Marlene Nichols: You’re an author,performer, producer, activist—a true Renaissance woman.It’s been 15 years since your first television series All-American Girland now you’re back with a reality-sitcom The Cho Show for VH1. What enticed you to take the plunge again?
Margaret Cho: I just realized that there hadn’t been another show about an Asian American family on TV in all that time, and that I had to create another one. This time I wanted to use my real family, but the show is very scripted, so it’s like a sitcom starring real people more than it is a “reality” show.
Do you feel you’ve achieved the level of artistic freedom that you hoped for with The Cho Show?
Cho: I am so proud of what we were able to do with The Cho Show. VH1 was amazing and let us be ourselves, and I am so happy that they did that!
You talk about your personal experiments,ranging from anal bleaching to stripping naked in public—is there anything you won’t try once?
Cho: I am up for anything all the time!
Tell us about Bam Bam and Celeste.
Cho: That’s the film that I wrote, produced and starred in with Bruce Daniels, Alan Cumming, Jane Lynch and Elaine Hendrix… I really love it and it’s out on DVD now.
What about your latest one-woman show, Beautiful that you just extended through the fall. How did the idea for this show come about?
Cho: I wanted to do a show about the importance of feeling beautiful, and something really raunchy too—so that’s my show.
How have your own ideas of beauty and sexuality changed over the years?
Cho: I am almost 40 and I have never felt so beautiful or so sexy. I think getting older made me better.
Why? Is it because you’re more accepting of your body now?
Cho: I’m just happy with myself, which is amazing considering all my struggles with dieting and feeling fat. Now I just accept where I am—and it is such a relief.
Many women talk about feeling invisible. How do you deal with the idea that there is one accepted version of beauty that everyone desires to achieve?
Cho: I’m trying to promote the idea that beauty is a choice, that we can choose how to be beautiful, and step into visibility that way. Everyone is beautiful, we need to realize that.
Do you have any comments on the struggle between beauty and substance in the current political arena?
Cho: I don’t know. I find the whole Obama family incredibly beautiful—like the picture perfect American family. The republicans are politically so repulsive to me regardless of what they look like!
Do you work with a director or creative partner when you’re putting together a show? What’s your process like?
Cho: I just do it myself. And I write it and perform it. Not a lot of tweaking or rehearsing, it’s just all there. I am real natural. I just do it. I don’t know where it comes from.
How do you feel your comedy has evolved over the course of your career?
Cho: I have become more political, and just better at it all!
What’s the sexiest thing you’ve done recently?
Cho: Get tattooed! I have a new little garter with a gun sticking out of it on my left thigh done by Mike Davis at Everlasting Tattoo in San Francisco. It rules.
What comes across in your comedy is what an incredible mimic you are. Your facial expressions are hysterical, so I’m curious—how big is your mirror?
Cho: Oh I don’t practice in the mirror. I can just feel what it looks like.
You’ve been a long time advocate for same-sex marriage and are now a certified wedding minister. Is there a special outfit that comes with that? Have you had the honor of performing any ceremonies yet?
Cho: No special outfit, I just do it in whatever. I’ve performed two ceremonies so far. I love it. I just weep—it is so beautiful.
Who’s your favorite L Word character?
You’ve become known as gay male icon. Do you feel you’re equally tapped into the lesbian community?
Cho: I hope so. I feel very connected to the lesbian community—they are my family and my home.
Do you have a message for gay women?
Cho: We have to fight for gay marriage and put our all into it. This is our struggle to become visible, to matter, to become real. We need to make families. This is my goal for all of us.