The US comedy genius talks comedy festival camaraderie and bespectacled lesbian sandwiches
Margaret Cho has done many things in her storied career – done years of standup, recorded an album, starred in sitcoms, portrayed Kim Jong-il on 30 Rock – but one of the constants has been her portrayal of her mother, Young-Hi Cho. And since her new show is entitled Mother, one might wonder if it’s non-stop thick Korean comedy accents. And the answer is “a bit.”
“Well, the show stems out of the fact that I’m old enough to be somebody’s mother but I still act like completely immature,” she explains. “It’s just getting worse and worse as I get older. And so it’s really like this idea of where’s it going to end: am I going to go back and become a child again, because now I’m like a teenager? Am I just regressing? And then of course I talk about my mum – that’s always been a running joke with me and my family, and then it became a joke between me and my comedy. There’s a lot of her in the show.”
And this being Cho, there’s a lot more going on in there too. “There’s also the idea that as a person who’s been in the gay community for a while now, I realise that it’s important for older gays like myself to parent younger gays, and that whenever you see a gay kid you like have to go up to them and let them know that they’re going to be okay and they’re going to survive, because it’s really hard to grow up gay. So there are a lot of different themes.”
She’s also quick to point out that the show’s likely to change once she gets back to Australia – especially since she’ll actually get to stay in one place for a bit thanks to the comedy festivals.
“Being around other comics changes things: everybody’s going to be trying to feed off each other,” she enthuses. “And you know there is people that I love to hang out with and I’ll be like on their turf.”
Like who? “Oh, there’s like Hannah Gadsby and Wil Anderson and lots of other comics that I really respect and love. That’s going to be an exciting thing for me.”
Do comics get to hang out much, though? Surely everyone’s doing shows at roughly the same time…
“Yeah, except we have 23 hours to waste away most days so there’s a lot of hanging out,” she points out, laughing. “And it’s the one time where comics do get to see each other because usually we’re in different parts of the world – and also there’s the competition too. You know you want to see everybody and see who’s doing what. It’s a great thing."
Well, going on Gadsby’s last show, there’s loads of good material worth stealing.
“Oh she’s the best, I love her!” Cho squeals. “She’s such a brilliant person, we like to go to museums together and she’s so hot.”
And this year you’ve got Gadsby and Canada’s DeAnne Smith – which are basically elements of a set of comedy Russian nesting dolls. It would be possible to make a bespectacled genius queer comic sandwich. Not that we’re necessarily suggesting that…
“Oh, please!” she laughs. “I can’t think of anything better than that.”