For most people, Margaret Cho is one of those comedians whose work bubbles pleasantly to the surface of pop culture from time to time, owing to whatever viral video, social media outrage or attention-getting project in which she’s entangled.
But for comedy lovers and especially fans, Cho’s breathtaking array of interests have kept her on the forefront of risk-taking comedy for most of her 20-plus-year career. And in advance of her latest Colorado stop, at Boulder’s Chautauqua Auditorium on June 26, she’s happy to add two new roles to a résumé that includes actress, writer, musician, dancer, and outspoken advocate for LGBT and the homeless. She’s also a budding pot activist and entrepreneur.
“It’s always been a pet cause of mine,” said the 46-year-old San Francisco native, who also plays the Paramount Theatre on Nov. 13 as part of her “psyCHO” tour. “It’s more secondary to my LGBT causes and homeless outreach, but medical and recreational marijuana and the end of prohibition is important in terms of helping people and getting safe access.”
Cho said she’s “dying” to return to Colorado for the first time since Amendment 64 went into effect, not only to see the day-to-day impact and burgeoning culture of recreational weed, but to compare it to the (relatively) longstanding medical-marijuana culture she’s familiar with as a California native and resident.
“It’s still very much restricted to medical here,” she said over the phone from her home in Los Angeles. “And that distinction makes a huge difference culturally in how it’s treated. It may not seem different than any pot shop if you have a (red card), but to really know it’s actually legal for recreational use is an entirely different way of thinking.”
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Cho’s passion for humanitarian causes inspires her to raise money and awareness for LGBT rights and solutions to homelessness. Last year, she played a number of unannounced street shows in San Francisco with friends like musician Bob Mould — partly to honor her late friend Robin Williams, another advocate of the humanitarian way.
“To me, activism isn’t just about making something entertaining, it’s about taking action and volunteering,” said Cho, who has lent her name, time and comedic material to dozens of fundraisers over the years. “It’s in a much different sphere than entertainment, but sometimes it connects, like at a benefit where you’re donating your work. I raise money online, but I also go out and buy food and make takeaway bags for homeless people with vanity kits, socks, underwear, heating pads and other items.”
While she’s never been an overt face of the legal-marijuana movement — mostly “voting to end prohibition” and supporting the cause in small ways — legalizing marijuana tracks perfectly with her interests and worldview. She’s also, not surprisingly, looking to get some business ideas on her Colorado trip.
“It’s entirely different out there than anywhere else, so I’m just really excited,” said Cho, who once ran a short-lived clothing line called High Class Cho, as well as an array of belly-dancing belts and accessories called Hip Wear. “I’m planning to go into cannabis commerce myself, so I’m watching and predicting when it’s going to happen in California, and I’d love to see what’s going on in Colorado right now.”
Cho’s work has frequently traded on (and exploded) stereotypes — especially of Asian Americans, a group she has directly addressed dozens of times in her work. But she’s not afraid to play into a particularly hoary stereotype about stand-ups.
“It’s a miracle for comedians. Comics are not necessarily your average stoners, but that is the drug of comedy. Almost all comics, regardless of level and place, are fueled by marijuana, and it’s been that way forever.”