Cho, Margaret 1968–
Cho, Margaret 1968–
PERSONAL: Original name Moran Cho; name changed to Margaret, 1978; born December 5, 1968, in San Francisco, CA; daughter of Seung-Hoon and Young-Hie Cho (bookstore owners); married Al Ride-nour (an artist and writer), 2003. Education: Attended San Francisco State University.
CAREER: Writer, actor, comedian, producer, and director. Comedian, 1991–. Star of television sitcom All-American Girl, ABC, 1994. Actor in films, including National Lampoons Attack of the 5 ft 2 Woman, Imagination Productions, 1994; The Doom Generation, Angle, Hollywood Pictures, 1994; Desperate Pictures, 1995; Sweethearts, Sweetheart Deal, 1996; It's My Party, Opala Productions, 1996; Fakin' Da Funk, Octillion Entertainment, 1997; Pink As the Day She Was Born, Global Entertainment Network, Inc., 1997; Face/Off, Paramount Pictures, 1997; The Thin Pink Line, Tokyo Theaters Co., 1998; Ground Control, Green Communications, 1998; The Tavern, Foote Speed Productions, 1999; Can't Stop Dancing, PM Entertainment Group, 1999; Spent, Spent LLC, 2000; Grocery Store (also screenwriter and director), Little Men Entertainment, 2002; Nobody Knows Anything!, West Wind Entertainment, 2003; Bam Bam and Celeste (also producer, writer, and star), Cho Taussig Productions, 2005; and East Broadway, Off Hollywood Pictures, 2006. Actor in television series, including "One Old Lady to Go," The Golden Palace, CBS, 1992; "Hotline," Red Shoe Diaries, 1993; "The Pilot," The Critic, 1994; "Mom's the Word," The Nanny, CBS, 1998; "The Real Me," Sex and the City, HBO, 2001; and "Me and My Shadow," One on One, UPN, 2002. Frequent guest on television programs, including The View, The Sharon Osbourne Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, The Isaac Mizrahi Show, and The Rosie O'Donnell Show.
MEMBER: Friars Club.
AWARDS, HONORS: U.S. College Comedy competition, West Coast division champion, 1991; American Comedy Award, Best Female Comedian, 1993; Grammy Award nomination for best comedy album, 1993, for Revolution, and 2002, for I'm the One That I Want; Performance of the Year Award, New York magazine, for I'm the One That I Want; American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California, Garden Party First Amendment Award; Golden Gate Award, Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Discrimination (GLAAD); recipient of honors by American Women in Radio and Television, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), and the National Organization for Women (NOW).
I'm the One That I Want, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2001.
I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 2005.
I'm the One that I Want (comedy special; based on her book), Cho Taussig Productions, 2000.
Notorious C.H.O. (comedy special) Cho Taussig Productions, 2002.
Grocery Store, Little Men Entertainment, 2002.
Revolution (comedy special), Cho Taussig Productions, 2004.
Bam Bam and Celeste, Cho Taussig Productions, 2005.
Margaret Cho: Assassin (comedy special) Cho Taussig Productions, 2005.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A multigenerational family situation comedy for Fox television based on Cho's impressions of her mother; two young-adult novels for HarperCollins, including I Hate Girls.
SIDELIGHTS: Comedian, author, actor, and producer Margaret Cho is a popular performer on television, in movies, and on the stage. The author of screenplays, comedy specials, and books, she is also a producer and director of movies and video features. As a television actor, she holds the historic distinction of being the first Korean-American to star in her own television show as the lead in the 1994 sitcom All-American Girl. Her comedy tours have repeatedly sold out, and her performances have rankled conservative leaders and organizations even as they delight her more liberal audiences. "Her humor is a distinctively witty and candid kind of truth-telling," observed biographer Miguel A. Segovia on the GLBTQ Web site. "It is funny, yet it is also enlightening; it teaches even as it amuses."
Cho was born in San Francisco in 1968 to Korean parents. Her father wrote joke books for a Korean audience and her mother helped run the family-owned bookstore near the counterculture mecca of Haight Ashbury. Cho, who changed her name from the original Moran to Margaret when she was ten years old, grew up in this liberal atmosphere, where there were "old hippies, ex-druggies, burnouts from the '60s, drag queens, and Chinese people," Cho noted in an autobiography on the Margaret Cho Home Page. "To say it was a melting pot, that's the least of it. It was a really confusing, enlightening, wonderful time." There, she said, she developed the affinity with the gay community that would form an integral element of her comedy. "My parents, although very conservative Koreans, really trusted gays and lesbians to hold the key to culture," Cho commented in an interview in Mother Jones, adding that, "since they could not afford charm school, they sent me to drag queens."
