"If you say you're not a feminist, you're almost denying your own existence. To be a feminist is to be alive." Margaret Cho
Stand-up comedienne Margaret Cho was catapulted toward the limelight when she became the first Asian-American to have the lead role in a sitcom on ABC’s "All-American Girl" (1994-1995), in which she skillfully explored the many contradictions and absurdities of her dual heritage. The comedienne, whose shows are a mixture of her comedy style with strong political and cultural commentaries, is also popular for her concert movies, including I'm the One That I Want (2000) and Margaret Cho: Assassin (2005). Moviegoers could also catch her in films like Angie (1994), It's My Party (1996) and Bam Bam and Celeste (2005). She will appear in the upcoming films East Broadway and One Missed Call.
On a more personal note, the 5' 5" tall Korean-American comic was romantically linked to Chris Isaak, Garrett Wang and Quentin Tarantino. She is currently married to Al Ridenour, an artist involved in the creation of the Cacophony Society and the Art of Bleeding.
"It is tragic that people who are incarcerated are unable to vote. They are probably the most important voices to listen to because they can tell us what we need to change. Yet they are arbitrarily silenced, as if forfeiting their right to vote punishes them. In truth, it punishes the rest of us because it turns the right into a privilege. Whenever privilege is introduced, there are problems. We cannot afford any more problems." Margaret Cho
Childhood and Family:
On December 5, 1968, Moran Cho, who changed her first name to Margaret at age 10, was born to a Korean-American family in San Francisco, California, where her parents ran a bookstore. Her father, Seung-Hoon Cho (born in 1939), came to the US in 1964 as a college student. He writes a newspaper column in Seoul, Korea, and writes joke books. Just three days after she was born, Margaret’s father was deported because he failed to obtain a work permit. Her mother was allowed to remain in San Francisco. Her mother was unable to provide for Margaret on her own and sent her to Korea to live with her father and grandparents. Margaret has a younger brother named Hahn Earl Cho.
Margaret was expelled from Lowell High School because she had a 0.60 GPA, but was later accepted to McAteer High School for the Performing Arts where she became involved with the school's improv comedy group. She later studied Theater at the San Francisco State University, in San Francisco, California.
In June 2003, Margaret married Al Ridenour, an artist involved in the creation of the Cacophony Society and the Art of Bleeding (Margaret was featured in an Art of Bleeding performance in March 2006). On her June 2003 marriage to artist/writer Al Ridenour, Margaret said, "It's not a traditional situation. It's not a committed marriage. We're just friends who share space. My parents don't understand it. They just send us Yahoo E-cards wishing us well."
The Notorious C.H.O.
"When the crowd is with you, the jokes are fresh, your timing is just right, and the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars. You feel like you are exactly where you should be, and there is nothing better. Comedy is a rare gift from the gods, an awesome invention. It propels you right into the heart of the universe." Margaret Cho
Performing in a children's theater at age 13, Margaret Cho began doing stand-up comedy at age 16 in various San Francisco comedy houses, including The Improv, The Punchline, and Holy City Zoo. She has traveled widely with Janeane Garofalo on the comedy club circuit and has done several shows at Rose & Thistle, a club above her parents' bookstore. Meanwhile, she began to build her stand-up career by performing on television and university campuses while struggling with depression and drug/alcohol addiction.
Cho moved to Los Angeles in 1991, the same year when she was named West Coast Division Champion of the US College Comedy Competition. Her stand-up comedy career was launched when she performed on "Star Search" that year, which led her to an appearance as one of the "Six Comics in Search of a Generation," a 1992 Lifetime special on the post-baby boom generation. Also in 1992, she was featured on the NBC comedy special "Bob Hope Presents the Ladies of Laughter" and appeared as a guest in an episode of CBS’ short-lived sitcom spin-off, "The Golden Palace." Afterward, she was featured as half of "Pair of Jokers: Margaret Cho & Bobby Collins," a Showtime comedy special.
In 1994, Cho became the first Asian-American to have the lead role in a sitcom where she starred as a twenty-something, modern American young woman who lived with her more traditional Korean family on ABC’s sitcom "All-American Girl" (1994-1995). The show, which also featuring Ashley Johnson, Clyde Kusatsu, Amy Hill, and B.D. Wong, had its notable guest stars, including Oprah Winfrey, Jack Black, David Cross, Vicki Lawrence, Quentin Tarantino, and Garrett Wang.
Meanwhile, Cho won the American Comedy Award for Best Female Comedian in 1994 and made her feature debut with a supporting role as an admissions nurse in Angie (1994; starring Geena Davis), film director Martha Coolidge's adaptation of Avra Wing's novel "Angie, I Says," which was a New York Times Notable Book of 1991. She also headlined and wrote her own cable showcase, "HBO Comedy Half-Hour: Margaret Cho" and portrayed "Connie Tong," a spoof of CBS news anchor Connie Chung, on "Tonya: The Battle of Wounded Knee," a segment of the Julie Brown special, "National Lampoon's Attack of the 5 Ft. 2 In. Women."
"I love that movie and Olivia is such an icon. I was having a hard time trying to quit smoking at the time and she helped me. She is really magical to me. It’s all about Oliva." Margaret Cho on It's My Party (1996) and her co-star, actress Olivia Newton-John.
The rest of the 1990s saw Cho in writer-director Randal Kleiser's AIDS-themed feature It's My Party, alongside Olivia Newton-John and Eric Roberts. She also made her New York theatrical debut with the Off-Broadway show "I'm the One That I Want," a performance documentary which chronicles her meteoric rise to fame and her near fatal demise after the cancellation of her groundbreaking series. It was later filmed for release in 2000.
In 2001, Cho toured with the new comedy show "The Notorious C.H.O." and its live concert film was released in theaters the next year. In 2003, Cho received a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album for "Revolution." Two years later, she headlined and produced "Margaret Cho: Assassin," a raw interpretation of the rapidly devolving state of the union. Being asked about “The Assassin Tour” title, Cho replied, “I wanted to do something political and make a statement that would be controversial.”
Also in 2005, Cho starred with Bruce Daniels in Lorene Machado’s comedy movie Bam Bam and Celeste. About the movie, Cho commented, “Its a great fag hag love story, something that we don't see these days and this is my contribution to cinema. This has a great cast, including myself and Alan Cumming.”
More recently, Cho appeared in the miniseries "The Lost Room" (2006), lent her voice to the animated TV series "Rick & Steve, the Happiest Gay Couple in All the World" (2007) and guest starred in the January 2007 episode of Fox's sitcom "'Til Death." Next, she will appear in Fay Ann Lee's romantic comedy East Broadway and in Eric Valette's upcoming remake of the 2003 Japanese horror film “Chakushin Ari,” One Missed Call, alongside Shannyn Sossamon and Azura Skye.
- American Comedy: Funniest Female Stand-Up Comic, 1994