Margaret Cho isn’t known for pulling punches. Indeed, the openly queer multi-hyphenate has funneled her struggles with chemical addiction and body image into deeply personal, raucously funny standup comedy shows and films over the years, including her recent “Fresh Off the Bloat” tour and a TNT network dramedy pilot, Highland. Despite an extended stint in rehab, the San Francisco–born Korean-American enjoyed a particularly prolific past year, appearing in the Will Smith starring Netflix series Bright, the deliciously cheesy horror-comedy franchise entry Sharknado 5: Global Swimming, ABC TV series American Koko, and queer-indie Alaska Is a Drag. Meanwhile, the Grammy and Emmy Award–nominated Cho’s bountiful list of past credits includes TV shows All American Girl and Drop Dead Diva, movies It’s My Party and Bam Bam And Celeste, and even a 14-track music album, Cho Dependent. Currently “spoken for” in the relationship department (the only topic she is even remotely cagey about at the moment) Cho sat down for a little VIP Lounge dish.
As a regular on Fire Island, what’s a secret or interesting fact you’ve learned about the East Coast gay mecca?
Jack, who you would get weed from, and who gave the best head on the island, he died. So you need to find another source for BJs and marijuana. He was great. I actually don’t smoke, but it’s something I always love—that you can get a BJ and weed from him. He was like 85 or 90, really old. He would take out his teeth and do it. A great, great guy.
You were in rehab for part or most of 2016. I imagine that spared you some of the election and Trump insanity?
Well, I was still around. I had an open-door thing. I had been there for too long. Usually people go for 28 days, but I stayed for almost a year and a half. I didn’t want to go back to life. It was fun, actually, but I did leave often to work and do so stuff for Hillary Clinton. There was a lot of back and forth, but I love rehab and would live there forever if I could.
Where would you recommend people go to find some peace, rehabilitate, and detox?
Any kind of mental hospital. I love any psyche ward or weight loss spa. I love a Canyon Ranch moment. Or some place where they don’t give you any food at all like We Care Spa, which I call ‘We Don’t Care,’ or they have another place that’s really good, OHI, Optimal Health Institute, where you just get nothing. They give you no food. It’s really amazing, and you start hallucinating. It’s like being on drugs, almost like going to a festival or something. Starvation is a lot like being on molly [aka ecstasy], I think. It’s like free molly and you don’t get Parkinson’s Disease. It’s still expensive, though. You could do it in your own house. Just don’t eat.
How has the Trump era changed you, your tone, and standup material? Would you ever have done what Kathy Griffin did with the bloody head?
Oh yeah. She beat me to it. I love her. She’s so ahead, she is the best. I think it’s really funny. It’s a joke, she’s a comedian, that’s the whole point. You’ve got to shock people and push it and go past everything. I love that.
Who are your favorite queer comedians?
I love Wanda Sykes, of course. My favorite, and also a good friend. Somebody I absolutely adore. Kathy, although she isn’t technically queer, she is to me, and I do love her. An amazing force in comedy.
This past summer, the Arizona Republican Party used a photo from your 1990s TV series All American Girl to represent their support for Asian Americans. They got called out on it fast and took the photo down. Any follow-up since?
That was so great. I loved that. And thought it was really funny. They just did a Google image search, ‘that’ll work.’ If they’re lying about that, what else are they lying about? That’s crazy.
What are some things gay folks should know about South Korea?
I was there two years ago, maybe more recently. It is incredibly taboo to be gay still, so I have a lot of gay friends there who are incredibly closeted, but not to me. We can get together, and it’s very secretive and quiet, and we have this beautiful time, which I love. This secret kind of beautiful moment. I hate the fact they have to be closeted and can’t be out and who they really are among their families and coworkers. The friendships I have there are really close, but the homophobia that exists is on another level. We don’t have anything like that here. Maybe we did back in the 1950s or 60s, but it’s changed so much.
Which real-life person would you most love to play in a biopic?
Imelda Marcos. That would be a stunning thing, so cool. That’s my dream part. I think it’s because she really was and is this beloved icon in the Philippines. There’s a lot of hatred for her, but also a lot of love we haven’t understood or seen as Americans. It’s pretty incredible, and I’m fascinated by her and her story, and those shoes. I would want to keep all the shoes.