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Margaret Cho wants you to know ...

... that she's got a special woman on her mind: Her mom

October 14, 2013|By Dana Moran | RedEye

If you’ve seen any of Margaret Cho’s stand-up, you know that she LOVES talking about her mother. Like, obsession level. On her 2001 tour, “I’m The One That I Want,” she details a message her mom left on her answering machine.

“ARE YOU GAY?? ARE YOU GAY?? ... If you don’t pick up the phone ... that mean you gay. Only gay ... screen call.” (This misses a lot in the translation; you really need to see the facial expressions.)

Twelve years later, the 44-year-old Cho (who’s married and bisexual, by the way), still can’t escape the subject—she’s even named her latest tour “Mother.” She’s also starring on Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva” and producing a podcast called “Monsters of Talk” with Jim Shorts, among a huge number of other projects. Ahead of her stop Saturday at the Chicago Theater, RedEye talked to Cho about gay marriage, her favorite women in comedy and the real meaning of twerking in Korean culture.

What do you think is your favorite story to tell about your mother?

Probably the most recent was like, we were watching that Miley Cyrus thing ...

Oh, God.

Yeah, from the MTV [Video Music Awards], and she was like, “Oh, she’s shaking out her luck, she’s shaking out her luck.” Because like in the Korean culture, it’s really bad to shake your legs, you’ll shake out your luck, so that’s what my mom thinks of twerking, it’s shaking out your luck. That’s my favorite so far.

I think that that makes a lot of sense, actually.

Yeah, it’s a weird thing, it does make you not want to twerk. Or shake your legs.

How has your impression of her changed over time?

I think it’s just more, I’m just observing things that she’s done over the years. Also, my relationship with her has changed, because I’m more of a friend now as opposed to just somebody like a kid. ... We’ve been adults together for a long time. I know my parents in a different way. I think everybody comes to know your family in a different way as you get older.

One of my favorite things about you is the fact that you are completely unapologetic for who you are, and I was reading an interesting interview with Rebel Wilson and she had a quote where she said, “The character is the point, not my ego.” Do you feel like you kind of follow a similar mantra in your career?

I guess so. I think that in general, it’s always, like if you’re a comedian, it’s about the joke or whatever, trying to make it funny or trying to make it real. There’s a bunch of different approaches people have, but in general, in comedy, you’re better off serving the joke at hand.

What’s one time you can think of when you’ve really gone over the top and made the biggest fool of yourself that you possibly could?

I don’t know. I think that’s hard to say because you’re in comedy, so you’re supposed to be, like that’s ... the point is that it’s supposed to be ridiculous or not necessarily pretty or not necessarily ladylike. I mean, I’ve done things that are just so super out of my own body, like I’ve played men, and I played 30 Rock, Kim Jong Il on “30 Rock” and Kim Jong Un. You get outside of thinking, “Oh, I have to be pretty.” ... I can also be a deceased leader of North Korea. I’m not unwilling to do things.

In that vein, I can’t believe how many different projects you’ve done. You’ve done burlesque, fashion, music, advocacy, just tons of different things. Do you have any dream projects that you’d like to take on next?

I’d like to get better at things that I do. I like podcasting a lot, I do a podcast with a comedian named Jim Short, we travel all over and either we do really cool podcast stuff with people, so that has been really great. This last week we had Billy Bragg and Curt Sutter from "Sons of Anarchy" and Terry Nun and it’s just a very cool combination of rock ‘n’ roll people and people that are in show business in different capacities, so it’s cool.

Obviously you’re still doing "Drop Dead Diva" also. Do you have any secrets about the end of Season 5 that you can reveal for us?

It gets pretty crazy. The romantic entanglements are getting really insane, that is interesting. I think fans will be excited about the turns that happen ... we split our season up so it’s starting again in a few weeks.

Do you know yet if you’re going to be back for Season 6?

No, I don’t know, but it’s so, I have no idea, it’s so hard to tell.

