Renegade comic Margaret Cho is all tattooed and ready to bring her hormonally hyperactive Cho Dependent show to the Beacon on November 5 as part of the New York Comedy Festival.
Before the big Cho-down, I cornered the saucy lady on the phone for some frank and funny biz talk.
Me: Hi, Margaret. What will you be doing at the festival? Your usual psychosexual stuff?
Cho: Yeah. Real psycho and real sexual. Stuff about gay rights, living in the South, and being on Dancing With the Stars.
Me: Great! You lasted three episodes on that show, and you did very not-embarrassingly.
Cho: I did way better than I thought I would do! It’s way more intense than a dance competition because paparazzi are following you, and I’d always fall. And the first day when everyone came down the big stairs, I fell!
Me: Doing a Marie Osmond?
Cho: Trying to get the sympathy vote. [Laughs.] But I got to do a big gay pride dance on the show, wearing a big rainbow flag. That was the gayest thing that ever happened on an already gay show. I made it all about pride, which is probably why I didn’t get as many votes, though you’d think you’d get more votes.
Me: You were basically the Adam Lambert of this season. You’re also in the gay-friendly Lifetime series Drop Dead Diva.
Cho: It shoots in the deep, deep South, in Peachtree City, Georgia, where I am the blackest person there. I get in fights with people. They say, “I don’t support gay marriage because it goes against my religious belief.” I say, “Well, fuck you, then.” That’s my answer to everything. I’m sick of explaining to people why we deserve equality. I jump ahead to the “Fuck you, then” argument.
Me: They just come up to you and say, “I’m against gay marriage”? They must have seen the rainbow dance.
Cho: They know I’m a big supporter of gay marriage. And we’re famous there. Everyone knows where you are and what you’re saying, and they’re in your business.
Me: I’m sure you’ll beat them down with a flagpole. Did you have bisexual icons growing up in San Francisco?
Cho: I was lucky I had Harvey Milk when I was growing up. He was so right-on politically and such an endearing and beautiful figure and pioneer.
Me: We had Ed Koch. Do you want to do more in the musical arena?
Cho: I want to do something like Lady Gaga, but I’m like Lady Caca. I have a song called “Eat Shit and Die” and I wear a big turd costume. It’s the next step after you eat the meat dress.
Me: Do audiences ever give you the cold shoulder? Not because of the turd dress—just in general.
Cho: The longer you’re in stand-up, the harder you have to work. It’s a continuous journey in explaining who you are. If they’ve heard your explanation, they need to hear a better one. You have to keep updating it. It’s a continuous introducing of yourself.
Me: Well, I’ll gladly watch you do so once again at the festival. I loved your Sensuous Woman show a few years ago.
Cho: Thanks. The Enquirer was trying to publish pictures of me with my dick from that show, but they didn’t. It wasn’t the most camera-friendly dick, but I was still disappointed that they didn’t run it.
Me: I guess it would have been for “Would You Be Caught Dead in This Outfit?”
Cho: “Would You Be Caught Dead With This Dick On?”
This Ain’t No Fooling Around
I strapped on my vitamin drip and spent the rest of the week at old-time reunions and get-togethers that proved beyond a doubt that nostalgia is what it used to be. (You’ve heard that joke before? Well, fuck you, then.)
The Mudd Club/Club 57 reunion at the Delancey brought together old punks “united by AARP and Facebook,” as one aging attendee so aptly put it. The Mudd Club, as I recall, was the late-’70s Tribeca dive that exploded as an underground answer to disco glitz, serving skinny ties, driving guitar chords, and miles of downtown attitude. The bigger you were, the more likely you were doing coke and giving head in the bathroom to the tune of Blondie’s “Call Me.”
The revival brought it all back, down to the crasher trying to follow me in and the fistfight that broke out outside, though everyone seemed a little more polite now and a few were incongruously texting during the concert. Onstage came an array of the club’s stellar acts, like Sic F*cks, who rocked out on zingy glam-punk as Ann Magnuson gushed, “This is the music I love” and a heckler yelled, “You’re a bunch of sick fucks, Sic F*cks!”
“I’m from the Comateens,” a well-dressed woman in the crowd said to me, startling me out of my “Where am I?” reverie. “The last time I saw you, you were onstage at the Mike Todd Room, spraying vodka into your eyes to make yourself cry. Remember?” Honey, save it for the Mike Todd Room reunion.
Old-time stars crowded into the Chiller Theatre festival at the Parsippany Hilton—you heard me—where I wangled free time with my fave cult actors, pushing past the masses lined up to buy autographs. Exes Patty Duke and John Astin were big draws, stationed at diagonal ends of the main room. Dancer-turned-action-star Sandahl Bergman was there, too, reminding me that she appeared in the immortal Xanadu (“I’m the first muse that comes out of the wall”). Dallas‘s Patrick Duffy assured me he has the same body as the one in the shirtless photos he was selling, “but now it’s in my socks, not above the waist.” Theresa Russell told me she can’t watch Whore because “it was hard. I can’t detach myself from it.” And when I asked Fred Williamson about the obscure Otto Preminger film Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon, he said, “Otto made Liza Minnelli so afraid. Her performance suffered because he intimidated her. So one day I lifted him up . . . and then we became friends!”
As I left, I was lifted by the sight of twin girls approaching Patty Duke and saying, “We look alike, we talk alike. . . .”
Inspiring old-time theater is back via Angels in America, the two-part Tony Kushner play that galvanized the ’90s with its savage attack on those who betray their love, from closeted Mormons to squeamish gay boyfriends, layering that message with poetry, historical figures, and phantasmagorical visitations. After seeing the first half of the Signature Theater revival, I thought it was a decent try, but lacked the original’s strength, some of the play’s references and whimsies (“What are you doing in my hallucination?”) coming off more heavy-handed than originally. But after Part II, by which point the actors had melted into their seething roles, I was cheering and vowing to fight AIDS, denial, and oppression all over again. What an experience! The world keeps spinning forward, but it’s still one that desperately needs Angels in America.
The Scottsboro Boys could have benefited from some more detailed info pumped into the script instead of telling us for two hours how wrong it was to punish those innocent boys, the minstrel-show framework allowing for the bad people to get gleefully mocked throughout. It’s hard to disagree with the sentiment—or the showmanship. I just wish the result was more thrilling than admirable, though numbers like the electrocution tap dance and the blacks-in-blackface finale really do impress. The fine music, cast, arrangements, and staging are all extremely not-guilty. Disagree? Well, fuck me, then.