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The Misadventures of Margaret

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Margaret Cho: The Nerve Interview

Margaret Cho’s new concert film, The Notorious C.H.O., is her most explicit yet, and that is saying something. The 33-year-old comedian — an avowed ambisexual who has previously pulled no punches in talking about her eating disorders, alcoholism, drug use and sex addiction — discusses becoming a regular at a sex club, getting a colonic, having sex like a gay man, desiring butch lesbians and “eating pussy.” The climax is a diatribe about women’s magazines and body image; the resolution a plea for universal self-esteem. It’s like Up With People Get Fisted. Like the best of Cho’s work, The Notorious C.H.O. is relentless and kind of transcendant: she’s probably the only comedian who can say, “There’s been a lot of activity in and around my ass lately,” and leave you genuinely wanting to know more.

I remember that in one of your early shows, you talked about not having had sex in two years, and you invited the audience to use your vagina as a planter. But now you’re talking about getting fisted, going to sex clubs, watching porn. What changed?

I entered my thirties and I started to get, like, so much cock. I don’t know what happened. When I was younger I was insecure, and I wasn’t really that into sex. I used it as a means to get things and as a way to impress people, and it wasn’t about just enjoying it. And then it became just about enjoying it. I went from being a drug addict to being a sex addict, doing it with different kinds of people and doing it in different situations and using it more as recreation, as opposed to, um. . . blackmail.

And so that’s what that led me to this different world. Now, I’m in a relationship and it’s now about hot monogamy, which is the hardest thing. It’s the most difficult, rewarding and enjoyable thing, but it’s so hard. You have to do yoga, tantric sex, tao, all those ancient Chinese secrets. [pause] You have to follow Sting’s example.

Did your sex addiction and drug addiction come from the same place?

I think a different set of circumstances led me to each one. My drug addiction centered around body and weight: I was so hungry that I had to do something. And when I got over all the eating disorders I had, I had to do something with my great body. I had to go and put it into action: my body’s fully posable! So I was destined for a couple years of intense sluttiness.

In the show, you talk about getting fisted. Did you hesitate? There’s no precedent.

No, no. Although there is no precedent. ‘Cause it’s just not ladylike. [laughs] No, fisting is great. I think it’s a really natural part of sex. I don’t look at is as a specialty act. It’s actually very normal to me. When it’s done with sensitivity and love, it can be very enjoyable. People think it’s so odd, but it’s great.

There is that stigma. You usually think of the leather guy with a can of Crisco and, as you say in the show, a big Popeye arm.

It’s not all that. . . not all the time. It’s one of those things people need to open their minds about. I think that when we expand our horizons, we really expand our pleasure. And our anuses.

Why do you like to date women who look like John Goodman?

I don’t know. Loving a butch woman really makes me think I’m straight. I think they’re much more manly than any of the guys I’ve dated. I think butch women really need to be objectified, because they haven’t yet.

After fisting, what’s left? What taboos remain?

I don’t know. There’s the darker side to stuff I’ve tried. Here’s something people need to know: what people don’t really understand about sex clubs — about orgies in general — is that they have really good food. Always. Because they’re in the suburbs, and suburban people naturally have great parties where they have great food. I go for the food, and I stay for the sex. Gay men’s sex clubs are the worst. All they have are hot dogs and Fanta. You go to a regular gay party, and they’re these beautiful catered affairs, but when it comes to the sex clubs, they have to act like it’s so dirty.

Do you think Sex and the City — which you guest-starred on last year — is helping some women talk more openly about sex?

I think that they way gender is identified in terms of sexuality is changing. A lot of women identify with the women in Sex and the City — they’re kind of the prototypes of this mannish female talking about sex.

What’s your take on the criticism that the show is produced by gay men, not-so-secretly for gay men?

In a way, it looks like gay men playing with dolls, that they’re just moving them around. But it’s very real to me; I watch that show and feel like they understand women and they understand my life.

In the show, you rave about positive portrayals of queer sexuality in the media, like Will & Grace and Queer as Folk. You don’t find Will & Grace too asexual, or Queer as Folk too stereotypical?

