by Logan Lynn.
QBlog previously reported that actress & comedian Margaret Cho is bringing her new stand-up show “Mother” to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland this November, and this week I had the pleasure of interviewing this amazing, hilarious talent for Queer Voices!
Margaret and I talked about gay men and their mother figures, what it’s like to have intersecting minority identities these days in Hollywood, how weird “Dancing With The Stars” fame is, and much more.
Read our chat below, then get your tickets to the Portland stop of Margaret Cho’s “Mother” tour HERE.
Logan Lynn: Hi Margaret! Thanks for carving some time out for me today.
Margaret Cho: Thank you!
Logan Lynn: The name of your new tour is “Mother”, so I’m guessing it’s about…politics? Animal rights?
Margaret Cho: (Laughs) Well, it is about a lot of different things. It’s about my own mother a little, but it’s also about being at the age where everybody perceives you to be a mother. In your 30’s and 40’s you’re kind of looked at as a mother figure, and then I have a lot of friends who are younger than me, who consider me kind of the maternal figure in their lives. Certainly as a hag, you know, like, a fag hag, you get to this stage where you become like a mother, where they just start calling you mother. That’s a great place to get to, that grand dame queen mother identity; so that’s part of what the show is, too.
Logan Lynn: Do you feel like that’s why gay men have historically been so magnetized your way? Do you fill some sort of mother-shaped void for us?
Margaret Cho: I think that’s true. I think it’s why sometimes gay culture is drawn to very strong women. Because, you know, if you go from Joan Crawford to Judy Garland to Madonna to Lady Gaga, that mother identity for all of them is pretty inescapable. Even somebody young like Lady Gaga still identifies herself as a mother. She’s the mother of the monster, but that is still the same. Madonna is kind of the ultimate. I mean, her name calls it out before she even gets there. With gay men there is a definite need to have several kinds of mother figures, whether it’s like somebody that they’re listening to in music or somebody that they’re friends with, and they don’t necessarily have to be older. It’s just feminine energy and strength is perceived as mother energy.
Margaret Cho: She really loves it. I think it’s because a lot of times, at least in Korean society – and most society – when women become older they become invisible, except for a select few. For her, it’s a way to become more visible as she grows older in my work and my relationship to her; and certainly the way people view immigrant parents and view their own history with their own mothers – I think she gets a lot out of it in a way that is pretty exciting.
Logan Lynn: That’s great. So you mentioned one piece of your identity, and I’m wondering if we could chat just a bit about some of the ways in which your multiple identities intersect. I know you are an out, bisexual woman. You are also a woman in Hollywood, and you are a Korean American, and it seems probable that each of these identities has come with their own set of challenges at different times.
Margaret Cho: (Laughs) Uh-huh.
Logan Lynn: Just knowing the history of how the world works, I guess I’m curious about your experience around those identity pieces. Which do you think has been the most challenging to stand in as yourself?
Margaret Cho: I think it’s all different, but there are certain things like queerness – if you’re bisexual and a woman in Hollywood it’s almost as if it’s not really that unusual. It’s something that we’ve heard about a lot, and oddly it’s always been the most enticing, exciting women who claim that title, whether it’s Angelina Jolie or Anna Paquin or even Madonna to a certain extent – she would say that a lot – you know, it lends itself to a kind of excitement. I really see a lot of my own sexuality mirrored back in somebody like David Bowie or Lou Reed in the 70’s, when those guys were talking about their bisexuality, which is so cool. You think about that now and you think “Wow, that’s really fabulous and forward and progressive for the 70’s”. There’s something there that I love to echo, but bisexuality for women is not as (pauses) dangerous as it is for men, certainly. We don’t really hear it a lot about guys anywhere, so that in a sense is an easy one, except within the gay community when you are kind of faced with this thing where people really don’t understand it.
Logan Lynn: Like where the L’s and G’s want the B’s to choose sides?
Margaret Cho: Yeah, you have to pick a side, or else it’s just inconceivable that you would go back on what was your identity, so that’s something that’s fun to play with. I don’t think that that’s a difficult identity to be. It’s certainly something people ask a lot of questions about, but for a female in Hollywood who’s bisexual it actually just adds quite a lot of intrigue to who you are. Then the Asian American identity has definitely gotten easier over time because, especially the Korean community, has very much accepted what I do over the years. I have longevity.
Logan Lynn: Yes. Longevity speaks volumes.
