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Margaret Cho
Name at BirthMoran Cho (조모란)[1]
BornDecember 5, 1968
BirthplaceSan Francisco, California, U.S.
OccupationStand-up comedy, television, film
SpouseAl Ridenour (2003 - Present)

Margaret Cho (born December 5, 1968) is an American comedian, fashion designer, author, and actress. Cho is known for her stage performances, recordings, and concert movies. Her shows are a mixture of her comedy stylings with strong political and cultural commentary. Apart from these shows she has also directed and appeared in music videos, and started her own clothing line. She has frequently supported gay rights and identifies herself as bisexual[2] and has won awards for her humanitarian efforts.

Early life

Cho was born Moran Cho[1] to a Korean-American family in San Francisco, California on December 5, 1968. She was frequently called "Moron" by other children.[1] Cho grew up in a culturally diverse neighborhood in the 1970s and 1980s, which she described as a community of "old hippies, ex-druggies, burnouts from the '60s, drag queens, Chinese people and Koreans. To say it was a melting pot - that's the least of it. It was a really confusing, enlightening, wonderful time."

Cho's parents, Young-Hie and Seung-Hoon Cho[3] ran a bookstore on San Francisco's Polk Street. Her father writes joke books as well as a newspaper column in Seoul, Korea.[4] After Cho expressed an interest in performance, she auditioned and was accepted into the San Francisco School of the Arts, a performing arts high school. While at the school, she became involved with the school's improvisational comedy group.[5] with Sam Rockwell.

Personal life

Cho’s legal name is Moran Cho.[1] Her stage name is Margaret. Cho is not fluent in Korean, but does understand some simple conversation.

Cho once dated Quentin Tarantino (who appeared on an episode of her sitcom), Chris Isaak, and Garrett Wang. Cho has also spoken about her relationships and sexual experiences with women, and identifies herself as bisexual.[6] Cho has also described herself as a "fag hag", "queer" because she has gay tastes and a gay viewpoint, and—her own word—"slutty". Cho married Al Ridenour, an artist involved in the creation of Cacophony Society and the Art of Bleeding, in 2003. Margaret was featured in an Art of Bleeding performance in March 2006.[7]

Cho began getting major tattoo work done in 2006 and has become an enthusiast; as of March 2007 she estimates that 15-20% of her body is currently tattooed. She was interviewed by comedian Dawn French in her television program Girls Who Do Comedy, which profiled 30 female comedians.[8]


Early career

After doing several shows in a club adjacent to her parents' bookstore, Cho launched a standup career and spent several years developing her material in clubs. Cho's career began to build after appearances on television and university campuses. She secured a coveted spot as opening act for Jerry Seinfeld, and was featured on a Bob Hope special. She was also a frequent visitor to The Arsenio Hall Show.[9] In 1994, Cho won the American Comedy Award for Best Female Comedian.[10] Cho was interviewed by Ron Bennington for the season 2 premiere of XM's Unmasked in Washington DC.

All American Girl

That same year, ABC developed and aired a sitcom based on Cho's stand-up routine. The show, All American Girl, was initially feted as the first show where an Asian family was prominently featured.

Cho has expressed subsequent regret for much of what transpired during the production of the episodes of the show.

  • After network executives criticized her appearance and the roundness of her face, Cho starved herself for several weeks; her rapid weight loss, done to modify her appearance by the time the pilot episode was filmed, caused serious kidney failure.
  • The show suffered criticism from within the Asian-American community over their perceptions of stereotyping. Producers told Cho at different times during production that she was "too Asian" and, paradoxically, that she was "not Asian enough". At one point during the course of the show, producers hired a coach to teach Cho how to "be more Asian"[9]
  • Much of the humor was broad, and at times, stereotypical portrayals of her Korean relatives and gay bookshop customers.

The show was quickly canceled after suffering from poor ratings, and the effect of major content changes over the course of its single season[11]

Following the show's 1995 cancellation, Cho became addicted to drugs including alcohol. As detailed in her 2002 autobiography, I'm the One That I Want, in 1995, her substance abuse so degraded a performance in Monroe, Louisiana, that she was booed off the stage by 800 college students.[12]

I'm the One That I Want

Cho's career and personal life were challenged after the cancellation of the show, but Cho refocused her energies and developed new material. In 1999, she wrote about her struggles with the show in her first one-woman show, I'm the One That I Want. Cho released a book of the same name, and the show was filmed and released as a concert film in 2000. Her material dealt with her difficulties breaking into show business due to her ethnicity and weight.

