Margaret Cho: SF native returns for Palace of Fine Arts show

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday May 23, 2023
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Margaret Cho (photo: Sergio Garcia)
Margaret Cho (photo: Sergio Garcia)

It's been a few years since queer comedian, actor, and activist Margaret Cho has done a stand-up comedy tour. In the interim, she's been acting in a variety of well-received movies (including "Fire Island") and TV shows (such as "Hacks" and "The Flight Attendant"). In other words, she's never far from our sight. That's a good thing!

For 2023, Cho will embark on a multi-city comedy tour, "Live and Livid," and it promises to be the live performance event of the year (sorry, Madonna). Margaret was kind enough to answer a few questions before heading out on the road.

Margaret Cho (photo: Sergio Garcia)  

Gregg Shapiro: Margaret, I interviewed you last spring just before the movie "Fire Island" premiered. Since that time, the movie won the Gotham Awards' Ensemble Tribute, and was named on several end-of-the-year "best of" lists. Additionally, "Fire Island" is Certified Fresh on with a 94% rating. What does it mean to you to have been associated with such a well-received project?
Margaret Cho: I love it! I loved making it. I love the cast. I love Joel Kim Booster's vision. I love Andrew Ahn's directing. We are a family, and we've got to make sequels, prequels, a whole cinematic universe. I think that would be so valuable. Hopefully, we'll get to see that. I love them. They're my babies. I knew that everybody would love this movie. I loved this movie so much. I'm very proud of it and proud of everybody that worked on it

The Lifetime sitcom "Drop Dead Diva," on which you played Terri Lee, has been brought back and is airing on the Hallmark Channel. How do you feel about the possibility of a whole new generation of viewers getting to see the show?
I'm very proud of the work that I got to do on that show. It's really exciting that everybody gets to discover it again. I love that we get to show everybody what we did. It's so fun and it's a triumph.

Do you have any favorite memories to share from "Drop Dead Diva"?
I loved working with Liza Minnelli. My very favorite episode was all the stuff I got to do with Patty Duke. She was a legend. I kept trying to get her to come to a screening of "Valley of the Dolls" where we would interview her. She was like, "Oh, nobody wants to see that movie!" I'm like, "What? Are you crazy [laughs]? Everybody loves that movie." She was such a person to get to know and to work with. What an incredible actor and a lovely woman.

You play Nurse Nina in the Apple TV+ educational children's series "Helpsters." What do you like best about that?
The creatures. All of the puppets are so cute. I love working with puppeteers because they're actually very animated people. They're so charming and beautiful and fun, and fun to be with. I love (out actor) Rebecca Henderson (who plays Farmer Flynn). We played girlfriends, and now we're married on the show, we're married on "Helpsters." When I see her, I'm like, "We're doing so good in our relationship!" She was my girlfriend in the (2022) movie "Sex Appeal" on Hulu, and she and I are married on "Helpsters." She's my most successful relationship.

"Helpsters" is from the makers of "Sesame Street," and being someone who was in her formative years when "Sesame Street" first started airing, would you say that it was a show that had an impact on you?
Absolutely! In the '90s, I got to work with Kermit the Frog. I mean, talk about an NDA!

If you work with a Muppet, like Kermit the Frog, in particular, you have to sign so many NDAs. I'm probably breaking an NDA right now. We had gone to this thing, and Kermit was my partner. We were doing shots with Gorbachev, Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev were in the United States and they were being hosted by Jane Fonda and Ted Turner, to whom she was married at the time.

I had not drunk alcohol in a long time, and they forced us to do shots. Kermit was like (in Kermit's voice), "Drink it! Drink it!" I couldn't not do a shot if Kermit's right there telling me to drink it. I've worked with a lot of Muppets, and I've had a lot of Muppet drama [laughs].

Your 2023 North American tour is titled "Live & Livid." We certainly have a lot to be livid about, especially in the years following the 45th President, as well as the events of January 6, and the deadly rise of White Nationalism. Were these sources of inspiration, and what else are you livid about?
Yes! Also the attacks on drag queens, the attacks on queerness, the attacks on trans folks, the continual attacking of different parts of our community who are so important to us. Whether it's our athletes, like Brittney Griner. Whether it's trans kids. Drag queens, to me, who are front and center, the heart and joy of our community. It's where we celebrate, with drag.

That's the most heartbreaking part of this is. They're taking down the really important part of community; the cheerful ones, the ones that we need. Well, not Bianca Del Rio [laughs]. Bianca's my favorite! They should be scared of drag queens! They will get read to filth. They should be afraid! Children are way safer at a drag show than they are in church!

As of now, when we're talking, "Live & Livid" is scheduled to run through September with stops in 20 cities, including San Francisco. What does it mean to you when you get to perform for the hometown crowd?
Oh, I love it. It's sort of still my hometown in a lot of ways. I have deep roots there. I spent so much time there, so it's still home in a lot of ways. It's meaningful and a cherished thing. But, also, I think I'm a citizen of everywhere. I've been everywhere, so it's all my home.

It's been six years since you launched your previous tour, "Fresh Off the Bloat." What are you most looking forward to about returning to performing live again?
I think we had a really difficult time throughout the pandemic and through this resetting of this idea of what the world is. It'll be great to greet people again in this new space. The gratitude that I have for live performance, and going to live shows and performances as it is, is a really special thing. I'm very excited.

Are there any upcoming projects about which you're excited that you'd like to mention?
Nothing that I can mention, as yet. But I'm really looking forward to this year. I have things that I'm working on that I'm really thrilled about. Things that are starting to come up that I'll be able to talk about soon. I'm working a lot, so I'm really happy about that.

This interview is taking place on Friday the 13th. Are you superstitious, and if so, what superstitions do you observe?
I love Friday the 13th! I love black cats. I love this whole notion of the cursed film or cursed TV show. There's something about it, whether it's "The Exorcist" or "Poltergeist." Any of these ideas of things being ill-willed or bad omens. "The Omen!" I love horror, so to me it's a very special day. It's my happy day, my holiday.

Margaret Cho performs June 2, 10pm at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater, 3301 Lyon St. $49-$59.

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