Comedian Margaret Cho exudes a sort of crass, unadulterated, wild sexiness. Since her very first show at age 16 in San Francisco’s Rose & Thistle club (above her parents’ bookstore), Cho, now 38, has starred in her own ABC sitcom, published two books, shared stages with Jerry Seinfeld and Bob Hope, and been nominated for a Grammy Award. She’s also won numerous GLAAD and NGLTF awards for her unwavering commitment to the queer community. Always true to herself, and eschewing mainstream ideals, Cho now brings her very original, very sensual burlesque variety show to the off-Broadway Zipper Factory venue. The Sensuous Woman is her first tour in three years, and caps off two intense years of studying bellydancing. Sure we all know what Cho can do with a microphone, but it’s her multi-tattooed hips that will be talking and taking center stage in this star-studded show, and goodness knows, those hips don’t lie!
GO: How is The Sensuous Woman different from what we’ve seen you do on stage before?
Margaret Cho: This show is not just comedy, it’s a lot of other stuff too. Music. Dance. Burlesque. This is my big variety show. Like Sonny & Cher or maybe Donnie & Marie. But X-rated and while wearing a different sequined gown every night!
Why have you gone from doing solo shows to an ensemble show like The Sensuous Woman?
A variety show enables me to do a lot more stuff. Comedy only allows me to show one aspect of myself. The Sensuous Woman is a show where, despite the fact that there are more people in the show, you get more of me. Beyond comedy, which I do in this show, I also do burlesque numbers and I sing. Plus it’s a smaller audience and more of a party atmosphere.
Why did you get into burlesque and bellydancing, and what do you hope people take from the show?
Burlesque has changed the way I view my body and other people’s bodies. Now I see so much more beauty where I did not see it before. Before I had burlesque I would only look at what was socially sanctioned as hot. Now I seek out weight, gravity and substance. I swear, now I see every one as hot. Seeing someone like Dirty Martini perform makes me feel so alive in ways I have not been before. There is so much negativity around people’s bodies and burlesque is the antidote to that.
Getting up on stage in very little clothing and shakin’ it must be kind of tough, and is very different from stand-up. How’d you get the courage to do it?
I had to let go of the need to have the perfect body, to be perfect or do things perfectly. When I could accept my imperfections and see how they perfectly they suited me, that was when I finally felt free enough to become a dancer.
You just wrapped the True Colors Tour with Cyndi Lauper and a whole host of other fabulous performers. What was your favorite thing about that tour?
Oh! I loved hanging out with Cyndi. She’s a blast! We laughed a lot. She gave me little voice lessons and taught me how to sing. She’s awesome. We did a ton of partying; it was like the Warped Tour or Up In Smoke Tour! But I think what made it all go so well is that we all truly believe in what were where doing and how we can all work to bring an end to homophobia.
During the tour, you took a few days off to produce The Cliks “Eyes in the Back of My Head” music video—and got to make out with Lucas Silveira! Tell me about it! Was it just him, or the whole band? And, ahem, when will you be announcing to the whole world that you are a lesbian?
Ok. It was just Lucas! And I am but that’s not really the right term because I’m really more into transgender men. Lucas is a transgender man. So, queer is probably a better term. I think I’m much more into transgender guys. But I also like butch women. And just today, for the first time I have a crush on a femme. For the first time! See? The term “lesbian” would limit me.
So true… To hell with labels, we’ll just have to call you “sexual!”
I have a personal question. Will you autograph my boobs, I mean, my copy of your Bam Bam & Celeste DVD?
The Sensuous Woman runs for four weeks at The Zipper Factory starting September 26th and will feature some of the country’s most renowned burlesque performers like Princess Farhana, along with stand-up and sketch comedy from emerging and established artists like Ian Harvie. For more info, visit margaretcho.com.
Ducky DooLittle is a sexologist and the author of Sex with the Lights On: 200 Illuminating Sex Questions Answered. duckydoolittle.com