Shows, Films, Books

The second, 2002's Notorious C.H.O. (the title derived from slain rapper "The Notorious B.I.G.") dealt with her having been raised in 1970s San Francisco and her own bisexuality. Both tours spawned live movie versions, albums, and books.

In 2003, she made another stand-up film, Revolution, released in 2004.


Cho doing stand-up in June 2005

She guest-starred in the episode titled "The Real Me" from season 4 of Sex and The City, with Sarah Jessica Parker. That episode also guest-starred supermodel, Heidi Klum.

In late 2004, Cho began work on her first self-written and starring film role. The movie is called Bam Bam and Celeste and is a low-budget comedy about a fag hag and her gay best friend. The film co-stars Cho's friend and co-touring act Bruce Daniels. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2005.

In 2005, Cho started promoting and touring with her new show Assassin. The show became her fourth live concert film, and premiered on the gay and lesbian premium cable network Here! TV in September 2005. In this DVD, she notably includes herself when talking about gays, saying "we" and "our community." Posters for Assassin feature Cho in paratrooper gear holding a microphone in the style of an automatic rifle, a reference to the infamous 1974 photo of heiress Patty Hearst.

Also in 2005, Cho released her second book I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight, a compilation of essays and prose about global politics, human rights, and other topical issues. Cho launched a national book tour in support of the collection. An audio reading of the book was also released. A DVD of a live taping of the Assassin tour was released in conjunction with the book.

Cho launched "The Sensuous Woman"[13] burlesque style variety show tour in Los Angeles, California on August 10, 2007 with tour dates scheduled through November 3, as of October 10.[14] Past and scheduled tour stops after Los Angeles are Chicago, Illinois and New York, New York.[14] On August 10, 2007 the San Francisco Chronicle reviewed the show, Cho's work, key events in her personal life and characterized the show as, "In fact, as bawdy and bad-behaving as the cast gets, the whole show feels more like a crazy family reunion than a performance."[15]

Nature of material


Cho performing burlesque at the 2006 Miss Exotic World Pageant.

Cho's comedy routines are often explicit. She has covered substance abuse, eating disorders, her bisexuality and fondness for gay men, and Asian-American stereotypes, among other subjects, in her stand up.

The poster for her first one-woman show (and film), I'm the One That I Want, featured her holding her arms out as if gripping a steering wheel but with her index finger extended, an allusion to a long joke she tells involving the rides home after using digital rectal stimulation while performing fellatio in order to expedite her partner's orgasm.

Cho also became well known for portraying her relationship with her mother in her work, particularly in imitating her mother's heavily accented speech. Her depictions of "Mommy" became a popular part of her routine.

Political advocacy

Cho's material often features commentary on politics and contemporary American culture. In addition to her shows, Cho also developed an additional outlet for her advocacy with the advent of and her daily weblog.

A substantial segment of her material and advocacy addressed gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues. When San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom directed that San Francisco's city hall issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in San Francisco in 2004 (until reversed by the state supreme court), Cho started Love is Love is Love,[16] a website promoting the legalization of gay marriage in the United States.

Cho has also been outspoken about her dislike of current President Bush. She began to draw intense fire from conservatives over her fiercely anti-Bush commentary; a live performance in Houston, Texas was threatened with picketing. Although protesters never showed up, she held a counter protest outside the club until security told her she had to go inside[17] . In 2004, Cho was performing at a corporate gig in a hotel when, after ten minutes, her microphone was cut off and a band was instructed to begin playing. Cho claims this was because the manager of the hotel was offended by anti-Bush-administration comments. Cho's payment, which was issued by way of check directly to a non-profit organization, a defense fund for the West Memphis Three, initially bounced but was eventually honored.[18]

In July 2004 during the Democratic National Convention, Cho was un-invited to speak at a Human Rights Campaign/National Stonewall Democrats fundraiser out of the fear that her comments might cause controversy. In November 2005, she campaigned to pardon Stanley "Tookie" Williams, an early Crips gang leader, for his death sentence for four murders. On December 13, 2005, after exhausting all forms of appeal, Williams was executed by lethal injection at San Quentin State Prison, California.[19]