If you had a dream way for your character’s story to end, what would that be?

I think it would be great to have some kind of happily-ever-after romance situation so we’ll see.

I was checking out some photos of your tattoos, what do you think is your most meaningful one?

You know, none of them really have any meaning, they’re all kind visually, like, for me, what would look right, and also they’re kind of left to the artist in a sense. I have a lot of tattoo artist friends and they’re people that I’m close to that I work with. ... I have really funny ones on my knees, it’s the presidents, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, which I think is really funny. They’re really great, and that’s probably my favorite.

So you’ve been to Chicago numerous times; what are some of your favorite things to do here?

I don’t really ever get to hang out, I haven’t gotten to do that much there. I’ve worked there, and every time I’ve worked there it’s been kind of in and out and I’ve had to go to the next place. I don’t even know. This time I’m hoping I’ll have time to go see Wilco’s loft where they have all of their great equipment that’s like their apartment and they’re an amazing, amazing band. ... I followed them a bunch when they did their American tour with Bob Dylan so I think, I would like to see the guitars, I’m hoping there will be some Wilco presence at my show there.

Now that California is going to be back doing gay marriages again, have you been performing any wedding ceremonies recently?

No, but I’m going to. I have some plans to, and then also I would like to do them just everywhere; I want to do them all over. I have one of these universal ministry cards or whatever, so I do have the authority to do it anywhere. and in [San Francisco] I can do it in city hall, which is really great. 

Do you do them mostly for friends, or have you done them for fans and strangers too?

I’ve done them for friends and for fans and for people I don’t know who happened to be there, and also just anybody who will ask me. I definitely try to get out and do it.

Are there any that stand out in your mind as being particularly special?

Well, every time you do it—especially, the couple that I did in San Francisco in city hall were really quite amazing, and that was in 2004. That’s just really an incredible thing to be able to do that, so I would love to just go back and do that. Doing it in city hall is just a very, very meaningful thing. We’ve been fighting for it for so long that it just really means a lot when you can do it [in city hall].

It’s been kind of interesting in Illinois. we’re kind of on the verge of things happening here, but our senate keeps pushing it back and I think people are getting kind of frustrated with the situation.

Yeah, it’s weird, I don’t know what it means, if like DOMA is repealed and then you don’t have it in the separate states, it’s confusing.

Do you see us making a lot of progress on that in the next couple years?

I would like to see more. I don’t know what it actually means when one state, where it’s like federally what does it mean from state to state, does every state have to decide? it’s weird.

Is there anything else about your upcoming tour that you think people should know about?

I’m really excited to get back out on the road and kind of starting up now, and it’s going to be really awesome!

So I just have one more question for you: Did you ever return “Beaver Fever” [an overdue rental porn]?

I did, I think it was like I had to pay for it, I shoulda just bought it because I had to pay a lot of late fees, but yeah, I did return it.

Rapid-fire Cho

We asked Margaret Cho which of the following options are better. D.M.

Bellydancing or “Dancing with the Stars”?

Oh, bellydancing. So much better.

Kim Jong Il or Kim Jong Un?

Kim Jong Il

Getting a colonic or pooping in your car?

I think getting a colonic

Chicken or fish?

Chicken

Hilary Clinton or Michelle Obama?

Gosh, I think I like Hilary a lot. I like them both.

Gay weddings or straight weddings?

Oh, gay weddings, for sure

Bristol Palin or Sarah Palin?

Um, I think they’re both kind of all right. They’re both kind of the same.

Women in comedy she admires:

—Kathy Griffin

—Tig Notaro

—Amy Schumer

—Roseanne Barr

—Sandra Bernhart

—Joan Rivers

Men in comedy she admires:

—Jim Short

—Louis CK

—Patton Oswalt

—Dave Chappelle

—Chris Rock

Margaret Cho

8 p.m. Saturday, The Chicago Theatre. $29.50 to $59.50.

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