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Margaret Cho talks Grammy nomination and more

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Margaret Cho talks Grammy nomination and more (Photo courtesy of Taylor)

For nearly 25 years, comedienne Margaret Cho has been mining laughs from unlikely sources - social and political issues, family matters, substance abuse and the pain drawn from her real-life experiences. 

Known for her stand-up comedy, TV and film roles, books and fashion design, Cho entered the musical-comedy field in 2010 with her Grammy-nominated album “Cho Dependent.”

Last spring, Cho released her second music-comedy album, “American Myth,” and awoke on Dec. 6 to the news that it too has been nominated for a Grammy Award for best comedy album. Her fellow nominees include Amy Schumer, David Cross, Tig Notaro and Patton Oswalt. The 59th annual awards will be held on Feb. 12. Cho checked in last week for the following Q&A.

TME: “American Myth” is your second music-comedy album. You’ve also issued nine stand-up comedy albums. How different is the experience of writing songs compared with writing material for stand-up comedy?

Cho: It’s interesting. Jokes have a rhythm and a cadence that is not too dissimilar from songwriting. In songwriting, you write within the structure of a melody, a verse and a chorus. There used to be this thing where comedians would write Nashville songs to showcase their talents in different areas. There have always been comedians who are musicians that I love. I really enjoyed the process and am so pleased to have made this record and that people are responding to it in an incredible way.

TME: When the Grammy nominations were announced last month and you found out that “American Myth” had been nominated, what went through your mind?

Cho: I was so excited. I actually got up very, very late that day (laughs) and woke up to a million texts and phone calls. I was so surprised but you never know. Even though you want that nod –it’s something that we all strive for – I never consciously think about it. I never think “I’m doing this to get an award” but it really is an incredible honor to be nominated.

TME: We know you as someone who incorporates real-life experience into your comedy. Sometimes there’s pain, but the laughs are never far away. Is it therapeutic to work through things in front of an audience as you come up with variations on whatever subject you’re dealing with?

Cho: Yeah, it is like therapy and it’s cathartic. It’s this incredible vindication from whatever it is. I learned that from Richard Pryor, who was a master at taking suffering and making incredible art. He was somebody that l looked up to tremendously.

There used to be like two comedy camps. You had the “Cosby camp” of comedians who would hang out with Bill Cosby and you had the “Pryor camp” – people who hung out with Richard Pryor. I’m proud to have been part of the Pryor camp. He was such a master at comedy and taking the sadness and making it great.

TME: You’re back this year as one of the hosts of “Fashion Police” on E! Network. That show is like instant comedy – you don’t have much time to come up with material following the awards ceremony. Is it intense putting that together?  

Cho: It’s the best. We write the jokes really late into the night after the awards ceremony. I love the theater of the red carpet and I love the clothes, the hair and the makeup. It’s so fun and exciting to work on that show and I’m looking forward to awards season this year. We’re going to come back really strong. I’m thrilled.

TME: You’ve been doing comedy all over the world for many years. What is the best place and the worst place you’ve ever done stand-up?

Cho: I think it depends. Some of my worst evenings have happened in England and Scotland. The way they do comedy there is very different. I’m used to playing there now and have learned but in the early days, it was very tough. There were a couple of nights in Scotland where I thought I was going to get beheaded - very much a Macbeth-like experience. But I’ve also had incredible nights in Scotland, London and across the British Isles. It can be really rewarding but they can be a tough crowd.

TME: Could you share any memories of some of your past trips to the state of Maine?

Cho: I love Portland, Maine and have had many, many amazing lobster rolls there. My very good friend Ian Harvie is from Portland. (Note: Comedian Ian Harvie began touring with Margaret Cho in 2006 as her opening act and was part of her off-Broadway show, “The Sensuous Woman.”) A lot of the people that I love and work with are from Portland and go back every year for that cold winter. I love the place.


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