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Cho chooses Hawaii over Grammys
BY RYAN SENAGA / Special to the Star-Advertiser
One thing that surprises about comedian Margaret Cho when speaking to her (in this case, over the phone) is just how incredibly positive she is. Throughout a conversation, she was completely optimistic and, unlike her stage persona, almost demure. No screaming or yelling in heavy Korean accents, just a bright, clear voice giving concise answers with a tinge of a Valley Girl.
Where: Hawaii Theatre
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Info: hawaiitheatre.com or 528-0406
As far as her infamous profanity onstage goes, she dropped only one s-bomb — and in context it was incidental. When asked about her favorite television shows right now, she mentioned “Downton Abbey,” “A Game of Thrones” and “Mad Men.”
“They’re really captivating,” Cho said of the shows. “It is kind of weird, though, because they don’t have any people of color. I mean, they do on “Game of Thrones,” but they don’t on “Downton Abbey” or “Mad Men.” That’s kinda sad but I like that s—. I like any kind of Jane Austen kind of stuff. I don’t know why.”
That’s as aggressive as she got during the interview in January, timed between concert dates while Cho was at home.
Perhaps she’s saving it all for her concert here.
ANOTHER surprising thing about Cho and her Hawaii appearance is the fact that she’s basically skipping the Grammy ceremony for us, even though she’s been nominated.
Her 2012 release, “Cho Dependent: Live in Concert,” is up for Best Comedy Album, her third nomination, putting her in competition with Jimmy Fallon, Jim Gaffigan, Lewis Black and Kathy Griffin.
The awards show take place Sunday, the night after her show here.
“I think it’s just better for me to be in Hawaii,” Cho said. “I’ll feel like I’ve won. And then if I win, it’ll be better: If I win, I’ll already be in paradise.”
Unlike a certain actor on “Hawaii Five-0,” Cho expects to be having a ball here.
“I’m thinking I’m just gonna go out to eat,” she said. “I love Hawaiian food. That will probably be the majority of it — eating — which is great.
“I love that Rainbow Drive-In. Loco moco; anything that has rice and gravy is so good. I’m down with it. All my social life there is tied to food, and hanging out at Hula’s or something. But it’s been a while since I’ve been there, so I’m just looking forward to hanging out and having fun.”
THIS TOUR is entitled “Mother,” and yes, it will revolve around Cho’s much-talked-about parent.
One might think Cho’s mother would be sick of being the butt of her daughter’s jokes — for decades now — but that isn’t the case, Cho says.
“No, she loves it. She loves the feeling of being included in it and that’s she part of this,” the actor and comedian insisted.
“My parents are really excited, and they want to be a part of my work. My mother loves it. She’s very supportive and always has been.”
“This year it’s a lot about my family,” she explains, “and being Asian and American, and me making fun of my mom growing up. And this idea of I am kind of a mom now. People sort of relate to me as a mother figure, so it’s gonna be about coming to that.”
As a role model, then, to those who admire her, Cho has some advice for those growing up in Asian-American households.
“You’ve got to live your own life,” she said. “I think that’s the problem with a lot of Asian-Americans. They end up trying to live their lives as dictated by their families, and that’s really hard because you end up doing what your parents want you to, more than what you want. It’s a really hard thing.
“I think that’s the most important thing any kid from an immigrant family can do, and that’s follow their own dream.”
BODY IMAGE is important to Cho, and sexuality is so in your face in her routines that another irresistible avenue of inquiry was the sudden and unexpected mainstream-ification of bondage and sadomasochism in the “50 Shades of Grey” novels.
“I think it’s kinda a dull take on whatever that is,” Cho said. “I didn’t really like the books, but I do appreciate that it’s giving more women a sense that they can have a hand in their destiny, sexually, or something more fulfilling than what’s happening, so I think that’s good. I’m glad that they’re opening up people’s minds to sexuality, and that’s awesome.”
But she also cautiously adds, “It’s not exactly the way I would go about fantasy fiction. So much of it is the guy gets his power from being a millionaire and having a lot of money … that kind of status. It’s not appealing to me. It’s very romance novel in that way. In a lot of romances, you find a rich guy who will solve everything, and that’s not what women need to hear but it’s stuff that they’re looking for, I guess.”
Cho’s own body is a work of art in itself, with tattoos everywhere.
“I really love the ones I can’t see, and those are on my back,” she said. “That’s the sad thing about getting stuff on your back. You need to have another mirror to look into.”
And she’s nowhere near done with the needle. “I have a lot of stuff that’s not finished but I don’t want to. It’s just so painful that I don’t want to deal with it — on my knees and on the back of my knees.”
Music has also been a part of Cho’s career, including a “Cho Dependent” musical album in 2010, featuring a sweet-voiced Cho singing comic songs of revenge and violent fantasy, with guests including Grant Lee Phillips and Andrew Bird. She earned a Grammy nomination for that release, too.
Cho described music as a current side venture. “I don’t do it as much because my focus is stand-up comedy now,” she said.
But she is into “Gangnam Style,” describing the song as “infectious and great.”
“Oh yeah, I love Psy. I think I look like him,” she said. “I could play him, just as I could play Kim Jong Il. I think I look enough like him that I could be his body double.”
Her sharp portrayal of Kim Jong Il on “30 Rock” earned her an Emmy nomination last year; Cho rescheduled some September appearances to take her mom to the awards ceremony.
CHO HAS performed stand-up in Honolulu on numerous visits, but her last “appearance” here was actually via film, as a contributor to the documentary “Miss Representation,” presented at GiRL FeST 2012.
Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the movie explored the effect of media images on the underrepresentation of women in roles of power and influence in America. Cho was one of the women interviewed.
“I think it’s been really been influential,” Cho said. “It’s spun a bunch of different things, different kinds of awarenesses of body image and the message that we’re sending to women about themselves.”
With the Oscars coming around, we asked Cho her opinion on the best-actress nominations, especially regarding Jessica Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty.”
“I think that movie is interesting because it’s that experience of being a woman in a man’s world and your voice is rarely listened to,” Cho said. “And I’ve experienced that and (how) people take credit for what you’ve done, your achievements and stuff, and it’s a very strange thing. I think it brings forth that experience which I’m sure (director) Kathryn Bigelow has felt, in a male-dominated industry.”
Cho, on her “Cho Dependent” tour, once referred to a certain part of her body as “The Hurt Locker,” but Bigelow may not be aware of this.
“I’ll have to tell her,” Cho said.