Born and raised in San Francisco, multi-talented Margaret Cho describes the area that she grew up in as, “A melting pot – [and] that’s the least of it.” It wasn’t the easiest of childhoods, as she was bullied and picked on. To escape it, she began writing comedy at 14, with her first professional performance coming at 16, pulling her material from the rawness of her youth. One of the funniest and most real comics on stage, Cho’s back with her “Fresh Off The Boat” comedy tour.
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Chris Remmers: Coming from beautiful San Fransisco, California, tell us a little bit about your experience in that area. Where would you send a first-time visitor to get a real sense of the city?
Margaret Cho: San Fransisco is just such an amazing place. I really enjoy being from that city. I was actually just there over the weekend. It’s so beautiful it almost has a Europe feel to it. There are just so many places you can go visit, and so many different things you can do. There’s really something for everybody. I would send someone downtown. You can find sort of a hippy vibe. It hasn’t really changed all that much over the years, and I really love that about all of San Fransisco. It also has its diversity. You can find anything from the hippy vibes to punk-rock scenes, and so many other different interests. I think it’s what also draws me there.
CR: As an accomplished stand-up comedian, actress, fashion designer, author and singer/songwriter, you’re an extremely talented and well-rounded person. Where are some of the most memorable places you’ve been able to travel to over the years while pursuing these various career paths?
MC: I really loved being in Paris to be honest. I also really love performing in Berlin. Germany is incredibly exciting. London is one of the more exciting places to be too. I absolutely love to preform there. I love Britain and its people. It’s really an amazing place all around, for both performing or playing the tourist roll.
CR: All of those places are beautiful and so rich in history. I’m sure it must be nostalgic to be there. You’re a well-known activist on top of your many talents, supporting the LGBT community and various other movements, out of all of your platforms, which do you feel is the most effective way to spread your message to people?
MC: I would say it’s definitely my stand up comedy. It’s the best way I can really talk about my opinions, or what is on my mind, versus my other platforms. It’s something I’ve always done. I have always, and will always, love doing stand up. It’s one of my absolute favorite things that I am, and have been, doing.
CR: Speaking of stand-up, your latest comedy tour “Fresh Off The Boat“ has been quite the success, how do you feel your fans are receiving it?
MC: It’s honestly really great. I’m having a lot of fun. It’s a good thing that I love touring. So far, everything about it has been beyond what I’ve expected. I still cannot believe that getting to go to these shows everyday is my reality. It’s still a huge part of my life after doing this for over 35 years. So, this has all been very satisfying, and such a wonderful experience.
CR: That must be such a euphoric feeling! Not many people get to say that they wake up everyday and do what they love until they go back to sleep. It’s something to truly treasure. So far, on this “Fresh Off The Boat” tour, you’ve been able to travel to a variety of places. Are there any that have stood out to you in terms of crowd atmosphere or the location in general?
MC: This is a tough one! New York City is always a great place to be performing. It felt very special, the show was really well received, and again it is just so fun to be there. I have a long history of going to do shows in New York, and every time it always ends up just being amazing.
CR: To segway into more of a travel sense, when you’re looking to vacation or just get away from it all, are you looking to hang out on the beach, hike in the mountains, see a new city or something completely different all together?
MC: I really love doing a variety of things. It really depends on where I am or what my schedule is like, but I enjoy going to far out places in Asia like Laos, Tibet, Kathmandu and Nepal. They were just incredible experiences if you ever get to travel there. Italy is also a place I enjoy going too. Everything there is just such a wonderful experience — the food to the art and fashion. I would highly recommend anyone to go there if they want to immerse themselves in an amazing culture.
Rome, in particular, stood out to me for the different food too. They have such a diverse pallet and that’s something I tend to look for. Whether it’s bucatini, artichokes or anything else you get, you won’t be disappointed. So yeah, I enjoy new adventures, and places like these for travel or a getaway.
CR: In your realm of work traveling comes with the territory. What are some of the first things you enjoy doing when you touch down in a new location?
MC: You know, I kind of like to just get going. I feel like I’ll get places early in the morning after traveling all night, and sometimes it’s nice to just hit the ground running. I like to start working or getting things in order and my life back on track. I try not to worry so much about getting bogged down by jet lag or culture shock. I feel like doing that is the best way to get going weather you are in a Tokyo fish market, which is an early-morning thing there, or getting out to City of the Dead in Cairo.
For example, when we landed in Copenhagen, the first place we went to was one of the world’s most-famous restaurant. They literally had bugs that they would serve as delicacies. They just throw these ants down in your plate and you eat them like its normal. It’s pretty wild. These are the places you can find, or the things to do, when you just want to get off your flight and hit the ground running.
CR: You have quite the list under your belt of places traveled! Have you ever been anywhere that gave you a culture shock you were not expecting?
MC: I think anywhere in India. Anywhere in Nepal, or even Tibet, is a little shocking too if you’re not familiar with how people live in those parts of the world. India, in particular, was shocking. You’ll just be hanging out, and then all of a sudden you’ll see a huge truck with a five-legged cow being worshiped as a god on it. If you’re not used to or prepared for that kind of thing you can be kind of taken aback.
When you’re just hanging out you’ll see people actively worshiping, or doing things you’re not used to. It’s truly an exotic, yet very religious, place. The amount of statues and temples is staggering, but it’s part of their history and part of their beauty. It’s a place where you can see some of the most beautiful things in the world, and some of the ugliest. The poverty is just so tough to witness first hand. It’s soul-crushing, yet it’s part of the landscape.
CR: I know a lot of friends and family that have traveled to India, or places like it, and the response is always the same — beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. Lastly, you’ve been to an incredible amount of places, but do you have a bucket list of a few places you’d like to see in the near future?
MC: I would say Kyoto is number one. I would love to go to Machu Picchu. Really anywhere in South America would be amazing — Brazil or Argentina. I’m not really sure why either of those two specifically, they are just places I’ve always wanted to go. I’ve always loved the carnival atmosphere, and for that, it’s just something I would really enjoy doing. I’m sure I’ll be adding to the list as time goes on.