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Interview with Margaret Cho

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Margaret Cho is kind of excellent. But you probably already know that. The comedian/actor/author recently released Cho Dependent, an album of comedy songs that—unlike many albums of that genre—actually has some pretty good tunes. Plus, it features a roster of A-list guest musicians that included Jon Brion and Patty Griffin, which doesn’t hurt one bit. Due to Margaret’s busy touring schedule, we conducted this very deep and meaningful interview via email. (Whatever. I didn’t want to make her feel like she was writing an essay or something.)

You can hear some of Margaret’s tunes as well as her stand-up at her Warner Theatre show on October 29.

American Noise: My parents let me watch your stand-up specials at age 10. Are they awesome or unfit?

Margaret Cho: I think they are awesome! I would totally let my kids watch my specials at 10! But I don’t have kids.

AN: You’ve got some really awesome guests on Cho Dependent like Patty Griffin, Andrew Bird, Carl Newman, and lots more. Did you know all of them beforehand? Was it hard to get any of them to agree to appear on the record?

MC: I knew Jon Brion and Grant Lee Phillips as well as Tegan and Sara and Ani DiFranco before, but I met Andrew, Patty and Carl through the process. I wanted the very best songwriters in the world to write with me and everyone wanted to do it! I am so lucky and honored. I learned so much and together we made the best record.

AN: There are a lot of different musical genres on this album. How did you go about deciding the style for each song and how much input did the guest stars have?

MC: It was whatever they thought fit the lyrics, I wrote all the words beforehand and they wrote the music, and everyone had their own interpretation of the songs. I learned so much about production and how to make music

AN: What’s the songwriting process like for you?

MC: It just comes to me sporadically, a line here, jokes there, and it’s the same process as writing material for standup comedy, since the songs are still comic. Then it’s getting together with another artist and figuring out what the song will sound like.

AN: You haven’t been shy about your feelings regarding Sarah Palin. What was it like, then, to be on Dancing with the Stars with Bristol?

MC: Bristol the Pistol is great, and we got along well. She’s extremely supportive and kind. I didn’t get to meet Sarah, which was too bad, but Bristol is cool

AN: Was there anyone on DWTS who you were really excited to meet? Did anyone turn out to be kind of a jerk?

MC: I was psyched to meet Jennifer Grey and The Situation! Everyone was so awesome. I miss being there.

AN: Cho Dependent was, if I remember correctly, at one time going to be called Banjovi, because you, like numerous awesome people, play the banjo. How did you get started with it, and how long have you been playing?

MC: I’ve been playing 6-string banjo, or banjitar or guitjo, for the past few years. It’s different than the traditional 5-string, but it’s an old American instrument, about 100 years old. I also play the 12-string banjitar, which is so big I cannot even stand up while playing. I have to rest it between my legs like a cello. It’s a huge grand sound. I started with the same time as I started playing guitar. I love it!

AN: How comfortable was the poo costume in the “Eat Shit and Die” video? Where did the sweet Roaring ‘20s vibe come from?

MC: That was all Liam Sullivan’s vision, the ‘20s thing, which looked so beautiful. That costume was made by my husband, Al Ridenour. He’s such an amazing artist, and the costume is made from a high res photo of one of my dog’s poops. It’s incredibly lifelike and easy and comfortable to wear.

AN: One of my favorite parts of your standup is when you talk about your parents. What are Mom and Dad Cho up to these days?

MC: They’ve just moved out of my house after moving in for the whole Dancing with the Stars experience. They were worried that if I got voted off the show that we would get deported.

AN: What’s your musical guilty pleasure?

MC: I love Creed and Southern rock like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Kid Rock.

AN: How many tattoos do you have? Any you regret? Any you’re planning to get in the future?

MC: I have about 50 tattoos, no regrets. I love them all. But I am not sure about more since I don’t have much space left!

AN: I should probably ask a non-shallow question. You’re very outspoken about GLBT activism, and you’re also a Christian. Do people ever give you crap for expressing those beliefs? What are your thoughts on the religious atmosphere in the country right now, especially as it relates to current GLBTissues?

MC: Nobody gives me crap about my beliefs because I don’t let them, and it’s really strange how the religious right do not accept gays and lesbians, because Jesus would have, and God loves everyone, that is what the Bible teaches. People should not call themselves Christian if they don’t practice what Christ teaches, which is love everyone, accept everyone.

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