Cho's comedy is immensely popular with the gay community, and Cho says that she identifies with and feels safe with that community. Admittedly a bisexual, Cho is married, but she still feels the kinship. "Even though I am married [to Reverend Al Ridenour] and I have this kind of conventional life, there is a big part of me that is very queer in my politics and very queer in my sensibilities." She is, and remains, a vocal and dedicated proponent of gay and lesbian rights.
Her first break in comedy came in 1991, when she won the west coast division of the U.S. College Comedy competition. Her prize was the opportunity to open for touring comedian Jerry Seinfeld. This experience launched Cho on her standup comedy career. While still in her early twenties, she became one of the country's more popular young comics. In 1995, Cho was tapped to star in the ABC situation comedy All-American Girl, in which she played Margaret Kim, a character with some echoes of herself as the daughter of Korean bookstore owners. However, many critics pointed out that the show's premiere was little more than a Korean-accented rehash of traditional sitcom formula—spunky daughter, long-suffering parents, wisecracking grandma. The show had considerable difficulty finding an identity, at first criticized for not being Asian enough, and then being called too Asian. Within a year, the show was canceled. Cho herself suffered health problems as a result of crash dieting to reduce her weight at the request of the show's producers, and in the emotional turmoil following the show's cancellation, she battled drug and alcohol abuse. After a self-destructive year, Cho turned her life around and successfully returned to the comedy circuit, exploring her experiences on television in her off-Broadway one-woman show, I'm the One That I Want. A film version of the show was highly regarded and immensely successful, catapulting Cho into a revived career as a comic and performer. Other successful tours and attendant film versions followed, including Notorious C.H.O. and Margaret Cho: Assassin.
Cho recounts her experiences during the sitcom and the years before and after in her memoir, I'm the One That I Want. She discusses her difficult childhood, her lifelong battle with her weight, the discrimination and ridicule she experienced because of her size and race, her traumatic experiences on television, and her successful recovery from substance abuse and reinvention as a serious performer and sought-after star. Her message of self-love, and rueful acknowledgement of the devastating force of self-hatred, "is valuable if familiar, and she puts it across without preachiness or self-importance," commented Booklist reviewer Kristine Huntley. Her second book, I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight, is "blistering, funny, and articulate," though it is "not a series of comic riffs but thoughtful, often incendiary manifestos," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer. In another Publishers Weekly piece, the reviewer commented that "Cho writes with perception and humor."
As she continued to evolve personally and professionally, Cho became screenwriter, producer, and director of her first film, Bam Bam and Celeste, about a gay man, Bam Bam, and his "fag hag" best friend, Celeste, a movie that John Esther in the Gay' Lesbian Review Worldwide called "funny if flawed."
Some have criticized Cho for what they see as an angry stance in her comedy. However, she "insists that critics who call her simply 'angry' are confusing anger with the truth," commented Diane Anderson-Minshall in Curve. In the interview with Esther, Cho commented: "I entitle myself to having an opinion and I'm unafraid to comment on things that many people would be. When people ask me for my opinion, a lot of it is them asking if it is okay for them to have an opinion. People find it extraordinary. It's very hard to speak your mind when you feel you are not counted in the whole dominant culture."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
I'm the One That I Want, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Newsmakers 1995, Issue 4, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1995.
Notable Asian Americans, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1995.
Advocate, July, 1994, Jim Provenzano, "It's Cho Time," p. 54; February 1, 2000, Brantley Bardin, "Cho & Tell," interview with Margaret Cho, p. 42; September 30, 2003, Amy Weaver, "My Life in a Trunk: Out Traveler Writer Amy Weaver Met Up with Comedian Margaret Cho in Los Angeles," p. S38; June 22, 2004, Anderson Jones, "Talkin' 'bout a Revolution: Margaret Cho's New Comedy Concert Film, Revolution, Debuts on Sundance Channel—and She's As Pissed Off and Hilarious As Ever," p. 48; August 31, 2004, "Margaret Muzzles," p. 22; March 15, 2005, Richard An-dreoli, interview with Margaret Cho, p. 24.
Asian Week, November 19, 1993, ElisaLee, "Margaret Cho Brings APA Twenty-Somethings to Television," p. 19; July 1, 1994, Gerard Lim, "What Makes the First Asian American Sitcom So Special?: It's Cho's Show …" p. 1.
Back Stage, July 16, 1999, David Sheward, review of I'm the One That I Want, p. 28.
Booklist, May 1, 2001, Kristine Huntley, review of I'm the One that I Want, p. 1653.