She emceed the multi-artist True Colors Tour,[20] which traveled through 15 cities in the United States and Canada. The tour, sponsored by the Logo channel, began on June 8, 2007. Headlined by Cyndi Lauper, the tour also included Debbie Harry, Erasure, The Gossip, Rufus Wainwright, The Dresden Dolls, The MisShapes, Rosie O'Donnell, Indigo Girls, The Cliks and other special guests. Profits from the tour helped to benefit the Human Rights Campaign as well as PFLAG and The Matthew Shepard Foundation.

On January 25, 2008, Cho officially gave her support to Illinois Senator Barack Obama for the nomination on the Democratic ticket for the 2008 U.S. presidential race.[21]

Other activities/projects

In 2002, Cho founded a clothing line with friend and fashion designer Ava Stander called High Class Cho. The company eventually went defunct due to lack of consumer interest; however, in 2006, Cho introduced her own line of belly dancing belts called Hip Wear.[22]

In 2004, Cho took up bellydancing and started her own line of bellydancing accessories (sold through her website). She also had extensive tattooing done to cover the majority of her back.[23] She co-wrote and starred in a sitcom pilot based around the "Mommy" character of her stand-up, but it was not picked up. She began releasing comedic rap animated videos on her website under the moniker "M.C. M.C." (MC Margaret Cho) including the tracks "Finger" and "Roofies".

In April 2006, Cho started "The Sensuous Woman," a monthly burlesque/comedy/bellydancing show at Largo, a restaurant in California.[24] In July 2006, she directed the music video for the song "Former Miss Ontario" by The Music Lovers. In October of that year, she appeared as a dominatrix in the Liam Kyle Sullivan music video for the song "Text Message Breakup"[25] and has a cameo appearance in Sullivan's "Let Me Borrow That Top" clip.[26]

In November 2006, Cho joined the board of Good Vibrations.[27] She co-wrote a rap song with fellow comedian Diana Yanez entitled "My Puss", which was recorded by the duo as "Maureen and Angela"; she then appeared in and directed the music video for the song.[28] In December 2006, Cho appeared on the Sci Fi Channel (United States)'s miniseries The Lost Room as Suzie Kang, a tough, chain-smoking independent operator who will sell information to anyone about the motel room's Objects — for the right price.[29]

In 2007, Cho appeared in The Dresden Dolls' video of their song "Shores of California", which was MCed by Amanda Palmer[30] and in The Cliks' video for "Eyes in the Back of My Head", in which she played Lucas Silveira's lover.[31] She also voiced a character, Condie Ling, on the Logo animated series Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World. Her episodes began airing in 2007.

Recently on an episode of "The Hour" with host George Strombolopolous, actress/comedian Margaret Cho mentioned that she loved Broken Social Scene and wishes to be a part of the band (offering to play the triangle). On air, George called Kevin Drew from his cellphone and Margaret made her request to join the band via his voicemail.

Margaret is also set to have her own reality show The Cho Show, which will air on VH1. It is expected to start airing August 21, 2008.

Celebrity Family Feud

Margaret and her family and friends will appear on NBC's new show Celebrity Family Feud which premieres on June 24, 2008.


  • In 1999, I'm The One That I Want won New York magazine's Performance of the Year award and was named one of the Great Performances of the year by Entertainment Weekly.[32]
  • In 2000, her "E! Celebrity Profile" won a Gracie Allen Award from the American Women in Radio and Television organization acknowledging its "superior quality and effective portrayal of the changing roles and concerns of women."[32]
  • In 2000, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) awarded her with a Golden Gate award and described her as an entertainer who, "as a pioneer, has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."[33]
  • In 2001, she was given a Lambda Liberty Award by Lambda Legal for "pressing us to see how false constructions of race, sexuality, and gender operate similarly to obscure and demean identity."[34]
  • In 2003, she received a "Justice in Action" award from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.[35]
  • In 2003, she was given an Intrepid Award by the National Organization for Women.[36]
  • In 2004, she was awarded with the First Amendment Award from the American Civil Liberties Union.[37]
  • In 2007, she won for Outstanding Comedy Performance in AZN's Asian Excellence Awards.[38]


