Margaret Cho is hitting the road hard in the weeks leading up to the taping of her new comedy special, and that trek finds the out comedian performing March 1-4 at Helium Comedy Club in Philadelphia.
Cho said the grueling pace of the club shows is necessary for her to be sharp and ready for the upcoming taping, taking place March 7 at the Gramercy Theater in New York City.
“I just want it to be as good as it can be,” she said. “That’s how you make it good, by performing it a bunch of times. I’m a total road comic. It’s what I’ve always done and it’s important for me to retain the integrity of that. It’s what I normally do, so it makes sense."
Cho’s schedule has been busy and her profile especially high as of late. Part of that could be due to her recent Golden Globes appearance, where she reprised her role as North Korean general Cho Young Ja to poke fun at the buzz and subsequent threats against “The Interview.”
“I’ve been doing that character for a while,” she said. “I did it years ago on ‘30 Rock.’ I did a few episodes for a couple of years for that show. So it was fun to be able to do it again there.”
Cho, who is no stranger to controversy, said she wasn’t concerned about the criticism and backlash the skit generated. Still we wonder what would happen if Cho and Dennis Rodman, a friend of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, locked eyes at a club.
Cho said she’s not worried.
“Actually, I want to go with him to North Korea,” she said. “We’d be a big hit there. I think it’s the weirdest thing that he’s a cultural emissary and ambassador to a country that is closed off. But he did it. I respect and admire him.”
CHO IN CHARACTER AT THE GOLDEN GLOBES
So who’s a bigger threat to pop culture these days: North Korea or Kanye West?
“I have a theory that he might be in love with Beyoncé,” Cho said of the rapper, who is prone to award-show outbursts. “He’s always defending Beyoncé in his outbursts. He wants Beyoncé to be recognized as the artist that she is. I think he has feelings for her.”
Cho also has made the leap into late-night television as one of the hosts of TLC’s “All About Sex,” a weekly talk show where Cho, alongside Heather McDonald, Marissa Janet Winokur and Dr. Tiffanie Davis Henry, talk about taboo issues of love, sex and relationships.
“It was a project they wanted to do for a while,” Cho said about how she got involved with the show. “I was very interested in it just because I’ve been around different communities and sex for a long time and I know a lot about these different alternative communities. I know a lot about myself. I served on the board of Good Vibrations for a long time. I’ve got a lot of understanding of that whole world so I wanted to bring my knowledge into this. It’s just a lot of fun.”
It certainly is, especially when we see the other hosts of the show chit-chatting about vanilla fetishes when we know Cho herself has done way more exploration in her sex life.
She said she enjoys hearing about the less-extreme sides of sexuality.
“Everybody has their own way about their sexuality,” Cho said. “I don’t want anybody to change. I’m really interested in heteronormative vanilla sex. It’s very kinky, mysterious and weird. I’m curious about it. I want to know what that is and what that feels like.”
Even though information about sex and sexuality are more accessible to the masses than ever, Cho said shows like “All About Sex” are still necessary.
“It’s really important and we need it more than ever,” she said. “We need a safe place where we can talk about sexuality and people can ask questions without feeling ashamed or embarrassed. I think it’s a really important stage for everybody.”
On a more somber note, 2014 was a rough year in the world of comedy, as some comedic legends passed away.
Cho said the void those talents left can never be replaced.
“What we still have is their phenomenal work, which is really important,” she said. “Robin Williams and Joan Rivers were two people I really idolized. What we have, which is wonderful, is all of what they did and that is the greatest. We can have something to look back on and remember them by. I love that and that’s really powerful, but it is still so sad. They’re gone and it’s just so depressing. For me Robin was really hard because of the situation and what happened. It was really, really sad.”
Still, something positive came from that sense of loss, as Cho herself was inspired to take an interest in something Williams was passionate about in his life: the plight of the homeless.
“I wanted his memory to be really complete and to reflect on his legacy,” she said. “The legacy he had with the homeless community, he spent a lot of his own money through his own philanthropy on that specifically. He was a very generous guy. He would visit dying patients in hospitals. So I just wanted people to remember what a charitable force he was. So I did these shows that were about doing shows on the street as a street performer. They became this fun, crazy project for my last few months of 2014. In San Francisco, we’d do these shows and people would bring food and clothing and money to give to the homeless. It was a very small version of ‘Comic Relief.’”
“Comic Relief” was a high-profile series of comedy specials spearheaded by Williams, Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal to raise awareness and funds to benefit the homeless that started in the mid-1980s and continued to produce fundraisers throughout the 1990s.
We asked Cho why events like that don’t garner the same attention from the comedy world that they used to.
“The way we view the world and homelessness changed, and that is unfortunate,” she said. “It’s bad particularly in San Francisco because of the tech community bringing in so much money. Unfortunately, the city is getting richer and poorer at the same time. They’re pricing out a lot of people who have lived there before and it’s too expensive of a city to stay in. It used to be a haven for people who couldn’t afford anything else.”
With her next comedy special on the horizon, we asked Cho if she thinks she is as fired-up as a performer in 2015 as she was in 1995.
“Oh, yeah. I think I’m better-equipped now,” she said. “You actually get more permission as you get older in comedy to say what you want. Joan Rivers is a perfect example of that. She got away with everything because of her age and veteran status. She had that motherly presence so she could get away with murder, so that is great.”
Margaret Cho performs March 1-4 at Helium Comedy Club, 2031 Sansom St. For more information or tickets, call 215-496-9001 or visit www.margaretcho.com.