Curve, October, 2004, Diane Anderson-Minshall, "Cho Revolution: Comic Margaret Cho Makes Out with Anna Nicole Smith, Tours with the Indigo Girls, and Gets Out the Vote—All in a Day's Work," profile of Margaret Cho, p. 32.
Daily Bruin, February 22, 1994, Rex Polkinghome, "Comic Cho Proves Laughter Can Sever Racial Stereotypes," p. 21.
Daily Variety, November 3, 2005, Michael Schneider, "Cho's a Go for Return to TV via Fox Series," p. 5.
Dallas Morning News, September 1, 2005, Stephen Becker, review of Margaret Cho: Assassin.
Detroit Free Press, August 22, 2002, Terry Lawson, "Comic Actress Has a New Cho Show on Film," review of Notorious C.H.O.; September 4, 2002, Terry Lawson, review of Notorious C.H.O..
Entertainment Weekly, September 3, 2004, Timothy Gunatilaka, interview with Margaret Cho, p. 61; September 16, 2005, Owen Gleiberman, review of Margaret Cho, p. 61; September 23, 2005, review of Margaret Cho, p. 67.
Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, March-April, 2006, John Esther, "Margaret Cho Is a One-Woman Tornado," interview with Margaret Cho, p. 44.
Hollywood Reporter, November 3, 2005, Andrew Wallenstein, "Cho Turns to Mom for Fox Comedy Script," p. 4; November 11, 2005, Michael Rechtshaffen, review of Bam Bam and Celeste, p. 56.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2005, review of I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight, p. 893.
Lambda Book Report, July, 2001, Greg Herren, "LBR Hangs Out with Margaret Cho," profile of Margaret Cho, p. 10.
Library Journal, May 15, 2001, Rosalind Dayen, review of I'm the One That I Want, p. 125.
Mother Jones, May-June, 2002, Dan Savage, "Margaret Cho: Gets a Dose of Savage Love," interview with Margaret Cho, p. 80.
Ms., January-February, 1992, Mary McNamara, "The New Feminist Comics," p. 23.
New York Daily News, July 22, 2004, Celeste Katz, "Margaret Cho Cut from Political Event"; August 27, 2004, Rebecca Louie, "Politically Charged Cho Will Go On."
off our backs, May, 2002, Rebecca Boone, review of I'm the One That I Want, p. 47.
Orlando Sentinel, August 31, 2002, Jamie J. Anderson, "No Topic Is Too Touchy for Notorious Comic Margaret Cho," profile of Margaret Cho.
People, March 10, 2003, Jason Lynch, "Cho Business: With a New Stand-Up Show, Margaret Cho Celebrates Her Victories over Drugs, Alcohol, and Overeating," profile of Margaret Cho, p. 83.
Publishers Weekly, May 7, 2001, review of I'm the One That I Want, p. 237; August 29, 2005, review of I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight, p. 45; December 5, 2005, review of I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight, p. 51.
San Diego Business Journal, May 31, 2004, Rick Bell, "The Debut of Shock Marketing," p. 30.
San Jose Mercury News, June 22, 2005, Nerissa Pacio, "Belly Laughs Are Margaret Cho's Comedic Specialty," profile of Margaret Cho.
Sarasota Herald Tribune, May 2, 2003, Christine Hawes, "Margaret Cho Expounds upon Her Life Philosophy," profile of Margaret Cho, p. 12.
Time, June 21, 2004, Sora Song, "Q&A Margaret Cho," p. 89.
Variety, July 19, 1999, Charles Isherwood, review of I'm the One That I Want, p. 34; July 10, 2000, Dennis Harvey, review of I'm the One That I Want, p. 25; September 12, 2005, Dennis Harvey, review of Margaret Cho: Assassin, p. 63; October 24, 2005, Dennis Harvey, review of Bam Bam and Celeste, p. 27.
GLBTQ, http://www.glbtq.com/ (April 14, 2006), Miguel A. Segovia, profile of Margaret Cho.
Internet Movie Database Web site, http://www.imdb.com/ (April 14, 2006), biography of Margaret Cho.
Margaret Cho Home Page, http://www.margaretcho.com (April 14, 2006).
Margaret Cho Web log, http://margaretcho.net/blog (April 14, 2006).
Salon.com, http://www.salon.com/ (July 28, 1999), Cintra Wilson, "Margaret Cho: Celebrity As a Disease," interview with Margaret Cho.
Zap2It.com, http://www.zap2it.com/ (August 31, 2005), Hanh Nguyen, review of Margaret Cho: Assassin.