Stand-up comic Margaret Cho’s new one-woman show hits Santa Cruz
Actress, podcaster, Grammy nominee and internationally acclaimed stand-up comic Margaret Cho’s award-winning one-woman comedy shows have always addressed the tough issues she’s faced throughout her life. From her struggle to make it as a stand-up comic, to a self-deprecating body image, to drug and alcohol addiction, Cho has never shied away from tackling difficult topics with tact and humor.
Her fresh new show, entitled “Mother,” will be unveiled at The Rio Theatre on Nov. 30. It’s not, however, about the biological mother Cho has hilariously portrayed over the years. Instead, it’s about her newfound role as “mother” to an ever-growing generation of misfits and socially awkward malcontents—in other words, comedy fans.
“This show is not so much about my mother, but more about me becoming a mother of comedy, younger comics and giving birth to jokes,” Cho explains over the phone from Georgia, where she is filming Lifetime’s Drop Dead Diva. When it comes to jokes, Cho is one of the edgiest comedians to ever hit the scene.
Stand-up comedy experienced a golden age in the 1980s, when local sensations became international stars, but that trajectory peaked at the end of the decade. Needless to say, the likelihood of a young, pudgy Korean woman finding success in the male-dominated comedy scene of the ’90s, was a long shot. But Cho has never been one to take no for an answer.
“There are good and bad aspects, regarding gender in comedy, but it’s still tougher on women,” says Cho. “All I have ever really cared about is being able to work. I wish that there were more women around doing stand-up. I have always imagined that there would be a larger group of younger woman out there doing it, but I don’t think the comedy industry is that encouraging to women.”
While that disparity is an unfortunate reality, it also gives female comics a sense of community. “I really bonded with Kathy Griffin, we really understand each other’s lives in a deep way—and that’s cool,” says Cho. “I ended up having an immediate connection with the ladies out there. I love the new girls, the new ladies like Amy Schumer, she’s really funny and really sharp. But being a female stand-up comic is a hard life.”
It may be a challenging career, but it’s also been a fruitful one for Cho. “Stand-up is all forms of entertainment concentrated into one thing—a very raw, base level connecting with people,” she says. “And if you can do that, you can do everything else.”
A Bay Area native, Cho has always treasured the San Francisco comedy scene. “I think it’s unique because it’s really about the craft,” she says. “I think there’s a real fluidity to the scene and you’re really encouraged if you are creative. There is a very nurturing scene if you have something to offer. Hacks get spit out. They don’t encourage mediocrity. It’s a very demanding community, so it’s a great place to develop as a comic.”
The Monterey Bay area has a unique scene of its own, according to Cho. “Santa Cruz is an interesting place to perform,” she says. “It’s very different than anywhere else in the world. It’s so liberal and alternative that it’s its own kind of universe.”
Margaret Cho will perform “Mother” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30 at The Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $29.50. Adult material. Visit pulseproductions.inticketing.com.
Photo 1: missmissyphotography.net Photo 2: Austin Young