Interview with Asian Comedian Pioneer Margaret Cho
Here at Soompi we recently named Korean American comedian Margaret Cho to our list of The Top 10 Asian Comedians of All-Time and scored an exclusive e-mail interview with the star as she prepared for her new North American Tour (more info on her officlal site).
What initially motivated you to get into comedy?
I wanted to be a standup comic. I knew it was my destiny and it felt right to do it.
Many comics feel drawn to the honesty of comedy, and you’ve even been more outspoken, later in your career touching the often taboo subject of religion, what drew you to do that?
Well I wanted to cover everything. I grew up in a very religious household so I felt ease with the subject. Its the responsibility of the comedian to be outspoken so I never had problems with it.
Who were some of the comedians that influenced you the most?
Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Roseanne, and Rosie O’Donnell.
You were a pioneer for Asian Americans, and the only one ever to have your own show – can you talk about that experience? Why hasn’t there been a show since?
I don’t know why there hasn’t been another Asian American show since. That’s unfortunate. Hopefully there will be another sometime. The difficulty of my show ‘All American Girl’ was that it was simply before its time.
Do you think there was a time when Hollywood or mainstream media tried to cater to Asians, and that experiment failed so there was a break for a number years and now it seems that they may be considering trying to cater to the Asian market once again?
I think there’s a conciousness that the Asian market isn’t worth reaching out to, and so it’s virtually ignored. This is of course, not true – there’s a huge Asian market out there but there has been so much non-inclusion in a sense we don’t even know we exist. Its frustrating and sad but I believe things are slowly changing.
Have you taken a look at our Soompi Top 10 Asian Comedians of All Time List with you at #1? If you have, what did you think of it?
I think it’s great!! I am #1 only by virtue of being first!!
Do you keep up with other Asian comedians and if so, what do you think about the current state of Asian comedy? Some people say it hasn’t moved past the minstrel stage but it also seems to be much more dynamic at times. Who are some of your favorite Asian comedians?
I love Bobby Lee!!! He’s the greatest!! I’ve never thought of Asian comedy as being a minstrel show. Everyone has to start somewhere. I have much respect for any Asian comic who decides to go into comedy. Its very difficult and there are few opportunities and little support for us. Every Asian comic who succeeds is triumphant.
During the show’s run and during your career, the biggest detractors were and have been Asian. This phenomenon has been confirmed by many other Asian American entertainers. Why do you think that is? Do you think it ultimately holds us back from progress?
I don’t know why that is. It could be there are so few images of Asian Americans in the media that any appearance is shocking and therefore must somehow be derogatory because we are so used to it. It holds us back because it then seems like we have no support from our own community.
Do you keep up with K-Pop or any other forms of Asian music? Who are some of your favorite artists?
I don’t know much about K-Pop but my favorite Korean american singer songwriter is Susie Suh. We have written many songs together and she is extraordinary.
What advice do you have for young Asian Americans who want to enter comedy?
Just do it and don’t give up.
What do you think the biggest mistake that young people make when they’re first starting out to pursue their passion?
I think people get frustrated too easily. A life as an artist is a difficult one, and nothing happens overnight, no matter what it seems like.