Margaret Cho is gearing up for one of her busiest year’s yet. On tap for 2012 is Cho’s return to Lifetime Television’s Drop Dead Diva, premiering June 3rd, a reprise on NBC’s Season Finale of 30 Rock (airing May 10 & 17, bringing back her hilarious gender-bending interpretation of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il), a hosting gig on her new show airing on the Food Network this fall, a brand new summer tour of intimate venues beginning August 11th in P-Town, Cape Cod and various other TV appearances. I had a chance to speak with Margaret as we talk about a variety of topics, insight, and her future. This is all on the heels of her brand-new stand up show bringing audiences her unflinching brand of comedy called ‘Mother’. Read below for the full interview…
You recently spoke out how you loved the old fashion feel of zines compared to the digital age of blogs and websites. With the new trend like Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari releasing online editions of their stand-up for $5, do you feel this is a great new direction in selling stand-up? Or do you prefer the old-fashioned way of manufacturing DVD/CD’s in stores?
Margaret: I love both, however comedy can be brought to fans everywhere, the more ways – the better! What these guys have done is incredibly innovative, but I will always be a customer for DVDs and CDs. I just love to have them [and] I am a great collector!
What would you say are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of working on a show like Drop Dead Diva?
Margaret: It’s a lot of work making an hour long show – which is essentially making a movie in about a week! It’s long hours and hard going at times, but very exciting. I love acting and I love our show. We have an amazing cast led by the incredibly talented Brooke Elliott. We are a family [and] have been working together now for many years on this fantastic project. It’s such a great feeling to have such success with it because we love it!
Since you were actually the first person cast in the show, did you have any reservations about how the show would ultimately come together?
Margaret: I had confidence in our creator Josh Berman, and the strength of his vision really carried us through. I think the critical casting of Brooke as Jane was what made the show a hit, and brings viewers back every week. The writing also is a major factor in our success!
In terms of Cho Dependent, I did feel that it was a bit more unpredictable than your other more recent endeavors. I laughed and I cringed (in a good way!) since a lot of different sounds and lots of different guest artists came together. Were you definitely going for those reactions?
Margaret: Yes, I loved making the album. It’s the hardest I have ever worked as I had to learn how to sing, play and write songs – but I had the best teachers and the most amazing mentors. I was going for something different, but still in the realm of what I do – standup comedy. That is my work and my life and being a musician is another part of that!
Releasing films, music, performing stand-up, authoring books, and appearing on TV — do you have to be in a separate head spaces to achieve all five? Or does juggling different creative outlets come easy for you?
Margaret: I think it’s all the same really, it’s just about finding the time to do everything. I love it and I am happy to work and it fulfills me and makes me feel good. I don’t have any problems going from job to job, it’s more about figuring out when I can do it!
Is it easier for you to write material when you are depressed or angry or in a good state of mind?
Margaret: Hmmm, I guess I can write in any state of mind, because my work requires it. I think the best things can come from feeling really bad, and needing to find some way out of it. That is the way creativity can really lighten up your outlook and improve your life.
What are some of your favorite Gong Li films?
Margaret: I love everything! She is beautiful!!!!!!! [Favorites being] Raise the Red Lantern to Memoirs of a Geisha. She is a stunning woman and a marvelous actress.
You are returning to 30 Rock as Kim Jong Il. Obviously some real life drama has affected his character since your last portrayel. What kind of surprises can we expect from your performance?
Margaret: Well, I am alive and he is too – in the world of 30 Rock! It was a lot of fun, and the costuming this time was way more elaborate, so in a way, I got to let the makeup and wigs really transform me. I look exactly like him anyway [laughs]. I think the show is great and I was honored to return. I think that people will be surprised that it is me and also what Kim Jong Il gets up too!
It is funny, you always struck me as the type of woman that would despise reality TV. Yet, you have contributed to quite a bit of them. This fall you are set to host a show on the Food Network called Blind Dinner Party. Why did you want to mediate this multi-cultural experiment?
Margaret: I am very interested in reality T.V. I think what it does do is make the alternative universe of television mirror the actual universe in its diversity. You have to have people of color as well as people of different shapes and sizes and ages because that is what makes up the world. Reality T.V. is real. It’s real people. That’s the appeal for me. I look forward to the blind dinner party as it will show real people finding ways to be real together, and that is so interesting and exciting to me!
What is the biggest change in your outlook on life now that you are in your 40s versus your 30s?
Margaret: I think I worried about activity in my 30’s and in my 40’s I worry about gravity! It’s always something!
This summer you have a brand new stand up, entitled ‘Mother’. Why did you pick this name for your show and what kind of material can we expect to see?
Margaret: It’s about being a mother; maternal things! I am not a mother, and I have mixed feelings about the possibility. I haven’t become one, but I find that I am one anyway, as I mother many of those around me, especially other comics and musicians. It’s my personality, and so the show is all about that – finding that mother within. It’s the most sacred thing you can be and the most profane thing you can be.
Want to keep tabs on all of Margaret’s ventures? Follow her cookie crumb trail below:
Catch her Mother tour dates when they are released next month and catch the exclusive shows in:
August 2012 – 08/11/12 – 08/18/12 in Provincetown, MA at The Art House
Special thanks to photography Miss Missy for photography permission. Check out her portfolio here.