The psyCHO Tour
Friday, Oct. 9
513 13th St., N.W.
Tickets are also available for $87.50 that are being offered as a benefit for Brother Help Thyself. They include a meet-and-greet and photo with Cho. Details at brotherhelpthyself.net.
Margaret Cho is her usual busy self.
She’s prepping a new album of music, her second, for a late 2015 release. She earned laughs for her critique of Miley Cyrus at the VMAs while guesting on a newly retooled “Fashion Police” on E! and opened up in a Billboard interview last week that she was sexually abused and raped repeatedly while growing up in San Francisco. She teased the new album by playing one of her songs called “I Want to Kill My Rapist.”
Cho, a long-time LGBT ally and activist, has offered a block of 100 tickets for the Oct. 9 D.C. date of her “psyCHO Tour” to Brother Help Thyself, which she says she is “thrilled” to do. A “Marry Me Margaret” contest is underway in which couples can enter a contest in each city. Cho will marry one set of winners at each stop on her tour.
In March, she previewed the tour with a performance at the Gramercy Theatre in New York that will premiere on Showtime on Sept. 25, just before the tour kicks off in Michigan on Oct. 1. We caught up with her by phone from her Los Angeles home.
WASHINGTON BLADE: How did the marriage contest come about? Is it only open to LGBT couples?
MARGARET CHO: I urge LGBT couples to come and be part of this. It’s something I was able to do at City Hall in 2006 when it was legal in San Francisco. I got deputized by Gavin Newsom to do it. It’s a great honor and now I’m able to do it everywhere.
BLADE: The contest rules say the entries may not be “profane, offensive, pornographic, defamatory or inappropriate as determined by sponsor.” Hello? In a Margaret Cho contest?
CHO: (laughs) I wanted the entries to be brief. If you had all those things, it could get really wordy and long, so I just want people to present a very brief entry about why they think I should marry them and then I’ll pick one couple from each city. I’m really excited about doing it. It’s a great way to celebrate the marriage equality decision by the Supreme Court so that’s a wonderful thing.
BLADE: Where were you when the decision came? How did you feel?
CHO: I was in San Francisco and it was the very beginning of gay Pride weekend and I had done an event that Thursday night. Then on Friday, I was going to leave and right before I was going I saw that and I was so moved. It’s just so moving and really rewarding to see that you can affect change. It takes a long time to make it happen. I’ve been working on marriage equality since 2004, so it’s been a while but it’s a real testament to everybody who got involved and spoke up and made it happen.
BLADE: Is the tour going to be pretty much the show you taped in New York or was that something different?
CHO: There will be some things the same and some things different. The show is really about current envenoms too and that shifts over time so it winds up being somewhat different each time it’s performed. That’s just part of the kind of work I do. It’s always very live and so there’s a lot of option for turnover.
BLADE: Will you be singing on the tour as well?
CHO: A little bit, yes. Maybe one or two songs.
BLADE: How did the taping go back in March?
CHO: It was great, really phenomenal. I love performing there and I always love doing these specials too. It’s been a while. I hadn’t done one for a couple of years, so it was really great to get back to it. I have a whole bunch of them now and it’s something I want to keep doing.
BLADE: Tell me about this painting made from your blood. What’s that about?
CHO: I have a friend who was on death row, Damien Echols and through the efforts of myself and many others, he was innocent and we got him exonerated. He introduced me to his friend Vincent Castiglia who is a painter who paints in human blood. He’d only painted in his own blood before, but I wanted a portrait of myself, so I gave him some of my blood. I thought it would be weird if he did a portrait of me in his blood, so this was the first time he’d ever worked with someone else’s blood. So I gave him this really small amount, not even a pint. Maybe half a pint and he made this beautiful painting and that’s on the drum head of my band setup. So it’s special and amazing and in my house right now. He did an incredible thing. It’s much in the style of Da Vinci or something. He’s actually a very classical painter but he uses blood instead of paint.
BLADE: You say the show is about the anger you feel associated with police brutality, violence against women and how insane those issues make you feel. How do you spin themes like that into something funny?
