Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Margaret Cho forces a little reality into her fantasy life on The Cho Show.



About 10 miles
north of downtown Los Angeles lies a hillside community
called Montrose that’s so charmingly retro
it’s often used to represent Main Street, USA,
in movies like Pleasantville. It’s not the
kind of place where residents typically discuss their
recent anal bleaching over chicken wraps, but then
Margaret Cho isn’t your typical resident. “The
bleaching was surprisingly easy and
refreshing,” says the veteran stand-up comic
over lunch at one of her favorite neighborhood cafés,
the Black Cow. “The woman at the bleaching
place showed me before and after pictures. It was
hilarious because the way she was holding her hands on the
ass, it was like she had entered it in the county

This is just one
of the many adventures you’ll see on Cho’s new
VH1 pseudo-reality venture, The Cho Show. In
other episodes she sidles up to San Francisco mayor Gavin
Newsom as he names April 30 Margaret Cho Day, speaks
at the high school that expelled her for bad grades
20-some years ago, and takes a needle to her G-spot in
an attempt to boost her sexual sensitivity. “The
G-shot is a separate episode from the anal
bleaching,” she stresses. “I like to keep the
vagina and the anus separate. Don’t mix ’em.
You’ll get a hangover.”

For her legions
of fans, this is the kind of anal-warts-and-all dish
they’ve come to expect from Cho since she burst onto
the stand-up scene in the early ’90s. After the
cancellation of her much-hyped but short-lived sitcom
All-American Girl in 1995, Cho broke out
with a self-financed concert film,I’m the One That I Want. The next few years
brought three more hit tours-turned-films -- Notorious
., CHO Revolution, and Margaret Cho:
Assassin -- and Cho evolved from a road comic
and film actress (Face/Off, It’s My Party)
into her own unique brand of performance artist,
political activist, and sexual provocateur.

She sees The
Cho Show
as the next step in her evolution.
“It’s the closest I’ve been able to
come on television to what I do as a comic,”
says Cho, who’s working a
Brokeback-meets-burlesque ensemble today (cotton
cowboy shirt over Martini brand bell-bottoms that are denim
from the knee up and sheer from the knee down).
“It’s like a sitcom but with real people
playing the parts.” Fans hoping for a down and dirty
exposé of her real life should adjust their
expectations, though. Yes, much of the action takes
place in her home, but Cho actually moved into a house 10
miles away during shooting so she could avoid the production
fracas when she wasn’t on-camera. And the
show’s story lines were crafted by Cho and a
small team of writer-producers well before the cameras
rolled. “The show is me in the context of being
around all the people that make me want to tell
jokes,” she says. “It’s sort of like
this constant riffing that I do with the people in my

Although everyone
on the show is playing his or her real-life persona,
their relationship to Cho has been scripted to provide a
platform for her comedy. For example, Selene Luna, a
3-foot 10-inch scene-stealer and longtime friend, acts
as the comic’s assistant on the series. Stylists
John Stapleton, Charlie Altuna, and John Blaine form
Cho’s “Glam Squad.” Although the
three men have a warm rapport with the comic, they just met
her during casting for The Cho Show.

The only real
exception to the faux-reality setup is Cho’s
Korean-born parents, who play themselves on the show.
Longtime Cho fans will be particularly excited to meet
her mother, Young Hie, whom Cho has been imitating in
her act since the beginning of her career. “I did
wonder if people were going to think that I was doing
her wrong,” Cho says, “but I think
it’s pretty accurate.”

parents, who make their living importing and exporting books
and have a bookstore in Seoul, took time off to appear
on the show. “I really had to yell at
them,” Cho says. “I built my whole career
without their help, so I said, ‘The one time I
need help with something, you better help.’
They were worried that the cast was just going to make fun
of them, but then they saw that they had an important
part to play and that we loved them, and they started
to warm up.”

One person
viewers won’t see on The Cho Show is Cho’s
husband of five years, Al Ridenour, a visual artist
who also designs her website. If you’re
surprised to learn that Cho’s a married woman,
you’re not alone. “People are always
surprised about that, but that’s just the way it
is,” she says simply. “That part of my
life is really happy and perfect, and I worried that
putting my real relationship under that kind of scrutiny
would just fuck it up. He’s shy and he doesn’t
want to be on-camera, and I understand that.”

Tags: television