Watch: Margaret Cho in Bed with Joan Rivers
Margaret Cho: Being a woman in Hollywood, I don’t know. I have a different attitude towards aging than a lot of women my age in Hollywood, like..I don’t care. I really kind-of reject getting dressed up and makeup. I don’t necessarily need any validation for my own attractiveness. I’ve never really been a leading lady so it’s never mattered. My use and viability as an ingénue has never ever been needed. I’ve never been in that role, so I’ve never felt the loss of it or felt the absence of it.
Logan Lynn: From the outside, it seems like you’ve been able to be yourself throughout your career.
Margaret Cho: Yeah, I hope so. It’s easier for sure.
Logan Lynn: Who are some of your heroes or influences?
Margaret Cho: I really love Yoko Ono. I think she’s great. I think The Beatles are great also. I’m trying to learn how to play electric sitar, which is very challenging. I’m having kind of a George Harrison moment.
Logan Lynn: Nice.
Logan Lynn: No plans for a new record, perhaps?
Margaret Cho: I kind of always make music as a constant, and you know, for me it’s a side project that every once in a while I will introduce in comedy, but for the most part it’s almost like my tattoos. Rock and Roll is the same impulse. My tattoos are sort of private. They are for my enjoyment. My music is in a sense the same. There are definitely songs that come out of my comedy, and I will probably do a song in this tour. I usually do one song at the end of each show lately, which is fun.
Logan Lynn: Oh my god. I can’t wait! What was being a contestant on “Dancing With The Stars” like for you? Was it surreal? Strange?
Margaret Cho: It was really hard. I was actually thinking about that yesterday. Everybody on that show had blood inside their shoes.
Logan Lynn: Yikes.
Margaret Cho: It’s like every time they are appearing, and I’ve witnessed in almost everybody’s shoes, man or woman, if they were a dancer or not a dancer, they had bloody shoes. That’s, like, really heavy. It’s really difficult to do. It’s a real challenge to the body. For me, you know, I’m not really that physically active. I’m pretty sedentary, so it was hard. It became a weird, weird thing to do because suddenly I was getting chased by paparazzi with cameras. That had never happened to me before, so that was strange. It puts people in a weird category of celebrity that nobody’s really prepared for, and it’s hard.
Logan Lynn: Have you stayed in that celebrity category or has that died down as time has passed since your season?
Margaret Cho: I think it was only applicable to when I was there.
Logan Lynn: So you’re not still getting chased by the papz?
Margaret Cho: No, and it’s the weirdest feeling. It’s like, I don’t really care, but why is this suddenly valuable when yesterday it was not and tomorrow it’s not going to be; but suddenly today it’s like a thing and certainly you’re not really more famous one day than you are another, I don’t think, so it’s a very weird thing.
Logan Lynn: That’s such a crazy experience to have had! Before we head out, could you tell us just a little bit more about what we can expect from your upcoming Portland show?
Margaret Cho: I think it’s really funny. It’s like a big breakdown of Fag-Hag-Ism, which I think is something that hasn’t really been done. I like this idea that sometimes you can inherit a gay from your mother. Sometimes that happens. Like “Baby, you remember uncle Ron. Well, he got a D.U.I. so he’s gonna babysit you from now on.”
Logan Lynn: (Laughs)
Margaret Cho: The magic of the relationship between an old gay man and a little girl is, like, the best friendship that you could possibly have on earth. They will watch “Twilight” as many times as you want and they will play Barbies with you and they don’t have to be Ken. It’s like “Girl, I wanna be Skipper!” and it’s the most beautiful thing, so I wanna really acknowledge that, and call out that one relationship that I know exists. There’s never been a movie about it (laughs). There’s never been a TV show about it, like (laughing) that generational comedy between this really old gay man and this really little girl. It’s such a funny thing. It could be a crime duo! The closest thing to it is “Paper Moon” but that’s not even really it. Really old gay and really little girl is such a perfect combination of personalities, so I’m really trying to explore that.
Logan Lynn: That sounds amazing. So is there a movie in the works, post-tour? Is this the precursor?
Margaret Cho: (Laughs) Well, it should be a movie. We’ll see.
Logan Lynn: Rad. I’m really excited for you and am looking forward to seeing you in Portland in November, dear!
Margaret Cho: Thank you! See you soon.
For more on Margaret Cho please visit margaretcho.com.
For tickets to “Mother” at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall November 15th, click HERE…and stay tuned! QBlog and Margaret Cho will be giving away a few pairs of tickets on the blog over the coming weeks as well.
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