Photo: Lindsey Byrnes
At this year’s Golden Globes, the comedian Margaret Cho—in character as a North Korean general—ended her bit by offering to host in 2016. Critics on Twitter (“Racist.” “Minstrelsy.” “Shuckin’ for white folk.” “Not funny.”) were less into the idea.
The 46-year old is not alone in defending her right, as a woman of Korean descent, to skewer the Dear Leader and his regime, but then Cho has never been one to sidestep controversy; in 2013 she made headlines for outing her Face/Off co-star John Travolta as “Oscar Wilde gay.
"These days she’s co-hosting the TLC talk show All About Sex, which requires no further explanation, and also features Chelsea Lately favorite Heather McDonald and Hairspray star Marissa Jaret Winokur .
Cho is also touring the nation with her latest stand-up act, and trying her hand at something most comedians are uniquely unqualified for: fashion design. We caught up with her during a brief stopover in her hometown of San Francisco to discuss the current state of BDSM, her activism for the homeless, and why she wants a penis.
YAHOO STYLE: You seem pretty stoked about your latest stand-up show, which you’re filming at NYC’s Gramercy Theater on March 7th. What’s new this time out?
MARGARET CHO: This show is about everything. I’m working with a lot of current events; I talk about the Golden Globes, the North Korean situation, stuff like that. And I talk a lot about this trend of violence against women and how to deal with the frustration about it. The show is kind of angry. The title is, “There is no ‘I’ in team, but there is a ‘Cho’ in psycho.” I’m very proud of it.
YS: Speaking of the Golden Globes, you caught a lot of heat for your portrayal of a North Korean general. Did the controversy surprise you?
MC: Yeah, it was weird. And it was weird that most of the people saying they didn’t like it were not Asian. It was a strange discussion about race, and how certain people feel really proprietary towards it. I think everybody is afraid of getting their email hacked, whereas I don’t even know my email password, so they would be doing me a favor.
YS: What do you say to the charges of racism?
MC: I’m not playing the race card, I’m playing the rice card, which is my favorite thing to play.
YS: On your new TLC talk show, All About Sex, you describe yourself as a pioneer of alternative sexuality—polyamory, orgies, swinging, BDSM. Does anything surprise you these days?
MC: What’s surprising to me is the true need for basic intimacy. What I crave right now are things like holding hands and a very, very slow connection with people. I’m not as wild and adventurous as I used to be.
Photo: Kyle Christy / TLC
YS: Your co-hosts paint a pretty grim picture of sex after marriage. It sounds like none of them are having it. At all. Are you helping them off set?
MC: I think so. I think it’s really important to connect to sexuality outside of partnerships and relationships. That’s my whole goal with the show: to help women feel like they have a better relationship with themselves. That’s what I want for everyone, whether it involves an exploration of different kind of sexuality, or just an exploration of sex toys—which I am also an expert in.
YS: You were a serious BDSM practitioner for many years. How does it feel to be retired now that BDSM has gone mainstream thanks to 50 Shades of Gray?
MC: I think it’s great that people are curious about it. It’s something that has enhanced my life, and it can enhance a lot of people’s lives. It’s become a very trendy thing and I think that’s great for the art form. Because that’s what it is: an art form. People are starting to look at it as more than just a sex style. And I’m thrilled by all of that.
Photo: Austin Young
YS: Were you a dominant or a submissive in your time?
MC: I was a switch [both dominant and submissive]. But my preference was submissive because I’m really lazy. I’m a true bottom. But at the same time I appreciate all the skill it takes to be a dominatrix. I’ve seen—and learned—some pretty extraordinary things. I can do both pretty well.
YS: You recently became a fashion designer with The Solitare, a crowdfunded onesie which you claim will eliminate the need for a purse. What do you have against handbags?
MC: I don’t like to carry one. Guys don’t have to; they just put everything in their pockets. I wanted a garment that would serve as a place to carry my money, credit cards, ID, keys, lipstick and be done with it. That’s what the Solitare is for.
YS: It does seem to eliminate a lot of decision making. But do you have to take the whole thing off every time nature calls? Isn’t that a bigger hassle than just carrying a bag?
MC: I think so? [Laughing.] Yeah, you do. I wear a lot of onsies, so I’m used to that. I don’t have a solution other than a penis. If I could also have a penis, that would be the best.
YS: Maybe that’s your next crowdfunded endeavor.
MC: You know what never really took off? Those contraptions that help women stand up and pee. I think it was called Le Funelle? Maybe there’s some perfect version I could design.
YS: Can you talk about the homeless outreach you’ve been doing in San Francisco?
MC: That is to honor the great Robin Williams, who was not only an amazing comedian but also a tremendous advocate for the homeless. It’s something about his legacy that I think gets lost a little bit. I wanted to reemphasize that so I created a charity project called “Be Robin,” which is basically moving comic relief. I stand on a street corner with musician friends and other comedians and we do shows for several hours. People come and donate food, clothing, toiletries, and money to the homeless—and the homeless come and take it and enjoy the show.
YS: I saw that you were charging fans $5 to take a picture with you—and $100 for you to get naked in the picture—with the proceeds going to the homeless. Has anyone taken you up on the $100 option?
MC: Well, that was a really a hard sell. People would give me the money and say: Please keep your clothes on. They were actually giving me more money not to be naked. As long as they’re donating to the homeless, I think it’s great.
YS: Really? No one took you up on a nude shot? I can’t believe that.
MC: Nobody took me up on it! But they still gave me the money. So, the homeless won. The homeless win every time, whether I get to be naked or not.
YS: So, you were on-trend with the jumpsuit thing—Dior sent onsies down the runway in Paris recently. And you were into BDSM before the rest of the world caught on. What’s the next big thing you already know about that the rest of us are still waiting to discover?
MC: You can never really tell. Maybe it’s Le Funelle! Maybe it’s something that allows women to pee standing up without splattering everywhere.
YS: Any more talk of you hosting the Golden Globes?
MC: No! But I’m ready to do it. I’ve always wanted to do any of those shows. I think it would be incredible. I’m gonna keep pushing for it.
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