It’s been 20 years since comedian Margaret Cho tried to put her pioneering Asian-American sitcom, “All-American Girl,” on TV. Since then a lot has changed in TV, movies and worldwide entertainment. But Cho hasn’t. She’s still the acerbic no-holds-barred stand-up she’s always been.
Cho returns to the Puget Sound area on Tuesday and Wednesday for four shows at the Tacoma Comedy Club. The newspaper caught up with her via phone.
Q: This is your second visit to our area this year. The last time we talked you said you were obsessed with stand-up. How’s that obsession going?
A: It’s going well. It’s a profession that takes time, and I’m really proud that I get to do it for my life.
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Q: What happened to the “Cabot College” sitcom you were working on with Tina Fey?
A: We’re not going forward with it. That happens. I’m trying to transition into a producer and do stuff on my own. We’ll see. I’ll have a new special out of my show (in 2015.) We’ll shoot it the beginning of next year.
Q: You and several other comic actors were in Weird Al Yankovic’s “Tacky” video (a parody of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”). Was that really one long shot? How many takes did it require?
A: It’s one long shot. It was hard. We were set up through an entire building. It was crazy because Al had to change and then run downstairs to do the end. We did it at least seven times. The take they chose was the fifth.
Q: It’s been 20 years since “All-American Girl.” Another Asian-American sitcom, “Fresh Off the Boat,” premieres in 2015. We’re you ahead of your time with “Girl”?
A: I guess so. But I kind of feel like it happened when it was supposed to. But Eddie Huang and I are good friends, and he and I have been talking through the entire process of development (of “Fresh”). I’m the only person who has insight on what it’s like to do an Asian-American family show. I really like the show. It’s funny and unique, and this is the perfect time.
Q: We know about K-pop thanks to Psy and “Gangnam Style,” but there are also South Korean movies, and now K-drama (Korean miniseries in a wide variety of genres) is making serious inroads to American pop culture. Is it suddenly cool to be Korean — or has it always been cool?
A: I think it’s way cooler now with all the film and TV and music that we get from there. That’s become a huge export from there. They’re really cutting edge and innovative — what they’re doing with stories. I really like the movies and alternative rock, K-pop. There’s a really cool indie rock scene that’s coming up. I’m good friends with Galaxy Express — they’re the Nirvana of Korea. I think Korea was always cool. It just became cooler.
Q: Then there’s North Korea — the crazy uncle of Asia. I was really hoping that when Kim Jong Un took power there would be some change but one look at that haircut …
A: Oh, I know. I played him on “30 Rock.” I think (North Korea has) gotten worse. More mysterious. Who knows what’s happening? I’d like to go over there, but I don’t know how to make that happen.
Q: You have a reputation for making politics the subject of your comedy. What are your current political issues?
A: The violent culture we’re living in: guns, the violence toward women. The show is directed to that, not about people. The culture of bloodshed. I’ve never talked before about that.
Q: This is your stand-up show you’re talking about?
A: Yes. That’s the theme running through it. The title is “There is no ‘I’ in team, but there is a ‘Cho’ in psycho.” It’s a long title.
Q: You were close to Robin Williams. Even before you became famous, he would come in to your parents’ bookstore in San Francisco. Do some comedians have a pathos that they turn into comedy?
A: I don’t know. I think the job requires an obsessive drive. Part of the job description is that you have to get obsessed about things. But how do you manage that mania in your daily life? A lot of people don’t find a way. That’s why there’s a lot of substance abuse and depression in comedy. You have to find a way to manage all the personality traits that make you a great comic to begin with. It’s a very isolating kind of job. You’re alone a lot of time. And that’s not the best for some people. A lot of comics — we’re still in a state of shock and grief over Robin. And Joan Rivers.
Q: How do you keep yourself sane and happy on the road?
A: I try to do what Joan taught me, to have a lot of gratitude about this profession and this life.
Q: Is there anything on your to-do list when you’re here in Tacoma?
A: I want to know about the recreational pot. It’s my first visit to Washington state since legalization, or end of prohibition.