Well, you know, Will & Grace is very happy and smiley, a very Middle American view. It’s a mainstream show, and it needs to cater to the mainstream. But it’s presenting the gay lifestyle in the best way it can. I have more criticism with Grace. ‘Cause no fag hag looks like that. I’m sorry. She needs to gain about seventy pounds and do her eyebrows better.

    

Queer as Folk is great because, even though it reportedly and admittedly reinforces some stereotypes, some of those stereotypes are fuckin’ true. But there’s a lot of sensitivity and grace in that show. But the show I really love to watch is Six Feet Under.

I’m sort of obsessed.

Oh my God, it’s so good!

You saw the season finale?

I’m so freaked out about Nate Fisher! [laughs] Don’t get on the bus, Nate! Don’t get on the bus! It’s great. Everything about it. The gay relationship on that show is so wonderful and conflicted; nothing on TV even comes close. But what I love is Brenda’s character. Because I so identify. That is so me — engaged to be married and fucking two teenagers in my bedroom. That’s like, such a great thing, ’cause it’s a woman trying to test the boundaries of the sexual world, and realizing there are no boundaries and how terrifying that is.

I’ve talked to be people who think that Brenda is an unrealistic female character: she’s a straight-male fantasy or a gay male substitute.

She’s not! She’s a reality of women’s sexuality. Since they hadn’t seen it expressed on film or television, so nobody knows where to put it. They can’t imagine a women acting like that. But I’ve acted like that. There are women in my life who’ve acted like that. There are women in my life who’ve acted like that with me. So it’s a real thing, and when I see that, I’m so relieved — it’s I’m not the only one.

I’ve always been impressed with how, for a show about death, it really has such a comprehensive depiction of sexuality — generational, straight, gay, whatever.

Right. And it’s so true, and so appropriate. ‘Cause what do you do after a funeral? You fuck someone. You just have to. There’s this constant reminder that it’s going to be over, that you don’t have a lot of time. But I’m totally obsessed with that show. I’m that close to writing Claire a letter of recommendation for Lac Arts — she’ll get in. I have to call [executive producer] Alan Ball and tell him I’ll do it.

As someone who’s been open about her sexuality from the start, how did you feel about Rosie O’Donnell’s coming out? You didn’t think she was being kind of cowardly by waiting until her show was toast?

I think it’s great, because it forced people to get to know her first. There’s this huge population of housewives in the Midwest who had no idea. Of course, all of us knew that she was lesbian, but there were so many people who were in the dark about it. People who harbor certain beliefs about homosexuality might not have accepted her if she had been out from the get-go. She really engaged people, and got them to know her intimately, as far as the relationship between viewer and television personality can go. And I thought that, in that way, she did a great service to homosexuality, to politics, to gender politics — because she allowed people to really know her first. Their judgments couldn’t get in the way of their affection for her.

Are you following the Winona Ryder saga?

No, but I love Winona! I feel bad. Celebrities should be allowed to shoplift. We have to have a lot of sympathy and compassion for celebrities, because they have a very difficult life. Someone who’s been in the public eye as long as she has, has very little freedom. And it’s going to affect you in some way. I think shoplifting is a small price to pay for all the great movies she’s made in the past. I mean, c’mon — Heathers?!? She should be able to shoplift as much as she wants.

What is your latest fetish?

I like glass dildoes. They’re expensive, and they’re so like sculpture. They’re seamless, and they’re very safe, because they’re not porous, so they can’t harbor any bacteria or anything. And they’re very easy to clean. I like those, and the Tao of Female Sexuality, which says you’re supposed to get a stone egg, stick it in your vagina and twirl it. I’m just trying to visualize this. That’s what I would really love to do — just be a big Chinese egg stone twirler.

The Notorious C.H.O. opens July 3 in select cities, and nationwide thereafter. It is available now on CD from Nettwerk America.

To buy The Notorious C.H.O. on CD, click here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Michael, a New York native, was raised in Kansas, where it was never quite

established whether he was a prisoner or a detainee. He was previously a

senior editor at Gear, where he oversaw the magazine’s pop-culture coverage.

His writing has appeared in Dutch, Paper and the New York Observer.

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