As a 41-year-old counter-culture-type person, I feel like I've grown up with the charmingly brash and fearlessly in-your-face comedienne Margaret Cho.
Cho, born Dec. 5, 1968, just five months ahead of me, was an icon for mainstream exiles in the '90s. We watched her stand-up specials on cable and even tuned into her infamously failed sitcom, All-American Girl.
Her unapologetic bio, I'm the One That I Want, hit the bookshelves almost a decade ago. In the book, she talks candidly about her rise to success and network TV humiliation, from mandates to lose weight to bouts of depression to her emerging "fag hag" sympathies with the San Francisco gay scene.
Like Janeane Garofalo and Laura Kightlinger, Cho was among the "slacker" female comics of my generation. Along with admiring her spirited rebellion and advocacy of gay and lesbian rights, I've identified with her zany pop-culture references from Charlie's Angels to Grease to that "Ancient Chinese Secret" commercial. Cho mimicking her mother ("Moran!" Her name in Korean) gave me a special chuckle since I myself also grew up with a loud old-world-immigrant mother (mine Italian) who embarrassed me from time to time.
A lot has happened since those heady, pre-9/11 days of youthful dysfunction. The openly bi Cho has grown up but not grown out of being a lovable weirdo. She wrote a second book in 2005, a collection of essays on all subjects political and pop called I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight; she starred in feature-length documentary (Notorious C.H.O.) and starred and wrote the script for the low-budget indie comedy, Bam Bam and Celeste. In addition, she's performed in a burlesque-style show, toured with '80s pop stars like Cyndi Lauper, and has been happily married to offbeat experimental artist, Al Ridenour, with whom she collaborates on occasion.
This year, Cho did what many of us fantasize about -- she became a rock star -- and collaborated with her favorite musicians. In addition to learning to play guitar and polishing up her already gifted singing voice, Cho released a comedy-pop album, Cho Dependent, August 2010. It includes Jon Brion, Tegan and Sara, Andrew Bird, Grant Lee Buffalo, Ani DiFranco, A.C. Newman (of the New Pornographers), Ben Lee, Fiona Apple, Garrison Starr, Brendon Benson and even comedian Tommy Chong.
Cho performs a few tunes from the album during her live performance at Ruth Eckerd Hall Thursday, Dec. 9, at 8 p.m., along with her topical rants, hilarious anecdotes and self-deprecating admissions.
I got a chance to catch up with Cho Thanksgiving weekend for a little post-tryptophan e-mail Q&A action ...