Margaret Cho is having a very queer summer: the comedy legend hosted the massive 2019 New York City World Pride Closing Ceremony in Times Square on June 30, headlined her new Fresh Off the Boat comedy tour in Provincetown on July 13 and then on Fire Island a week later, and is headed for Montreal where she will headline her big outdoor free concert at Fierté Montréal Pride on August 16, 2019.
I’ve interviewed Cho a few times over the years and she is a fun and thoughtful interview. We recently sat down for a candid Q&A to preview her upcoming Montreal Pride gig.
What was it like hosting the 2019 World Pride closing ceremony in Times Square?
Margaret Cho: I love the idea having a World Pride. It was amazing and incredibly moving. I’ve been attending Pride celebrations since 1978, and this was quite a huge one, probably the biggest one I’ve ever seen.
You’ve been attending Pride events for 40 years. The rainbow colours were everywhere during World Pride in New York. What do you think of the corporatization of Pride?
It’s inevitable. This is kind of like something that needed to happen anyway. Of course it’s going to be very commercialized and corporate, but the spirit of Pride still comes from the grass-roots and not the mainstream. We’re in such a different place thinking about queerness, thinking about who we are. I think it’s great.
You recently performed in Provincetown and on Fire Island. Your thoughts about these two mythical queer destinations?
It’s like your very exciting East Coast gay-cation! Provincetown is where all of my friends are. Provincetown is where you can cram in all of your drag experiences with everybody who is everybody – I just saw Trixie Mattel. It really is incredible to be around all these gifted artists.
You were one of the performers profiled on the Emmy-nominated PBS-TV documentary series PIONEERS OF TELEVISION. How did your family react?
My family has always been so amazed by my career because no one could have ever predicted it. It is such an unlikely thing because of my ethnicity which often excluded me before the 1990’s.
As a woman comic, when you negotiate contracts, is it still tough for you to get paid as much as the boys?
It’s still tougher. Historically, women have always had to work harder in comedy because at face value we are just not taken seriously. It is still a male-dominated industry and it is very frustrating. The discrimination is gender-based, but there is also a racial divide and queerness is also a part of it. The image that you put forth, there are so many things that get in the way of equality.
Your new weekly podcast “The Margaret Cho” debuted on the female-focused podcast network Earios on July 16.
It’s kind of like an interview show and we focus on some really illustrious celebrities and people who should be celebrities! We had Jonathan Van Ness on our first episode. I’m enjoying this, I like that kind of journalism. I also really enjoy listening to podcasts.
About growing up, interviewer David Frost once asked writer James Baldwin, “You were Black, homosexual and poor. Didn’t you think you had everything going against you?” To which Baldwin replied, “To the contrary, I thought I’d hit the jackpot.” Has Margaret Cho hit the jackpot?
I think so, because you have so much to work with as an artist. You have so many identities that can frame your work in ways that are very profound. In a sense, it’s a Triple Crown!
You may be in for four more years of Trump.
Oh goodness, what a horrible thought. He is significantly unstable, dumb and way over his head. This is not a job for him. I mean, we have had so many great presidents and presidential speeches, but whenever Trump speaks he says crazy things like the army “took over the airports” during the Revolutionary War!
You cannot escape Trump on American media. He is everywhere.
It’s really upsetting and appalling. He has made a mockery of our government. We’re trying as hard as we can to somehow get him out, but the opposition is fractured. It’s a very scary time.
After same-sex marriage became legal in California in May 2008, you were deputized by the City of San Francisco to perform marriages there. Do we call you the Reverend Cho?
(Laughs) No. I’m like an old-fashioned justice of the peace, like a city court position. I marry people in San Francisco City Hall and it is very meaningful because – in addition to officiating weddings – it is the site of Harvey Milk’s assassination. To go back to a place in our history that is so tragic, and transform that place with loving gay and lesbian couples who want to create a family – that is powerful. I am really moved by doing that.
You resist the label bisexual and prefer to identify as queer.
I think the term “bisexual” contributes to misinformation that there are only two genders, and that is false. I think gender and gender expression is limitless. It is as infinite as we are. People like to know where you stand in your queerness, so that puts me in the outsider category.
I like being an outsider.
So do I. It is where the community started and I like it out there.
Fierté Montréal Pride runs from August 8 to 18. Margaret Cho headlines the TD stage at Parc des Faubourgs on FRIDAY August 16 at 10 pm. For more information, visit fiertemtl.com.