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November 13th, 2013 REBECCA JACOBSON | Theater
 

Earth Mother

Comedian Margaret Cho explains why we can all be mothers if we want.

perf_cho_4002CHO - IMAGE: missmissyphotography.net
Margaret Cho doesn’t have any kids of her own. But that doesn’t mean she’s not a mother—or, rather, that she can’t mother anyone she wants. The personally and politically outspoken comedian has long incorporated stories about her Korean mom into her act, but her new touring show tackles motherhood more broadly. And, in typical Cho fashion, it also touches on issues ranging from drugs to LGBT rights to sex toys. WW spoke with Cho by phone about twerking, the meaning of life, and drunken women who heckle pregnant comedians.


WW: Tell me a recent story about your mother.

Margaret Cho: We were watching the Miley Cyrus twerking thing with Robin Thicke, and my mother said, “Oh, she’s shaking out all her luck.” That’s a very Asian thing to say. You think luck is sort of something stored in the body, and if you shake a part of your body, it will shake out all your good luck. I was just laughing. But it was so sweet, too. She wasn’t judging her or anything.


What happens if you shake out all your luck?

I don’t know. It’s the same thing that happens if you’re Korean and you fall asleep next to a fan. There’s this thing about Korean people—we think if you have a fan [blowing] on you at night you’ll die. I don’t even really like a fan on me at any time.


What’s worse: twerking or sleeping with the fan on?

I think that it may be worse to go to sleep with a fan on you, so maybe Miley Cyrus did the right thing.


What did you think about that performance?

There was a lot of reaction about the racial implications. It’s really important to talk about why we sexualize women of color in that particular way. I don’t think anybody behind the authoring of that performance really thought it was saying something greater about the culture and race and women of color. Women of color are so invisible that we’d never even enter into the conversation. I don’t think they were conscious of what they were doing.


You’ve described yourself as a mother within the comedy community. Why?

I’m at the age [44] where people think of me as a mother figure anyway, whether it’s conscious or not. We just look at women in their 40s and above as mother figures. It’s an unconscious thing, but it’s very meaningful. I both enjoy and embrace it. Sometimes people talk about aging as being a very negative thing, but I am trying to reverse that and make it a positive thing. It’s a really wonderful thing to get older and have a sense of wisdom and understanding and then pass that on to other people.


What sort of wisdom?

That nothing really matters. Whatever you’re worrying about now, it’s not going to be a big deal later. When you’re younger, you get really obsessed about everything. Getting older, you realize you don’t even think about that anymore. You don’t even care. That, I think, is the wisdom of growing old—and that the meaning of life is not that big of a deal. It’s irrelevant. It doesn’t matter to try to figure it out, because it doesn’t make a difference.


You’re sometimes asked if you want children. Do you ever find that question offensive?

It’s borne out of the assumption that all women have that maternal instinct and that biological drive. It’s weird that it’s not asked of men as much, because I think that they have the instinct just as strongly to have children and a family. But there’s an assumption with women that it’s all they can have, because they would obviously not be thinking about their career or whatever. Because we have the ability to bear children, people think there’s something wrong if you don’t utilize that potential. My take is that I can mother everybody. It doesn’t necessarily have to come out of my body. It has to do with my connection to the earth, and I can mother everybody on it if I choose. We can all be mothers.


Ever seen a pregnant comic perform?

I’ve seen a couple of pregnant comedians but very few. One was performing with me. She’s a comic actress and a singer, Kate Levering. She was very heavily pregnant, almost eight months. I was really shocked because we got heckled. That was really alarming. Here’s this woman who’s very obviously pregnant, and we were doing really well. We got heckled and I got so angry. I really screamed and I had the audience member kicked out.


What did the heckler say?

She screamed at us that it was not funny. It was this woman who was drunk and angry and, oddly enough, a mom and with her family, too. I was really offended that we would get heckled when we were doing really well and also that somebody would heckle a guest of mine who was eight months pregnant.


GO: Margaret Cho is at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, 800-273-1530, on Friday, Nov. 15. 8 pm. $37-$64.50.

 
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