Catching Up With Margaret Cho


By Jason Lamphier

You actually have a song about bears, don't you?
I have a band, actually, that sings songs only about bears. It's a band that I formed with a wonderful singer-songwriter named Jill Sobule. So we have a spin-off band project called Pixie Herculon, which is devoted to singing songs about, and for, bears in the bear community. We made a video, and it's a great single -- it's called "The Bear Song." I think it's a summer jam. It's a really exciting, exciting movement. I think that it's a great thing to have an entire band devoted to singing about bears by two women who are not bears who wish they were bears.

So why this obsession with the bear community?
I love bears because, in general, I think the standards of beauty for gay men are so oppressive and so narrow-minded, and what the bear community has done is, they've said, "You know what? We're beautiful, and we're going to make our own sex symbols, and we're going to create our own ideals of beauty." And this is so revolutionary and so exciting and hot. And so what they've done is something that women have not been able to do for themselves. What they've done is really created their own ideals of beauty and their own... I guess their own standards, which is like super-inspiring. So I hope that women can one day do this. Women can be like bears. And that's why the band exists, cause we want to be like bears. The chorus is "I want to be a bear."

You're in Drop Dead Diva on Lifetime. What can you tell us about the evolution of Teri's character this season?
I am on the show for the second season, and my character's Teri Lee, who is the assistant of the lead character, Jane Bingum. So in my evolution this year, I just found out that I'm a private eye, which is really exciting. I don't know what that means -- we're right in the middle of shooting right now -- but we get our scripts in the next day or so, so we don't even know what's going on. So I can't really tell you what's going to happen. But I'm a private eye, which I'm very excited about.

You also have Cho Dependent" coming out this month. Why a music album now?
Yes. My album Cho Dependent is coming out August 24. It's this project that I have been working on now for two years. And it's probably the hardest thing I've ever done. It's really exciting to do music. I have a voice, actually. I was on tour with Cyndi Lauper, and I was singing with her, and she said, "Oh, you're a singer. You're a singer." And I was like, "Wow. If Cyndi Lauper's telling you that you're a singer, you must be a singer." So I was so inspired by that, and I went and collaborated with some of the greatest artists around. People like Fiona Apple, and Jon Brion, and Patty Griffin, and Ani DiFranco, and Grant Lee Phillips, and Tegan and Sara, and Rachael Yamagata, just incredible artists. I was really fortunate to be able to collaborate with the best of the best of the best. Especially big queer superstars like Garrison Starr and Tegan and Sara, which is, to me, so exciting, and Andrew Bird, and I'm really proud of it. It's all comedy songs, so it's all comedy, but in music form. I'm very excited because I'm kind of pulling out of stand-up comedy, but then the show that accompanies it, that I'll be touring with, is all stand-up comedy and some songs. So it's a combination of both, but it's a lot of fun. I want to do sort of like an older diva thing, like you get into a Bette Midler mode, where, you know, you're doing jokes, and then you're singing songs, and then everybody cries. It's just fabulous.

How did you enlist such serious musicians for a comedy album?
Well, everybody that I asked to perform on the record, they are people that I'm friends with and also a fan of. And the thing about rock stars is that they secretly want to be comedians, and all comedians secretly want to be rock stars. So what we got to do was kind of pretend to be each other for like a minute. That was really funny. It's really amazing. Artists like Andrew Bird have a such a great sense of humor. He's really, really hilarious, but you would not necessarily know that if you listen to his music because his music is just so high-minded and intelligent and poetic and eloquent, but he has a serious goofball side, which is really funny. So I tapped into that, and I tapped into everybody's kind of goofy side.