The Same 5 Questions We Always Ask: Margaret Cho

Margaret Cho on having abortions, feminism and why we should all be talking about our periods. Oh, and she makes some jokes, too.

Dec 5, 2011 at 9:00am | Leave a comment

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I was super-psyched to score this interview with comedian and actress Margaret Cho, and by "score" I mean, I exercised my powers as Managing Editor to gank it before anybody else even knew it was on the table. Burned, freelancers!

Anyway, you know who she is: Check out her latest DVD (and CD) "Cho Dependent" -- it's got collabs with Andrew Bird, Tegan and Sara, Fiona Apple and other respected music-type people.

I'm gonna go right for the gold. Have you ever faked an orgasm?

Margaret: Actually I have probably faked it more than I have had an orgasm. Just because you get tired. Sometimes I'll just fake it because my back hurts and I’ve had enough. Guys have this completion idea -- that you're not finished if you don’t finish. You have to go to finishing school. They're pay-off oriented. They don’t acknowledge it as sex unless there is some sort of climax. The orgasm isn’t the be-all end-all of sex; its really about the journey.

Now, I never fake it. I am sick and tired of pretending about certain things. I don’t tell any more lies, which makes things unpleasant for me. I don’t have as many friends as I used to.

So do you think that that completion mentality is a guy thing? Would you ever fake it with a woman?

Margaret: I have never faked it with a woman. I would never. Although I have had much more sex with men than with women. And then when I do have sex with a woman, it is such a big deal, because it's a rarer thing and also something that is a bit newer to me. So by the time I am with a woman, I am so attracted to her that it’s absolutely the greatest thing. With men, I have actually had sex with quite a lot of men that I am not attracted to.

Yeah, me too.

Margaret: I don’t know if that has to do with indie rock or if it was like a 90s thing... I was scared to turn guys down because I didn’t have the self esteem when I was younger. I never said “Maybe I should say no to this” because it felt like there may have been consequences. Now I know the only consequences is that I don’t have to sleep with them.

Who is on your celebs to make out with list?

Margaret: I’m in a show with Britt Daniel of Spoon. I love him. I love Dave Grohl. I would totally make out with Dave Grohl. I want to make out with Dave Grohl’s toilet seat. He's got a guitar toilet seat in his recording studio, with a sound hole and the pit guard and I want to make out with the lid. Not the seat. The lid.

It’s an important distinction.

Margaret: I also want to make out with Joan Jett most of the time. I want to make out with probably all of The Pixies. Theyre what first made me realize that I was into women. The Breeders. And all of those bands in the 90s. Kim and Kelly Deal and Juliana Hatfield. I would like to make out with all of them. Any kind of rock ladies. I get along with musicians better than comedians.

Well comedians hate women, don’t they?

Margaret: In general. I don’t think that they all hate women. I just think that they have problems and part of that is maybe what becomes that kind of misogyny. There are a lot of comedians that really love women.

It's worse in England. In England it's really hard for women to do comedy. That’s actually why I work there a lot, because for some reason they don’t think of me as a woman because I’m American, Asian American, queer, very politically progressive. They don’t have any examples of my point of view upheld to the same level of class or status as the women there. They sort of have to put women on a pedestal as being unable to speak their minds about certain things. Especially about sexuality. I really enjoy working there a lot.

I think I saw on your blog, that people come up to you and say, "Women aren’t funny but you are!" Like it’s a compliment or something.

Margaret: Yeah, I don’t really know what to say to that. It’s really shocking. And my favorite comedians are often women, anyway. Why would you deprive yourself of some of the greatest artists in comedy who are women?

That is an awful statement, when people just say, "I don’t really like women." It’s weird. I think it’s also really weird when people don’t identify as feminists. I think that’s really strange.

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Some of the kids are not so much into identifying as feminists these days. A lot of them don't feel connected to the movement because they feel its all rooted in wealthy white racist women.

Margaret: Well, yeah. There is some truth to that. But its also the movement that made it possibile for you to participate as an equal in our society. So you do have to give credit where credit is due. The enemy is not feminism. The enemy is a lot of other things.

There is a kind of a puritanical quality to that first wave of femnism that I think they are acting against. To me, it’s always been the problem with first wave feminism -- the anti-sex component. But other than that, I think feminism is so important and as relevant as ever.

That reminds me of this big article that just came out about Ms. Magazine -- where some of the women who worked there actually quit over an article written by a woman who liked to be masochistic in bed. The sex thing has always divided feminists.

Margaret: It's such a powerful statement to talk about your own sexuality and what kind of effect it has on your own feminism and how you take your pleasure. It’s something men have talked about forever.

I talk a lot about abortion and people get really freaked out. I’m not even making a political statement. I’m just talking about what happened! I have had them and I want to talk about them. I don’t care what your views are toward abortion, I just think women should be talking about it.

Like periods, like menstruation. Periods have been a really taboo topic for female comics because there is an idea that women only talk about their periods. Well, they don’t actually. Because they are told not to talk about them. But I actually talk about them a lot. And I think it’s important.

Gloria Steinem had a really important essay about how if men menstruated, they would talk about it all the time. So I am trying to treat abortion in the same way. Like if males had to have abortions, it would be something that was routinely discussed and the emotional life of it would be really examined. 

I think that women artists really need to go into their lives and expose those things that are very very important. That’s the point of what I do as a comedian, is to expose people to things, so that they feel as though they are not alone.

What’s the weirdest thing you do when you're alone?

Margaret: I go shopping online and I put a shitload of stuff in the shopping carts, and I don’t check out.  I select a bunch of shit, and make a giant shopping cart and then I just log off. I do it on American Apparel, which actually is tricky because they will save your cart. Free People will save your cart for months. I will imaginary buy just insane stupid shit, like crazy beautiful things, and I just buy buy buy in my size, in the color I would like, and I just do everything except check out. I will fake buy motorcycle jackets and motorcycle outfits. Like boots and helmets and actual motorcycles and gear, then never actually check out. I think it’s really weird and I think it’s really fun. The satisfaction of shopping and I just don’t spend anything.

What’s the grossest thing in your purse?

Margaret: Its pretty organized. Its just the essentials, my lipstick my wallet, and Band-Aids, because I’m always wearing some kind of impossible shoe that requires surgical dressing.

To me, the handbag is such a vital symbol of yourself out in the world and you need to be comfortable with it all the time. It can't be something that hurts your back, you have to have something that moves with you pretty aerodynamically. Like I’m too old for a backpack. I’m too classy of a lady to have some kind of a fun purse that’s like an animal. Like a furry monkey, or a yoda. 

There is a toothpick in there that I’ve used for a few months. There are several different colors of lipstick on it. I had a toothpick that my friend gave me that was a penis toothpick. It was sort of a party favor for bachelorette parties. I had it in my bag for a long time and then I lost it. Then I put a regular toothpick in there. Its probably pretty gross, but I don’t think so. Do you know what's pretty gross? Stuff in your teeth.