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An interview with Margaret Cho: new album, new tour, and why she's looking forward to death

Margaret Cho is finding new ways to make audiences laugh.  The beloved comedian has released her first comedy music album, Cho Dependent, where she sings, plays the guitar, and collaborates with some of the brightest stars in the music industry.  Margaret took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about the new album, her upcoming tour, and why she's looking forward to death.

RD:  Cho Dependent is brilliant! It is so funny and so well-written: both the lyrics and music. How do you feel about the album?

MC:  I love it. I mean, it was hard to make because I had to learn how to play guitar and learn how to sing, basically. And learn about how to produce records and that was really all very new. It was a long process but it was really rewarding and I’m really proud. And everybody on it is so phenomenal: from Garrison Star to Ani DiFranco to Andrew Bird and Tegan & Sara and people that I really admire and love. I’m really happy with it!

RD:  Like you’ve mentioned, you worked with a lot of big names in the music industry for Cho Dependent. Are you still star-struck or have you adjusted?

MC:  I am star-struck but also I’ve known a lot of people for a long time. Like I’m super star-struck by Grant Lee Phillips and John Brion but I’ve known them for 17 years. So it’s kinda like weird to be star-struck still, but I still am! Like Ani DiFranco I’ve known for years. I did shows with her a long time ago, but I’m still in awe of her ability and all that she does. So, yeah definitely still star-struck.

RD:  Why did you decide to name the album Cho Dependent?

MC:  The themes of the records are so about dependency. Different kinds of dependency; dependency on people and a love addiction, so it seemed like the right title.  Like, there are themes in the Tegan & Sara song which is about intervention. I’m obsessed with that TV show! I think it’s so amazing that people don’t know! These people, they’re like "they agreed to be a part of a documentary about addiction. They do not know an intervention is coming." How do they not know, right? They must be really f#@*ed up! It makes me just want to party! They look like they’re having a really good time and I want to go there with them. [Laughs] Interventions are really emotionally exhausting and I would never ever want to have one. In the same way, I would never want to have a surprise birthday party. That would be horrible.

RD:  Is it true that Cyndi Lauper was a big part of your inspiration to go further into music?

MC:  She actually discovered my singing voice. I was singing with her on the True Colors Tour. She was very adamant about me training and really developing a voice. So she was a really great and supportive teacher.

RD:  What was the creative process like? Were there any diva outbursts or was it smooth sailing?

MC:  No, no there was no diva! Everybody was so cool. The people that were involved, everybody really wanted to be a part of it. Like some people even asked to be in it. Like Patti Griffin asked to be a part of it. Fiona asked to be in it because she loved the song that Patti and I wrote which is “Hey, Big Dog” which is all about the dog problems vs. people problems. Fiona Apple was like “my dog does the same things!” It was a perfect combination of folks. Everybody was so phenomenal. Nobody had any weirdness at all.

RD:  Tell us, what is your must-have essential music (y’know, aside from Madonna’s “Holiday”)?

[Laughs] I think the latest is probably “Together” by The New Pornographers who I wrote with AC Newman on the track “Your Dick.” Which is a beautiful song that is actually written by a straight guy and produced by a straight guy, which I love that! I love Fiona Apple’s “When the Pawn,” Patti Griffin’s “A Thousand Kisses,” Crowded Houses’ “Temple of Low Men.” Also, the Dresden Dolls: all of their records. I love John Cameron Mitchell’s amazing soundtrack to “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” I love him! I’m in Provincetown right now and he’s been here. He was here with Amanda Palmer and we were all hanging out and I’m trying to convince him to buy a cemetery plot with me in Provincetown. [Laughs] Because we can’t afford a house!

RD:  How are your Mom & Dad? Are they jamming out to Cho Dependent?

MC:  Yeah, they’re loving it! I actually have a song that I wrote with them that we’re all gonna do for my next record. It’s like a family affair. They are great singers and my father is a pianist and my mother is a guitarist so they’ll both play on it too! It’s our version of “She’s Leaving Home” by the Beetles. It’s called “We So Worried About You.” It’s almost like a mini-opera of me doing s#!* and they’re like “we so worried about you! We don’t know what to do.” It makes me cry actually. We’re going to go into the studio for that.

