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Earth Mother on tour: Margaret Cho

INTERVIEW. The brash comedienne hits Berlin for some matriarchal comedy. Her new solo show Mother offers an nontraditional view of motherhood and maternal figures. See her at Admiralspalast on Mon, Dec 9.

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Photo by Lindsey Byrnes

American comedian, actress, and LGBT activist Margaret Cho comes to Berlin as part of her Mother tour.  

Known for her hard-hitting opinions and loose-cannon approach to stand-up comedy, Margaret Cho has established a reputation as a rebel, a patron saint of the LGBT community, and a unique, empowered voice to all who are disenfranchised. She’s turned her stand-up comedy into a lifelong quest to preach the importance of self-acceptance, with a pinch of perversion. New solo show Mother offers an untraditional view of motherhood and maternal figures, combined with Cho’s edgy opinions on race, politics, and sexuality.

All your shows seem to have a mission. What is the mission for this one?

There are a lot of them. But for this one, it’s really about taking care of LGBT children, as best as you can if you’re a gay adult, because you sur vived it. I think it’s very hard for gay kids. Sometimes we’ll see them or recognise them, and we can care for them in our own way just by being very conscious about how hard it was to grow up, and remember that when you see kids who remind you of yourself. I intend to be an Earth Mother for everyone.

Besides your own mother, which women do you admire?

I love Judy Garland, Madonna, and Lady Gaga. Joan Rivers is a personal maternal figure for me; somebody that I have learned a lot from and enjoy very much as a friend. Oh, and there’s Cyndi Lauper too!

Is there anything you would not talk about on stage?

I haven’t encountered anything yet, we’ll see. There might be something. With jokes, you’re really trying to make people laugh and help them to enjoy their existence. You’re enhancing their lives. I think if you have positive intentions, then you can’t really go wrong.

Do you think it’s easier for women to do comedy these days?

I would like it to be – it would be great if there were more female comics. I don’t know why, but there are not as many. This has always been the case. The community of comedy doesn’t seem to support women the same as they support men.

How has the gay stand-up comedy scene changed since you started?

I think it’s really exciting that there has been a great growth in LGBT comedy. There are so many more people out there doing it. There were probably just as many people out there doing it before, but they weren’t comfortable with being out on stage. Now there is a generation of comics who are very happy to come out and they feel safe.

Do you think stand up comedy has an effect on politics?

Definitely. The way that we talk about politics in comedy can effect change. Especially on the level of television, and especially in America; comedy can affect the way we view the changes in our administration. Stand-up comedy is an important tool for change.

The political and social climate in America seems rather tense in the moment – it’s been an interesting year for America. How do you feel about the government shutdown?

It’s very weird! I’m weirded out. Why did it happen now, when you think that there were a lot more difficult issues where this could have happened before in the Bush administration or even in the last term for Obama. I don’t know what it means. I think it’s a reaction to how the government has been looking towards LGBT rights since the inauguration and how Obama has been talking about gay marriage. I wonder if this is the weird backhanded backlash towards something that is really progressive.

…Miley Cyrus?

I showed my mother that MTV Award performance and all she said was “Oh, she’s shaking out all of her luck.” I think everybody really agrees that she’s shaking out her luck.

…Angela Merkel?

Well, I think Angela Merkel gets a lot of credit from me because she gets a lot of shit from world leaders. Berlusconi said horrible shit about her, saying that she’s “so ugly”. She deals with so much bullshit from everybody, that I have a lot of respect for her. I think she can wear flats anytime. Some world leader was furious that she was wearing flats at some red carpet event. She’s a world leader of a very, very important country! Let her be! She should be comfortable.

What tips would you give to a younger comedian?

Just go for it. It’s okay to bomb, it’s totally fine. The best people bomb. The most talented people, the most revolutionary people, the most outrageous people do care if they bomb, but it’s totally okay. Bombing is a good sign. Try not to worry too much. And try to do something every day that benefits your art and your career, whatever it is. Don’t let your life get too far away from what is your life’s purpose.

Which comedians do you admire at the moment?

Well, someone who lives in Berlin, who is an amazing musician, but with great comic sensibilities: Peaches. She’s incredible. I also love Kathy Griffin, who is a great friend. There’s also Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Tig Notaro. There’s a lot of really great people out there performing.

Margaret Cho: Mother, Mon, Dec 9, 20:00 | Admiralspalast, Friedrichstr. 101, Mitte, S+UBhf Friedrichstr.

Originally published in issue #122, December 2013.