CHO: You have to really remember that you’re an entertainer. That’s the first thing. I definitely care about politics and I do talk about them but you always want to make sure you remember your purpose. I’m a comedian first, so that’s what I try to emphasize and that’s never far from what I’m doing.
BLADE: You’ve spoken of how saddened you were by the deaths of Robin Williams and Joan Rivers. How did you feel when they’d come see you perform?
CHO: I was always nervous, always freaked out. Robin was really there in the very beginning of my career. I knew him as a teenager and he would always come in and bump me so I’d have to go on after him and that’s really when I sort of learned how to be a comedian was from following him.
BLADE: How about Joan?
CHO: She would come in disguise. She had a subtle, kind of stealth way about her. I just adored her so much and when I would see her shows, you could never go see her before the show and she wouldn’t want to see you in the audience. It was always after the show because she would get too nervous if she knew you were there before. I don’t really know why, but she was always very nervous before a show.
BLADE: Do you greet people before or after yourself?
CHO: Either. I’m not as formal that way. If I have friends there, they can come back anytime.
BLADE: There’s always been a shock element to your show. Is it harder to shock people than it used to be?
CHO: It’s more about trying to be smart, not shocking so much. There has to be a reason why you bring something shocking up. There has to be a purpose to it. There’s nothing gratuitously shocking.
BLADE: You got divorced last year and have been through a lot in your personal life it sounds like. How are you doing?
CHO: I’m doing great.
BLADE: You seem like you’re always charging ahead on career stuff. Was that hard to keep going when you were going through personal stuff?
CHO: So much of my life is my work so that’s what I always have to look forward to. It’s a great social and fun thing for me. I really enjoy working and it’s just been so busy, I haven’t had time to worry too much about my personal life.
BLADE: Will we see you more on “Fashion Police”?
CHO: I’ll be back next week. I guess we’ll see. I would love to be a regular and I think it’s a good fit. It’s something I really enjoy doing. I love being there for Melissa (Rivers). It’s a great, fun show.
BLADE: How’s Melissa doing?
CHO: She’s doing great, really great. I think everybody’s really excited to be back and I love that.
BLADE: I know in general you like more outré stuff. What do you bring to the show that’s different?
CHO: I think I have a different perspective on fashion. I definitely favor something that’s more avant garde and edgier. Different designers, different kinds of looks. I think the oddball should be celebrated and the red carpet is a theater where people can really be dramatic or over the top. I look forward to encouraging that point of view.
BLADE: What do you do when you veg out?
CHO: Oh, I just smoke my own line of pot. I have my own line coming out that I’m really proud of. I got a lot of it for free so I have my own designer weed and Netflix. That’s all I need.
BLADE: What do you think of Kim Davis?
CHO: Oh gosh, I think she has an inflated sense of her office and what she’s supposed to do. She’s not making these decisions. The decision has been made and it’s legal for gay people to get married in this country. Her job is clerical. You can’t enforce your biases and prejudices in a government office.
BLADE: Tell us about your album and what else you have coming up.
CHO: I have some music videos that will be coming out in the next few months that my album will be out at either the end of this year or the beginning of next. I’m also doing some TV stuff with some shows that are just in the early stages of development but I’ll be doing some different things with writing and producing too.
BLADE: How is the album shaping up musically?
CHO: It’s comedic and fun, but it’s not just parody songs. I really want it to sound beautiful. I really enjoy music and singing and playing. It’s a wonderful expression. Sometimes I do a little in my shows but I’m still primarily a comedian.
BLADE: A bit like Sandra Bernhard?
CHO: Sure, yeah, although she’s much more of a singer than I am. I have more of a country sort of voice.
BLADE: There are a lot of issues you’re pissed off about and riff about in the show but overall are things getting better?
CHO: Absolutely. We are in a better place than we have ever been and it’s going to continue to get better. It’s wonderful. We’re teaching the world about how to treat human beings. We’re teaching humanity through our humanity.