Margaret Cho’s “State of Emergency” hopes to terrify some G.O.P. delegates
David Noh: What are you doing in Provincetown?
Margaret Cho: I’m doing my show which I’ll be touring, hanging out, and shooting stuff for my film, which I wrote and am producing and starring in. It’s like a gay “Dumb and Dumber, “about a misfit fag and fag hag whose biggest dream is to go on a reality makeover show, so they’re on this road trip, dealing with lots of fun people along the way. So far, it’s with me and Bruce Daniel, a guy I work with a lot.
I love it here. It’s so fun. I have a lot of friends here so I try to come here as much as I can, spend a lot of time just hanging out, enjoying the great shows and great drag. People are so used to me here, it’s like, “Oh, it’s her!”
DN: And then you’re at the Apollo. What’s that going to be like?
MC: I’ve never performed there, but of course I’ve watched “Showtime at the Apollo,” late Saturday nights. And there was always that woman with the white sweater and very short, tight curly hair, front and center, who would just stand up and start screaming or booing. She was very much the crowd controller and I hope she comes to my show.
I’m mostly gonna be talking about what’s happening in the nation now. Topics change, but a lot of it has to do with gay marriage and the casual homophobia and hatred—this intense injustice—that is always advocated by the right wing. They’re so incredibly smug about their bigotry that it’s intolerable. They just so believe that they’re justified in violating others’ civil rights. It’s just unconscionable the way they’re coming at gay and lesbian Americans as if our lives are somehow indicative of an inner weakness or decadence that is built in to who we are, like we’re all the emcee from Cabaret.
In reality, gays and lesbians who decide to get married and have families are making choices that really benefit all Americans. Marriages and families really strengthen our nation in so many ways, so it’s actually a conservative thing that we’re looking to do and gain acceptance from the current establishment, because we deserve it and it’s time.
DN: It definitely surprised a lot of your fans when you got married recently. Who’s the guy?
MC: His name is Al Ridenour, a German American. He’s great, an artist, a writer, and we have a beautiful life. We didn’t plan on marrying, but then we decided to, and it was done very quickly. It’s something that I never considered before, and now I realize that it’s a really important thing to fight for because I want everybody to have it. I see how much it’s improved my life, how it’s given me a center, a way to commit. I feel so happy as a married woman and I don’t understand why this joyful state of being is not available to everyone.
I don’t think my personal happiness will take any edge off the comedy. Now I can actually take an act to the world. As for children, I don’t know, but it’s certainly a possibility. I’m very much kind of like a sort of selfish person, so I don’t know. I’ll take care of the world’s children.
DN: That really must have helped take the sting out of being banned by the Democrats at their convention in Boston, how many times is it now?
MC: Oh, so many times. It’s hot. I love it! You feel like such a revolutionary. I was supposed to do this big gay benefit for the Human Rights Campaign, “Unity 2004,” during the Democratic convention, and then was disinvited. They’re so cautious, because they don’t want negative publicity from the right wing or to be perceived as troublemakers. They just want to tow the party line, when, really, we’re not being troublemakers. The very fact of our existence is enough to have us labeled as troublemakers, and that is trouble in itself.
DN: It’s so ridiculous, because we will never get positive reviews from the right, anyway.
MC: It’s never gonna happen, so for us to do preventive measures to make sure that we don’t get talked about badly makes us seem fearful, which is not a good way to be. And fear is not something that most of us feel at all. We feel rage and need to express that.
DN: And then Matt Drudge helps out by viciously posting out-of-context excerpts of your appearance at the MoveOn benefit, inciting all this hate mail to you from Bush supporters.
MC: Oh, that old queen. He’s so closeted and crazy and just wants to divert attention from his own homosexuality. It wasn’t so much that he took my words out of context, but more, just taking them out of the realm of performance and putting them out for their face value, which actually shouldn’t even be having any negative impact. The opinions I stand behind, no matter what.
As for the hate mail, it’s hot! I’m like so, “Bring it on!” It’s a great indication that I’m doing something right in this country when people just hate what you’re saying. It’s all the same, uniform in their way: “You chink, you dyke, you cunt, go back to your country.” All that kind of stuff that’s just so tired, almost like a form letter: place racial epithet here, homophobic slur there. Every hate mail I get gets posted on my website with their mail addresses, so they were deluged with hate mail themselves and that was funny because they were all apologizing so fast. They could put out like crazy, but when asked to account for their own violent opinions, they were just so afraid.
DN: Have you seen “Fahrenheit 9/11”? Are we turning into a totalitarian nation?
MC: We’ve been a totalitarian nation forever and now it’s finally gotten to a level where people know about it. The world sees us far more realistically than we see ourselves because we’ve been in the dark for so long. And now it’s practically too late to right the wrongs of what has happened, the things that have been committed in our name all over the world are really frightening. We as citizens would never condone so much of this activity but we didn’t have a choice because we didn’t know. I loved “Fahrenheit 9/11.” We needed something like that to address all of the problems in the country that was really effective and emotional, and I thought that did a really great job.
DN: Do you, as a performer, ever feel fear when you’re onstage, with all these crazies out there?
MC: No, it’s not scary. It’s about not being afraid and we have no reason to be. I don’t even really get nervous before I go on. I’ve been doing this a long time — 21 years now. Honey, I’m just an old workhorse.
As for touring, it’s easy. I’m so used to it. New York City is my favorite place of all because it’s a home to me. It’s also just an amazingly brilliant place to be, the center of everything, and I really love coming back, always.
DN: Your impersonation of your mother is such an audience favorite. Do you ever get tired of doing her?
MC: Never! She’s in my new show, with a nice big part.
Cho always has trenchant opinions on pop culture, so I fired some phenoms her way to get her take.
Paris Hilton: “I think she’s great. I saw her once in a Miami hotel elevator and she said she liked my outfit and I was so excited. So I love her and ‘The Simple Life,’ it’s sweet.”
“Queer Eye for the Straight Guy:” “I love them and I think that it’s a longstanding tradition with gay men helping straight men, fixing them up, it’s like ‘This Old Dick.’”
“Queer as Folk”: “Oh, love it and have a lot of friends on it. It’s weird because it’s like real life to me, a reality show.”
“Catwoman”: “Haven’t seen it. I’ve only seen ‘The Village,’ because I thought it was about the Village, but it wasn’t. Oh, well.”
DN: What else are you up to? Now that you’re personally so happy, do you spend as much time on Ebay?
MC: I’ve actually fallen away. Politics mostly obsesses me now so I don’t have all that time for watching bids. But Oh God, I collected everything: Victorian mourning jewelry, tons of clothes and vintage things, old books. It’s so much fun, and weird in that it’s become the new sort of cruising, you become friendly with different sellers and buyers all over the place.
Now I’m actually writing a book that’s going to be out next year, all about the year in politics and the fight for what’s really right. I’m also doing this film, “Behind the Revolution,” on LOGO, the new gay network. It’s like Madonna’s “Truth or Dare” documentary, a year of my last show tour, but it’s really ghetto, so instead of going down on an Evian bottle, I’m doing a big gallon jug of Arrowhead.