  • Angie (1994)
  • The Doom Generation (1995)
  • Sweethearts (1996)
  • It's My Party (1996)
  • Pink as the Day She Was Born (1997)
  • Fakin' Da Funk (1997)
  • Face/Off (1997)
  • The Thin Pink Line (1998)
  • Ground Control (1998)
  • The Rugrats Movie (1998)
  • I'm the One That I Want (2000)
  • Notorious C.H.O. (2001)
  • Revolution (2003)
  • Assassin (2005)
  • Bam Bam and Celeste (2005)
  • The Lost Room (2006)
  • Falling for Grace (2007)
  • Celebrity Family Feud (2008)
  • One Missed Call (2008)


  • I'm the One That I Want (2000)
  • I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight (2005)


  • Drunk With Power (1997)
  • Live in Houston (1998)
  • I'm the One That I Want (2000)
  • Notorious C.H.O. (2001)
  • Revolution (2003)
  • Assassin (2005)


  • "I'm the One That I Want" (2000)
  • "Notorious C.H.O." (2002)
  • "Revolution" (2003)
  • "State of Emergency" (2004)
  • "Assassin" (2005)
  • "True Colors" (2007)
  • "Beautiful" (2008)
  • "True Colors" (2008)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Rebecca Donohue and Jen Kirkman. Know Thyself, Love Thyself: An Interview with Margaret.
  2. 5 Questions for Margaret Cho. Retrieved on 2008-04-06.
  3. Margaret Cho Biography. Film Reference. Retrieved on 2007-12-29.
  4. Margaret Cho Biography. Yahoo! Movies.
  5. Dann McDorman (2001-11-08). As Nasty As She Wants to Be.
  6. HRC Margaret Cho. The Human Rights Campaign. Archived from the original on 2006-10-01.
  7. Art of Bleeding Live Ambulance Shows
  8. "Girls Who Do: Comedy" (2006)
  9. 9.0 9.1 No Laughing Matter - Margaret Cho sounds off on political correctness, Asians in the media, and defying her parents
  10. Margaret Cho search results.
  11. Margaret Cho's Asian-American sitcom. - By Sam Anderson - Slate Magazine
  12. Margaret Cho’s mix of raunch and self-help conquers America
  13. The Sensuous Woman. Margaret Cho official site. Retrieved on 2007-10-10.
  14. 14.0 14.1 The Sensuous Woman Tour Dates. Margaret Cho official site. Retrieved on 2007-10-10.
  15. Yang, Jeff (2007-10-10). ASIAN POP / New tricks. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved on 2007-10-10.
  16. Love is Love is Love
  17. Protest This an entry in Margaret's blog
  18. They Turned Off the Mic an entry in Margaret's blog
  19. Save Tookie an entry in Margaret's blog
  20. True Colors Tour | Home
  21. Cho, Margaret. "America's Next Top President", Huffington Post, 2008-01-25. Retrieved on 2008-05-02. 
  23. Some of Margaret's tattoo photos as shown on her website
  25. You Tube
  26. YouTube - Let Me Borrow That Top
  27. - Margaret Cho Joins Sex Toy Retailer's Board of Directors
  28. You Tube
  29. SCIFI.COM | The Lost Room
  30. You Tube
  31. YouTube - The Cliks Eyes in the Back of My Head
  32. 32.0 32.1 Comedian Margaret Cho to perform at Augsburg College
  33. Margaret Cho, Billie Jean King, E*TRADE's Kathy Levinson and Dennis & Judy Shepard To Be Honored At GLAAD's Washington, DC and San Francisco Media Awards Ceremonies April 26 2000
  34. Cho Nuff: Outspoken comic brings her all-inclusive act to Charlotte by Karen Doyle Martin, April 24 2002
  35. Fearless and Funny Women Reign Supreme at AALDEF's Year of the Ram Celebration in NY by Lia Chang, February 16 2003
  36. NOW's First Annual Intrepid Awards Gala: Margaret Cho
  37. ACLU News: ACLU/SC Honors Civil Liberties Advocates At Annual Garden Party
  38. NewNowNext Blog: True Colors Interview: Margaret Cho's Gay Agenda

External links

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