Right at this moment comedian Margaret Cho is in a relaxed and reflective mood. But don't let that fool you. Cho's mission is to keep everyone on their toes, and off of hers. The 34-year-old comic has evolved into an R-rated prophet, using the pain of a past fraught with weight, race and sex discrimination, bad relationships, alcohol and drug addiction to lead us down the happier trails of her life today. Hence, her new Revolution tour, which will be filmed as both a concert and as a Truth or Dare-styled documentary called Belle Du Tour.
Cho's previous concert film, I'm The One That I Want, chronicled her experiences as the star of the 1994 sitcom All American Girl, the first to feature an Asian-American TV family. Network brass, she says, accused her of being too fat, too Asian, not Asian enough. She was so intimidated that she lost 30 pounds in two weeks and burst a kidney. When her show was canceled after one season, she spiraled into a haze of alcohol, drugs and sex to mask the pain of what she felt was an abysmal failure.
Now clean, sober and at a comfortable weight, Cho's journey to self-esteem has become one of the cornerstones of her comedy. "I was wasting all my intellect and all the gifts I'd been given: my humor, my passion, on this obsession with my body," Cho says. "Now some days I don't feel as beautiful as others, but I don't care anymore."
What Cho does care about is her work: reaching the masses with her take-no-prisoners brand of comedy. Her characters are so dead-on, she literally becomes them, especially when hilariously impersonating her mother. "I have more excitement and self-confidence now about being an artist," Cho says. "The work takes a long time, putting together a one-woman show that's cohesive and makes sense. The initial rush of discovering the germ of this thing you're going to do, that's the greatest. But the editing and rewriting takes the biggest part of your heart."
Speaking of matters of the heart, Cho recently got engaged to a German man she describes as "a performance and graphic artist, a writer, a genius." It has taken her completely by surprise. "I never thought I would marry," Cho says. "There are people in life who aren't necessarily meant to partner, and I always assumed that was me."
Cupid's out-of-left-field arrow has taught Cho an unexpected lesson or two. "My fiance and I are lifelong friends who were always in other relationships that weren't the right ones," Cho says. "One day, we realized we were miserable. It was time to stop the charade, to actually go for it, and we just sort of ran away. Real love is dangerous, the most terrifying thing you could ever encounter. But it's so good now. We could never go back."
They've set the date to coincide with the first break in her tour, June 13. "Friday the 13th, my 'holy day'," Cho says. They will take part in a traditional Korean ceremony, but also plan to do their own "performance art, crazy people ceremony" in which they will exchange blood instead of rings. Shades of Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie? "We're actually going to do a transfusion, not in a vial," Cho says dryly. "We'll be lying in gurneys."
Personal happiness has in no way diminished Cho's capacity to be a firestarter. "In the past, a lot of my material was about my own problems," Cho says. "Now that I have real serenity inside, it's affected my work in a very positive way. I have the luxury to look outward at the world and see what I have problems with out there."
Cho is an advocate of all minority rights, especially in the gay community, which represents a large portion of her fan base. "I don't understand the laws against adoption for gays," she says. "You don't have to take a test to be a parent, but you have to take a test to be a driver. Maybe we should have a test for gays to drive!"
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