KNOCK 'EM DEAD: Killer comedian Margaret Cho explains how she got so skinny and why she refuses Dick Cheney’s invitations to the White House
By Daniel A. Kusner
It’s still a few weeks away, but Margaret Cho is making her way to Dallas for two nights at the Majestic Theatre. Hew new “Assassin” tour is being touted as her most political work yet.
The last time Cho was in North Texas, she was testing new material at the Addison Improv for “State of the Emergency,” a stand-up show that toured swing-states before the 2004 election.
Cho spent most of last year so intensely focused on the presidential race. Her candidate didn’t win. So how is she carrying on?
This interview is running early so that people will buy tickets for your Dallas performances. When was the last time you actually went out and bought tickets? I usually buy on the day of the show. But if it’s Bjork or somebody, I snap them up right away. Right now my favorite band is the Dresden Dolls. And they’re sold out months in advance, so I’m out of luck.
Describe the typical Margaret Cho fan: They’re so atypical. So many different people respond to my work. Some are gay, some are lesbian. There are a lot of people who are feel like outlaws and outcasts.
A lot of married Republicans? Actually, there are a few. My work is very highbrow and very lowbrow. It rarely rides in the middle of the road. That’s part of my appeal — even for people with whom I politically disagree.
What’s the most memorable thing a fan has done for you? Years ago, this guy made me a puffy, satin, baseball jacket with my face etched on the back. Not taken from a photograph — he drew it. So I looked like Aileen Wuornos — ya know, Charlize Theron from “Monster.” It’s the best rendering because it’s the most unflattering picture. I still have it — not that I’ve ever worn it.
During ‘State of the Emergency,’ you said it was impossible for Bush to be re-elected. I know. Now I’m going to have to eat my hat.
So last year, on Nov. 3, what did you do? It was very strange, very sad.
Were you wounded? Or did you see it coming? I saw it coming. When I was in California, I was in this very liberal oasis, and I thought Bush didn’t have a prayer. Then, after going through several swing states, I saw how passionate people were about the election.
What did you notice about Bush supporters? I thought they were very brainwashed and very blinded to any of his shortcomings as a leader. They bought so much into this ‘Us versus Them’ worldview. They needed to kick some ass: Kick some terrorist ass! Kick gay marriage’s ass! That brought out the bully in people and the need to be patriotic. But it wasn’t being patriotic — it was being dumb and following orders.
Looking back, have you made great strides in shaking the world up. I don’t know.
What if John Kerry would have won? Would you have demanded an invitation to his inaugural ball? That would have been great. I’ve been to the White House, and I’ll go again. But it’s not like they’ve stopped inviting me. I still get invitations from Dick Cheney.
Why don’t you accept? They’re fund-raisers. So first you have to pay, like, $10,000, so that immediately excludes me. Now during the Clinton Administration, I could go for free. But for the Bush Administration, you have to pay.
If it was free, would you go? No.
Why? Because they’re The Big Enemy? I just don’t like the administration. I don’t want to be photographed there. I don’t want to be seen there. It’s, like, they’re the popular kids in high school, and you’re the king of the losers. You don’t want to be seen with the popular kids.
But at the end of the teenage movie, don’t all the cool kids and losers get together and dance or make out? That’s true. Maybe there’s an Andrew McCarthy or Molly Ringwald for me somewhere in there. But I don’t think so.
Is the common thread in your work about being an outsider who calls out injustice? I’d really hate to lose sight of being petty and immature. When you get too serious and go on crusades, then it’s impossible to be a comedian.
How come your new show doesn’t touch on your miraculous weight loss. I guess it doesn’t seem so miraculous to me because it’s been pretty gradual. It’s all because I got another job. I’m now a professional belly dancer.
You didn’t have the gastric bypass surgery? No. I wish.
Have you ever been this skinny? Probably when I was 11.
Was it a huge drop in a short period of time? No. I lost a lot because I really got into belly dancing. I dacne under my birth name, Moran. And tomorrow night I’m dancing at a Moroccan resturant for a big St. Patick’s Day celebration. I’ve recently gained some back, which I think looks good. But the weight loss is all due to the steadiness of physical activity, which I never had before.
So where are you in the Michael Jackson scandal? I’m over it. I feel bad for him because there’s no way he can get a fair trail. He was unstable to begin with, now he looks like Ann Curry from the Today show. But I really liked his pajama pants.
As an international celebrity, have you ever been wrongly accused? No, because I’ve done everything I’ve been accused of.
In “Assassin,” who are your targets? The Bush daughters? No. It’s not their fault. They probably hate their dad just as much as we all do. Besides, I can’t imagine the hell of being named after Barbara. But I do go after Laura Bush quite a bit. And Dick Cheney.
Do you go after Mary Cheney? No. I defend her.
How? Well, that she’s not allowed to exist. That perception of her being a freak is just awful. Deep down, I think Dick Cheney’s very accepting and loving toward his daughter. I don’t think he’s homophobic at all. He just knows it will advance him politically.
So the next time the Cheney family invites you to the White House, maybe you can bring it all together. You and Mary Cheney can bridge the chasm between Republicans, their gay children and liberal comedians. Yeah, right. If only.
Cho performs at the Majestic Theatre, 1925 Elm St. April 1 at 8 p.m. and April 2 at 7:30 p.m. $30-$45.50. 214-880-0961.