Outspoken comedian Margaret Cho has long championed equal rights and representation in the media, from her groundbreaking, short-lived ’90s sitcom “All-American Girl” to her work for LGBT and women’s rights.
She was a vocal critic of the White House long before the current regime and her comedy goes from political to personal as she shares her struggles and famously imitates her Korean mother.
Cho, who recently was named one of CNN’s “Comedians Who Changed Comedy,” returns to The Comedy Zone for three nights beginning Thursday. She recently spoke to The Observer about writing comedy amidst the political rollercoaster, #MeToo, and the success of “Crazy Rich Asians.”
Q. What are your thoughts about yesterday’s news about Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen?
Everything about anything that has to do with Trump is so crazy. Everyday there is something, and now we’re expecting more and more. Everyday we expect something outrageous.
Q. Does it mean constantly altering your set to keep up?
Part of it is the constant changing and the challenge in trying to address it all, but it’s also easy, too — because it’s happening all the time. We’re all on the same page in terms of news and what people know. Everybody gets briefed every day on social media.
Q. You took the “Fresh of the Bloat Tour” to Asia earlier this year. What was it like talking about these things over there?
People are just amazed at what America is going through. They have a lot of empathy and have their own incredible revolutions happening within them. In Malaysia, I was there on election day. They hadn’t had a shift in government in many years. To see them have so much hope that things can change, it made me think, things aren’t bad all over the world. It’s interesting we’re set in this place (in this country), but everywhere else things are changing. It was enlightening.
Q. When I interviewed you in 2004 we talked about Asian representation in film and TV with shows like “Lost.” Sixteen years later “Crazy Rich Asians” is No. 1 at the box office and ABC sitcom “Fresh off the Boat” is a hit. Does it seem more significant now?
This is the big change. Certainly it’s going to get better as we go along. It takes success at the box office to show we’re ready as a world for real diversity. I’m excited for all my friends in the movie. I want to be in the sequels.
Q. Actress Constance Wu said it’s not about filling roles with Asian actors, it’s about telling stories about the Asian-American experience. Do you feel the same?
Absolutely. It’s incredibly true. It’s really about shifting that perspective, too. To look at all of these stories and see them as just as valid as the ones we’ve seen before. It’s happening.
Q. I’m not Asian, and yet I could relate to “All-American Girl” and “The Joy Luck Club” when they came out decades ago. Why has it taken so long for Hollywood to realize that these stories can be universal?
It’s slow to change. The mentality of Hollywood has always been very biased and narrow-minded in their view of what is appropriate for everyone. It’s hard as an Asian-American to exist in that, because we’re just invisible. So this is just an incredible change. It bodes well for the future.