Margaret Cho reveals new album details, talks orgasm video, DOMA, more! (Laughspin interview)
Since Margaret Cho recently announced a long list of new tour dates for her show Mother, I thought it was time to check in with the prolific comedian to see what else was going on in her world. And there are lots of other goings on. In addition to the new tour, which kicks off Aug. 19 in Athens, GA, her Web series In Transition – about a trio of friends just released from prison – is going strong on YouTube, with new episodes posting every Wednesday and her podcast Monsters of Talk, which she hosts with comedian Jim Short, is growing in popularity every week. Cho also just participated in a rather interesting orgasm-themed video art project (which we chat about below), she’s been guest co-hosting on ABCs daytime talk show The View and you can see her every Sunday night at 9 pm ET on Showtime’s hit series Drop Dead Diva, now in its fifth season (The summer finale goes down this coming Sunday). But perhaps most exciting (to me, anyway), she revealed to me that she’s just completed her second musical comedy album. And that’s where we’ll begin.
Can you tell me a little about the new album?
I’m excited. It’s finished and will be out probably early next year. I did it all with Davíd Garza who is an incredible singer and a songwriter who I love and we did it in this little town in Texas called Tornillo which is outside of Juarez near the border of Mexico. It’s a great record and so I’m really proud of it. It’s comedy songs but it’s also just songs that I wanted to write, songs that I think are weird. There are songs about Yoko Ono, songs about North Korea. They’re sort of jokes with refrains; that’s what I’m into. It’s all different genres and it sort of travels from hip-hop to country to soul to R&B and indie rock. It’s fun.
Does it have a name?
Right now it’s called Unholy Love— so we’ll see how long that lasts.
And is like your first music album Cho Dependent, where there’s a bunch of guest players?
No, actually it’s just me and Davíd and he played everything. I played a little and I sang, but he’s such a great multi-instrumentalist that we just sort of had ourselves and that was kind of all we needed— and all his great equipment.
You guest co-hosted The View a few times now. And you’ve made it clear you want the job full-time. Are the folks at ABC searching for another host?
I don’t know, I guess so! I mean it seems like they need another person. Who knows, you know. I hope so because two people left. If Joy Behar is leaving and Elisabeth already left, so I don’t know. I don’t know what they’ve been thinking. I’m definitely down, and I wanted to do it so badly that I made a video dressed as Catwoman because years ago Sean Young wanted to be Catwoman and dressed up as Catwoman and went to the set of Batman to try to get the job. So I thought if I dressed up as Catwoman it would show how passionate I was about the job.
You recently announced new tour dates for your show Mother. How has the reception been so far?
It’s been really great. I mean you never really plan it and you never know what’s going to happen with a live performance—especially with the overturn of DOMA recently. That’s why it’s so awesome and it’s a great format to do that. It’s like when you get to a certain point in comedy you’re able to kind of let go of what you expect and kind of go with a feeling— and that’s really inspiring.
You mention DOMA, which has to be especially important for you. You’ve long been a strong supporter of gay marriage and you’re legally allowed to officiate weddings, right?
Yes, I’m deputized in San Francisco and I also have one of those universal life ministry cards—so that’s great. But it’s a great thing to be able to perform wedding ceremonies in City Hall in San Francisco; that has a huge amount of importance to me because that was where Harvey Milk first appeared on the political scene and he’s somebody that I admire very much. And it’s also where he was assassinated, so, in a lot of ways, it’s a very sacred kind of a place. It’s a place where something so tragic happened and then to be able to do something so beautiful as being able to marry people there, it’s pretty profound.
Have you married anyone lately?
Not lately, but I’m gearing up to do a whole bunch.
In San Francisco?
All over. I’ve done them in San Francisco; I’ve done them in Provincetown, Massachusetts and I would love to do more and definitely plan on doing more.
When these people get married, do they know going in that Margaret Cho is marrying them?
Yeah in a couple of instances people have asked me to do it, but it’s always different. It’s always new and it’s always people who are in different stages of relationships. You get all different kinds of people who want to have that union and to have that family. So that’s a really great thing.
It must be a pretty intense feeling to be able not only to see gay people getting married but actually be part of the process.
Oh, it’s incredible, and it’s incredible to have fought for something so long and then actually see the change. To see laws change and the world change to accommodate gay marriage, it’s really great.
Fundamentally speaking, why do you think it’s taken this long to overturn DOMA?
I don’t know. People utilize all sorts of reasoning when it comes to supporting their own fear, their own hatred or homophobia, why things shouldn’t happen, why people’s rights shouldn’t happen. There are a lot of weird ideas out there about what kind of control we have over other people’s lives and what kind of morality we can apply to the laws and the legal system. There are people who feel like they can override the concept of equality with their own personal beliefs— and that is so strange to me. Equal rights should be obvious. It’s just about respecting individuality.
Let’s talk about Hysterical Literature, which is a video art project, in which you’ve participated. Basically, you read from a book you’ve selected and eventually – due to some activity under the table at which you’re seated – you are brought to orgasm. So I have to ask, what’s going on under the table?
It’s [artist] Clayton Cubitt’s girlfriend Katie who is really great. She’s a lovely young woman. What they do is they put a sound proof blanket over your lap so you can’t hear the buzz of the Hitachi Magic Wand which is actually quite loud. So, Katie is under there moving it around. They’re very nice people and I’m a big fan of Clayton Cubitt’s so it was easy for me to say yes to it although I’d never met Katie before and I had never thought about what it was going to be like. I like what Clayton is doing. I think it’s really interesting to see that side of sexuality and I’m not opposed to any kind of sexual expression, so it was just right for me. What was hard about it is that I kept losing my place.
Yeah, I can imagine.
I’m not somebody who’s really readily affected by literature in that manner, so I didn’t choose [a book] that was particularly important to me. I just chose whatever seemed appropriate for the situation. I thought it was really funny. I laughed too loud; I kind of went into hysterics, but it was just a really funny, really crazy thing.