Catching Up With Margaret Cho
By Phillip B. Crook
As the recipient of this year's L.A. Pride Lifetime Achievement Award, Margaret Cho has a lot of lifetime to look back on. And we don't mean in years. The 42-year-old comedian/actress/singer/writer is being honored for her activism in the LGBT community, having offered herself from an early age as a rallier for the disenfranchised -- particularly those looking to laugh. We caught up with Cho and asked her to reflect on her prolific career, growing up in 1970s San Fransisco, how Rue McClanahan once saved her life, and what she imagines Lance Bass tastes like.
Out: First off, kudos for your amazing Kim Jong-il impersonation on 30 Rock.
Margaret Cho: Thank you! I love that show, so it was really exciting to step into that world. It was Tina Fey's idea to bring me on. I loved that laced-front wig.
Oh, so that wasn't your hair?
No! I have a lot of hair stuffed into that wig, which I think was Amy Poehler's wig. The costumes really helped me get into the role.
The hair was almost Jersey Shore-esque.
It's a Pauly-D kind of weird curl-up -- you're right.
You're being honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's L.A. Pride. What was your first pride like?
My first pride was either 1976 or 1977. That was before Harvey Milk was assassinated. I think I'd seen him in a parade before. I remember not understanding (because I was so young) what the parade was about. My parents owned a bookstore, and all the people that worked for my father were gay. The parades were small until 1978, when Harvey Milk died. There was a shift in the participation. The candlelight vigil was an incredible moving carpet of people, and even though that wasn't a pride parade, in the deepest sense, it still was. So when I attend pride parades now as an adult, it really brings me back to my childhood.
Can you imagine your life taking the same path it has if you hadn't grown up in San Francisco at that time?
I witnessed a lot of political change and a lot of death. So many gay men of that generation died of AIDS, and it was a terrible thing to see. It focused me toward being an activist in the community. I've grown up always thinking politically, but also about living in a state of joy. People were coping with AIDS through dark humor, so I think that's how I understood to fight prejudice. It's why I do what I do.
What do you see as the milestones in your career?
The introduction of LGBT rights into most conversations that I have. Whether it's stand-up comedy or movies or writing, there's always the presence of wanting to talk about our stories. As far as milestones, I think it's just a constant effort to represent our journey. To me that's what this Lifetime Achievement Award is about. I'm very honored.