Paratrooper, punk rocker, sailor, sex kitten: Margaret Cho is comedy’s chameleon. The SF native has stunned sold-out crowds with her crass stand-up spiel—think Notorious C.H.O., Revolution, Assassin, and Beautiful—and has tackled television with her VH1 reality sitcom The Cho Show and Lifetime dramedy, Drop Dead Diva. Never afraid to reinvent herself, Cho made her first foray into music last August and is currently on tour promoting her debut album, Cho Dependent, which features indie faves Tegan and Sara, Andrew Bird, and Grant Lee Phillips, plus Fiona Apple and Ani DiFranco. Most recently, she was sidetracked by a short stint on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars (she was eliminated in week 3 when she danced the samba in a gay pride rainbow-flag dress), which, in tandem with the Cho Dependent tour, left the comedienne physically and mentally exhausted. Now that she’s off the show, she’s getting her mojo back, loud and proud, just the way we like it. Margaret Cho performs at Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium on December 4.
Those Dancing with the Stars judges could loosen up a little. What happened to extra points for originality?
I know, right? They were really hard on me, but I think it’s because I can actually dance. To make fun of something, you actually have to be quite skilled. There’s much more talent involved in making jokes than in doing things perfectly. Look at Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly—they always put comedy into their performances. I knew what I was doing and I don’t really care about the rest.
You’re obviously into dressing up. Did Dancing with the Stars give you any costume ideas for the Cho Dependent tour?
I would say the look is Fame. I was going onstage in leggings and tights because I had been coming straight from DWTS rehearsals. Think spandex and camel-toe. It’s a good look.
Audiences mostly associate you with comedy, not music. What are the people saying about Cho Dependent?
People love it because it’s still comedy. I collaborated with such great musicians because I wanted the songs to sound beautiful too. I wrote all the lyrics and they wrote all the music. That way, the album has enduring value beyond the joke of it.
Your “My Puss” parody of Mickey Avalon’s “My Dick” might go down in history as the funniest video ever.
Our video is the only sanctioned “My Dick” cover allowed to be released. We were really laughing a lot. It was all about getting together, having a sick party, and putting on dumb wigs.
You grew up in SF. What’s more horrifying—the 38 Geary or the 30 Stockton?
On the 30 Stockton, you have to watch out because you could get hit with fish. The 38 Geary just has trannies.
You’ve always been a badass. How did your parents react when you were expelled from Lowell High School?
I was expelled for bad grades, and to them, that was the worst thing that ever could have happened. They would rather I commit murder. There was a Korean kid in my class who killed somebody at a 7-Eleven, and they thought my getting expelled was worse. My dad actually said, “Well, at least he got good grades.”
What do you miss most about San Francisco?
Oh, you know, the weather, the people, the Folsom Street Fair.
Margaret's Top 7 SF Picks:
1. Everlasting Tattoo is the best tattoo studio in the best tattoo city, and it’s where I get all of mine done. 813 Divisadero St., 415-928-6244, everlastingtattoo.com
2. I like the SF Armory. It’s an historic building and yet all they do is make porn and throw parties. 1800 Mission St., 415-677-0456, sfarmory.com
3. Punchline and Cobb’s are two of the great comedy clubs in the city. 444 Battery St., punchlinecomedyclub.com; 915 Columbus Ave., cobbscomedyclub.com
4. When I lived here in the ’80s and early ’90s, I worked in SoMa at Stormy Leather making dildos. 1158 Howard St., 415-626-1672, stormyleather.com
5. I enjoy eating at Bar Crudo. The restaurant does a really interesting take on fish and fresh and raw. 655 Divisadero St., 415-409-0679, barcrudo.com
6. I stay at the Huntington Hotel when I’m in town. It’s so quintessentially San Francisco. 1075 California St., 415-474-5400, huntingtonhotel.com
7. Bimbo’s 365 Club is the most wonderful venue. The place has a great vibe and it’s really fun performing there. 1025 Columbus Ave., 415-474-0365, bimbos365club.com