By Oliver Saria
After nearly two decades in show business, the 41-year-old comedienne Margaret Cho still manages to surprise. And that’s saying a lot, given her penchant for raunchy, diarrhea-of-the-mouth overshare. In Cho Dependent, her new album of comedic songs, something else escapes her mouth besides her trademark explicit rants and shrill imitations of her mother. Who knew the diva of the disenfranchised had some pretty legit vocal chops? It certainly doesn’t hurt to have a few rock n’ roll luminaries as friends. Her list of collaborators on the album include Tegan and Sara, Fiona Apple, Ani DiFranco, Ben Lee, Grant Lee Phillips, A.C. Newman of the New Pornographers, and Brendan Benson of the Raconteurs. The result is a delightfully exuberant album that includes melodic drug-inspired pop (“Calling in Stoned”), a club-thumpin’ dance number about sperm donation, a Dylan-esque folk anthem for head lice, a perfectly titled torch song (“Eat Sh-t and Die”), and a lush, “wall-of-sound” ode to cock. Overall, Cho Dependent delivers both musically and comically. (Unlike, say, Eddie Murphy’s ill-conceived R&B album, How Could It Be, which was laughable and not in a good way.) Margaret manages to do justice to both. And if her fans have their way, the album could land her on the cover of Rolling Stone.
Cho Dependent drops on August 24, and her nationwide tour kicks off in Portland two days later. We caught up with Margaret while she was in Atlanta shooting Drop Dead Diva (Lifetime), currently in its second season.
Who’s the lucky bastard whose junk you’ve immortalized in the song “Your Dick?”
It’s not about a specific person per se, and it’s not even necessarily about a man either. Because you know what lesbians get to do? Lesbians get to actually go shopping and purchase the dick.
The production on that song is so grand.
It’s a huge song for a huge topic.
I think the song “Gimme Your Seed” should be pumped in the lobby of every sperm bank in the nation. How did that song come about?
I was doing a song with [producer/musician] Meghan [Toohey]. Meghan is trying to have a baby with her girlfriend, so they wanted to write a song about it. And Meghan suggested the idea of doing the song “Gimme Your Seed.” So I basically just lifted the lyrics to an already written song called “Semen” and brought them into the session. But then at the last minute I switched the lyrics because it was so raunchy. Sometimes I get real Korean and Christian. Sometimes I will write stuff and then I’m embarrassed to do it onstage.
Wow, I think people would be surprised to hear that you ever hold back, especially since fisting is a frequent on-stage topic for you.
Yeah, I have a real Korean side to me sometimes.
Was there anyone you wish you could have gotten for the album?
Well, those are the people that I’m still hoping to work with on my next record. People like David Bowie and Jack White and also Linda Perry, whom I really love.
I’m glad to hear there’s going to be a follow-up.
I just want to continue, but it’s always going to still stay within the realm of stand-up comedy.
I heard you learned to play the guitar for the album.
I did. I also play the banjo now and mountain dulcimer. When I was a kid, I played piano, so I still have that ability. And I just bought, on Monday, a keytar [keyboard + guitar]. I’m so excited.
How does your mom feel about you becoming a musician all of a sudden?
My mother and father are both musicians. My father is a pianist, and my mother is a very skilled guitarist. And I’ve written a song for my parents. That’ll be for the next album also. We have to figure out how to get them into the studio. That’s the hardest thing. They’re a lot like Axl Rose; it’s hard to get them in the studio, but when I do, it’s going to be genius.
Any plans on becoming a K-pop star?
I don’t know, but I should do a K-pop song. That should be on my roster. I need to reach out to Se7en to help me.
It’s been said every comedian wants to be a rock star, and every rock star wants to be a comedian. On this tour, you’re both. So does that mean you get twice as many tour contract riders?
I definitely want to continue doing comedy because it would be weird to just totally switch over. I don’t think I can do that. It’s still going to be a stand-up comedy show, but incorporating some elements of music. But my rider is so cheap. I don’t ask for anything because ultimately the artist has to pay for that. It’s not like you get stuff for free. On my rider, I have water and towels. That’s about it.
Some people will be very disappointed to hear that you don’t have midgets in ass-less chaps feeding you bonbons.
You gotta pay for that. I’d just rather have the money.
Also very Korean of you.
It’s so Korean. I bring my own meat to barbecue with.
Now that you live part-time in Atlanta, do you have any advice for bisexuals and/or Koreans thinking about moving there?
Well, Atlanta itself is pretty gay. That part is cool. Koreans, however, have to go to Duluth, which is a suburb. It’s like a totally Korean suburb with Korean markets.
Your fans have started a Facebook campaign to get you on the cover of Rolling Stone. How does that sound to you?
That would be really great. I don’t think there’s ever been a Korean person on the cover.
No, you would be the first.
I’d be the first, so I would like that.
Photo from PixieVision Productions