Female Stand-up Comedian of the year - 1994
Cho was born and raised in San Francisco. "It was
different than any other place on Earth," she says. "I grew up and
went to grammar school on Haight Street during the '70s. There were
old hippies, ex-druggies, burnouts from the ‘60s, drag queens, and
Chinese people. To say it was a melting pot – that's the least of
it. It was a really confusing, enlightening, wonderful time."
grandfather was a Methodist minister who ran an orphanage in Seoul
during the Korean War. Ignoring the traditions of her patriarchal
culture, her mother bravely resisted an arranged marriage in Korea and
married Margaret's father who writes joke books – in Korean. "Books
like '1001 Jokes for Public Speakers' – really corny stuff," Cho
says. "I guess we're in the same line of work. But we don't
understand each other that way. I don't know why the things he says
are funny and the same for him."
started performing stand-up at age 16 in a comedy club called The Rose
& Thistle above a bookstore her parents ran. Soon after, she won a
comedy contest where first prize was opening for
Jerry Seinfeld. She
moved to Los Angeles in the early '90s and lived in a house with
several other young performers.
She says, "I moved out because I wasn't the most
famous. If the Manson Family had come, I wouldn't have been Sharon
Tate; I would have been one of the supporting victims, and who wants
that? Janeane Garofalo moved into my old room. Anyway,
'Cho' written in blood on the wall doesn't look as cool as 'Garofalo'."
Still in her early twenties, Margaret hit the college circuit, where she
immediately became the most booked act in the market and garnered a
nomination for Campus Comedian of The Year. She performed more than 300
concerts within two years and subsequently won the American Comedy Award
for Female Comedian in 1994.
Arsenio Hall introduced her to late night
audiences, Bob Hope put her on a prime time special and, seemingly
overnight, Margaret Cho became a national celebrity.
Her ground-breaking and controversial, yet short-lived
ABC sitcom, "All-American Girl," soon followed. Says Cho:
"There were just so many people involved in that show, and so much
importance put on the fact that it was an ethnic show. It's hard to
pin down what "ethnic" is without appearing to be racist. And then,
for fear of being too "ethnic," it got so watered down for
television that by the end, it was completely lacking in the essence of
what I am and what I do. I learned a lot, though. It was a good
experience as far as finding myself, knowing who I was and what
direction I wanted to take with my comedy."
Indeed, after the show was canceled, Margaret
continued performing to sold-out audiences across the country in comedy
clubs, theaters and on college campuses. She was also a guest on every
imaginable talk show (including Leno,
and many others) and programs like "Politically Incorrect,"
and NPR's "Fresh Air," where intelligence, wit, and
political savvy are required. Of her dozen films, John Woo's "Face/Off"
with Nicolas Cage, and "Rugrats," where she was the
voice of the detective, were probably the most seen.
As one of the most visible Asian American women (and
possibly, the funniest) in the country and the first in history to star
in her own TV series, her opinions are sought by publications like The
New York Times, MODE and Newsweek, and her company is requested
by many distinguished entities including the First Family during a
recent dinner at The White House with the President of Korea and the
First Lady at a New York fundraiser.
Margaret's hit Off-Broadway show, "I'm The One
That I Want" garnered incredible reviews and won New York
Magazine's Performance of the Year award, a MAC award, and was named one
of Entertainment Weekly's Great Performances of the Year. The
concert was filmed at The Warfield in her home town of San Francisco and
is enjoying all the momentum of the live show.
In addition, Margaret received GLAAD's first-ever
Golden Gate Award – honoring her as "an entertainment pioneer who
has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for all,
regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity." This year's
other honorees are: Elizabeth Taylor,
Elton John, Marlo Thomas, Anne
Heche, and former CEO of E*Trade, Kathy Levinson. In addition, her E!
Celebrity Profile, produced by Tammie Smalls, 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."
She says, "I really love the way my life is going
right now. I love touring and doing my one-woman show. There's a great
lack of different faces out there. I think part of my journey has to be
illustrating my experience, showing what you can do. I feel like I've
gotten to a great place in my life. I just want to do it for a long time
... at least until the next Korean-American fag-hag, s**t-starter, girl
comic, trash talker, comes up and takes my place.
Margaret Cho may be available for your next special
For ratings guide, click here.
Born: ..in California
..in San Francisco
Dec 5, 1968