if you decide to use labels or not.
Five years ago, San Francisco declared April 30 Margaret Cho Day. If one finds themselves in the Bay Area on that day, what is the best way to celebrate the day?
I think a lot of people get facials, that’s how we celebrate that day [laughs], but you can choose your own kind — whatever that is — it’s totally up to you. For some it means skincare, for some it means something totally different.
I’ve talked to Greg Louganis a couple times in recent years, and I always get to fanboy out over one of my all-time favorite films, It’s My Party, which you also had a role. Do you have fond memories of working on it?
I do! And I actually just ran into Randal Kleiser, the director of that film –- and he’s great, and that’s his story. He put it all together and some of the extras in the film were at the actual party; so it’s a true thing. I guess Randal would be the surviving member of… he was the Gregory Harrison character. He just put it all together from his life basically and he loved it and we all loved it. We had a really special time working on it. Thank you — I wish that people would see it.
:: ONE RECOMMENDATION
We asked Cho for one recommendation — it could be anything…
When I come to Boston I want to go to Mike’s Pastry and they have those lobster claws. They’re not lobster, they’re actually, like, creampuff things? [Ed. note: They’re officially called La Sfogliatella or “lobster tails”.] They’re the best things I’ve had — ever. It’s amazing. I have a really sweet tooth and that place makes it crazy. I’ve actually had them do that 24-hour shipping, but it’s best if you can just go there and get it right there – it’s the best.
:: SEVEN OF SOMETHING
Your current tour is called “Mother.” Give me seven of your favorite songs that make you think of the word “mother”:
“Queen Bitch” by David Bowie
“Motorcycle Mama” – the cover version by The Sugarcubes
“Stand Back” by Stevie Nicks, because she’s kind of an Earth Mother.
“Barracuda” by Heart, because they’re both kind of Earth Mother spirits.
“Hit” by The Sugarcubes – that’s a song about pregnancy.
“Oh! You Pretty Things” by David Bowie
“Be My Wife” by David Bowie, that would be another one too.
Wow – lots of Bowie on there.
Yeah, I’m a huge Bowie freak. I’m hoping he tours. I haven’t seen him, well, nobody has, in 10 years, and he’s a wonderful guy and a great, great, great performer and I think about him a lot and I think about Lou Reed a lot. The last few days just thinking about the loss of Lou Reed and thinking you’ve really got to appreciate those guys when they’re around.