Aspen Laugh Fest Q&A: Margaret Cho
Margaret Cho has become a regular in Aspen over the course of her decades-long career in comedy, most recently playing Gay Ski Week last year. She’s grown fond over the years of having an oxygen tank stage-side and playing to audiences full of funky mountain-folk and loopy, drunk tourists.
“It’s always very surreal to be there,” she said. “It’s beautiful. I love it. But it is surreal.”
The stand-up great and activist, who was recently nominated for a Grammy for her musical comedy album “American Myth,” is as at home trashing President Donald Trump on Twitter as she is doing acerbic red carpet commentary on “Fashion Police.” But the stand-up stage is where she’s at her best. Cho, who headlines the Aspen Laugh Festival at the Wheeler Opera House today, spoke to The Aspen Times about her latest local gig.
Aspen Times: Will you be doing a straightforward stand-up set or are you mixing in some music and “American Myth” stuff?
Margaret Cho: I’m not doing music. I’m trying new material and turning over shows. It’s a time for me of writing and creating more material and this is a time when there’s a lot to talk about with all this craziness — Trump and everything. It’s a nutty, nutty time. It’s great to be able to talk about that stuff.
AT: You campaigned for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and you’ve been outspoken about Trump. What kind of role do you want to play in the culture right now? How has your mission as a comedian and an activist changed since the election?
MC: I think it’s a good opportunity to talk about what’s going on. I’ve been through a lot. I’ve been writing material from Reagan to Bush to the other Bush, so it’s very familiar, oddly. It’s something I know how to talk about. So I’m grateful to have another chance.
AT: What impact do you think stand-up comedy can have?
MC: A huge one. It’s the job of comedians to get it together, get active and get started really creating change. I feel like comedians come to the forefront during times like this. During the last Bush era, we needed Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher to talk about what was going on.
AT: You’ve been fearless as a comedian and a public figure. What scares you as a performer?
MC: Censorship. And we don’t know what that will look like in this era, not yet. But that’s the biggest fear: that you’ll be silenced. That’s always a worry, but I think it’ll be OK.
AT: Who were the comedians who helped you find your voice?
MC: I love Barry Crimmins. I loved Bill Hicks so much. Of course, Joan Rivers was a true inspiration and a great friend. Now that Bill is gone and Joan is gone, there is space to be what they would have wanted to be during this time.
AT: How do you want to carry on that legacy? You’ve done so much as a comedian and actor and writer — what haven’t you done that you want to?
MC: I think I’m getting to do a lot of different kinds of things that are different and new. I love working on “Fashion Police” — I’d love to work more on fashion and beauty. All that kind of stuff, to me, is a huge universe of things that are really fun and that I love. I’d love to make more music. And comedy is something that I’ll always do.
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