RD:  You’ve released a few videos for Cho Dependent and girl, you look FABULOUS! What’s your secret for looking better than ever?

MC:  I don’t know. I’m not doing anything. Like, I totally don’t deserve to look good. Like really, I just don’t do sh!#. I can’t even say! I’m lucky that I have good genetics. Like you said, it just gets better as I get older. I think? But thank you!

RD:  Drop Dead Diva is in its second season now on Lifetime. Was the show worth moving to Georgia for?

MC:  I love the show. It is worth it. It’s much better now because I moved to Atlanta. I was living in Peachtree City for the first year and that was f!@#*d up. I was like I’m the only Gaysian. What am I doing here? It was weird. It was very isolating and too conservative and I felt really out of place. But now, in Atlanta, it’s so gay!  So I feel very much at home.

RD:  The Cho Dependent Tour kicks off on the 26th in Portland then winds its way across the country and comes to Denver on October 9th. What’s life on tour like?

MC:  It’s pretty simple. I mean, what’s great about touring is that’s what you do. You’re in a constant state of motion and then you stop to do a show and you move onto the next city. All you have to do is do the show. That’s the only responsibility that you have. For me that’s great. I really thrive in that kind of environment. It’s really fun for me. I love it!

RD:  What can fans expect of the Cho Dependent Tour?

MC:  It will be mostly stand-up because I feel like I’ve been dying to do it. Since I’ve been staying in Atlanta I haven’t been able to go out and do shows. So, I’m super-excited because I have all this new material. There’s a lot of stuff that I’ve written about my family history from Korea that is really weird and funny. I didn’t really know how to talk about it before, but now I’ve found a way to talk about that. Talking about that and Prop 8 in California. I’m super obsessed with Steven Slater who’s that JetBlue flight attendant. The bitch who engaged the slide. [Laughs] She grabbed two beers and engaged the slide. “Engage the slide” has got to be somewhere in our consciousness. “Girl, just engage the slide!” [Laughs] He’s totally funny! I’m really excited about him. You know, there’s a lot of different stuff. I’m very excited about doing the show. I’m excited about new material and doing new jokes.

RD:  We asked Examiner.com readers to submit their questions for you:

Kenny B. from Denver, CO asks
: In a KY Jelly wrestling match between you and Sarah Silverman, who would win?

MC:  I think Sarah would win because she’s skinny but she’s strong. She will f#@* you up she is strong, girl. [Laughs] She seems small but she’s got a powerful grip, girl.

Jonathan B. from Joplin, MO asks: If you had to pick between performing and being an equal rights advocate, which would you choose?

MC:  I think it’s one in the same. If you’re a performer, you can still have a voice. I don’t think I could choose because so much of my work is identified by my opinion of being a minority, being an Asian-American woman, being queer, and being out and politically progressive. These things are what my work is really about. That’s what I do so it would be weird not to do that.

Alexandria L. from State College, PA
asks: Although many people feel that comedy is just a form of entertainment, what other purposes do you feel comedy serves?

MC:  I think it can really educate and enlighten and elucidate and illuminate the way that people think about things and it can change people’s perspectives on things and change the way we look at things too. So I think that comedy is an educational tool but it can also be inspiring. It can be a lot of different things for different people.

Sarah G. from Phoenix, AZ asks:
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment so far, and what haven’t you done that you would still like to do?

MC:  The greatest accomplishment I think is that I’m still doing work. I’m still working and it’s been a long time. I’ve been a stand-up comic since I was 16. It’s great to continue in this career which I really love. That is my accomplishment. I’m excited that I can still do it. The thing I can’t wait to do is die. Not now, but you know in like 40 or 50 years. Not like Zsa Zsa carrying on and on forever. I’m curious! I want to see what it’s like. That’s why I was trying to convince John Cameron Mitchell to buy the cemetery plot!

Cho Dependent hits stores August 24, but is available for immediate download when you pre-order by clicking here.  For more information on Margaret Cho, visit MargaretCho.com or find her on Facebook.  To purchase tickets for the Denver stop of the Cho Dependent Tour on October 9th, visit ParamountDenver.com.

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