Visiting Comedian Margaret Cho Shares Her “Functional Illiteracy”
By Vanessa Wolf
Award-winning comedian Margaret Cho is bringing her new show “Mother,” to Maui’s Castle Theater on Friday, Feb. 8.
We talked to the often controversial and always funny comedian about her show, her childhood aspirations, and what she’d order for a last meal.
Maui Now: So your new show is called “Mother” and it’s about…?
Margaret Cho: I think it’s really about a lot of different things. The main focus is I’ve been talking about my mother for years and years and not only in my comedy. When I was a kid I would really get embarrassed about the way that she talked, and I guess to deal with that I started parodying it.
My entire life I have been doing impressions of my mom, and I wanted to put a lot of different stories together around her and motherhood in general.
MN: I am guessing it is probably not suitable for children?
MC: It’s not suitable for children. Mothers are not the most sacred, and I go there. Come on, the main way you become a mother is by having sex.
MN: What’s your approach with hecklers?
MC: You want to try to dismantle. I don’t ever want to be mean to people and it’s not in my nature to do anything that’s really harsh to shut people down, but at the same time, that’s part of life as a performer. There’s the acceptance of that possibility and that the audience is alive and they’re there. It’s a conversation that you’re having with them.
MN: What’s something you absolutely have to have backstage?
MC: I don’t know. Maybe water.
But I’m willing to bring my own.
MN: Wow. You’re easygoing!
MC: I’m also really cheap. Whenever an artist is requiring that they have something backstage, they have to pay for it. You ultimately buy it, and I don’t want to buy it if I don’t have to.
MN: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
MC: I definitely wanted to be a comedian. There was a brief moment where I thought I would be Wonder Woman, but then I realized that job was already taken.
Besides, I could never fill that cup size. Linda Carter had those GIANT breasts. It’s really mind boggling to think about how racy her costume actually was.
MN: Speaking of costumes, what was your best Halloween costume ever?
MC: I think my best was Bjork. That was my favorite. People don’t even realize how much I look like her. That was a really, really good one. I think that was probably the last one too. I haven’t done Halloween for quite a while now.
MN: South Korea is having its own little musical heyday, or at least a singular event. Have you learned the Gangnam Style dance?
MC: Yes. I’m very good at it. It’s a great song. I think Psy is awesome. I love K-Pop also. It’s very infectious pop: the kind of stuff that gets in your head.
I love that it’s in Korean. You have this explosively massive hit…and it’s in Korean! I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that ever.
MN: Do you speak Korean?
MC: I can understand Korean really fluently to the degree that I can watch the commentary track on a film like Oldboy. I can understand the specific film and camera terms.
I understand the language very well, but I have such a hard time speaking it. When I was growing up, a lot of Korean American families had problems with immigration. My father was deported when I was very young, and ever since then, dealing with language in my family has been really tough. My parents would speak to me in Korean but demand that I answer in English.
They wanted me to work on English, and they didn’t want me to have any kind of discernable accent. Anything that would mark me as foreign was shunned. They were determined to make my English perfect, so I have a lot of trouble speaking Korean.
I am functionally illiterate: I can’t read it or write it.
MN: Would you mind translating Gangnam Style? Seeing as the only words in English are “hey, sexy lady,” I’m guessing it has to do with ladies?
MC: It’s about this neighborhood, Gangnam, and there are ladies in the neighborhood and they’re very chic. Gangnam is sort of this up and coming nouveau riche, Beverly Hills or 90210 would be an American comparison. Everybody there is dressed to the nines and there are lots of beautiful women. It’s about the place and the style and what it means to be from there.
MN: You’re on death row for some unfortunate reason – what would you have for your last meal?
MC: Probably some sort of macaroni and cheese thing. I really do love Hawaiian food, also; like macaroni salad and kalbi. Or the weird hamburger patty on top of rice.
MN: Loco moco?
MC: The loco moco! That’s so good. Hawaiian food to me looks like Korean food and Japanese food and a little bit of Chinese and of course Polynesian food all kind of mixed together.
MN: You’ve nailed it. It’s also probably one of the only places outside Korea where you can buy kim chee pretty much anywhere.
MC: It is everywhere! I love it!
MN: This last question comes from Gabriel Iglesias, the “Fluffy” guy: “What are your goals and what are you doing to make them a reality?”
MC: My goals are just to keep on working. I really love it. I’ve been doing it for a while, and I just enjoy my work. It’s very linked with my social life. Most of my friends are comedians. I’m always participating whether I’m hanging out or going to see people or doing my own shows; I’m always in it.
See Margaret’s show on Friday, Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the Castle Theater. Tickets are $27, $37, and $47.
Have an idea for a fun or thought-provoking story? Get in touch: we want to hear from you. -Vanessa (@mauinow.com)