Margaret Cho is one of the more visible Asian-American women of her time. Although probably best remembered for her short-running sitcom All-American Girl, Korean-American comedian Cho has come a long way since then. Cho is a living example of what can happen to you when you become a poster child for someone else's idea of political correctness. Having survived a media blitz, her startling career charts her professional (in fits and starts) as well as personal growth. In her self-produced off-Broadway show I'm the One That I Want (and autobiographical book by the same name) Margaret Cho tells all -- and doesn't leave out the gory parts. From her rise to fame to the network's shame (telling a thin girl to get thinner to play herself on television) and how she overcame a lifetime of culture-driven self-hatred manifested in the form of bad boyfriends and career moves, drug and alcohol abuse, and a chronic eating disorder, Cho lays it on the line -- humorously, of course. This time, with Cho given (a gift to herself) full creative control, instead of being panned by the critics, she won New York Magazine's Performance of the Year, with a series of other accolades to follow.
The Notorious C.H.O. (as she refers to herself in the title of her second show) received a GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Award honoring her specifically, as "an entertainment pioneer who has made a significant difference promoting equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or identity." For addressing the concerns of women and women's changing roles, Cho was granted the distinguished Gracie Allen Award. She was also featured on Remarkable Journey, a show highlighting the accomplishments of women of color. Although she spent a few years out of the (critical) public eye, Cho "redeemed her good name" by speaking candidly about her nightmare with network television on shows like NPR's Fresh Air and Comedy Central's Politically Incorrect -- a far cry from the more mainstream Bob Hope-type circuit that jump-started her earlier career. Like a phoenix, the Notorious C.H.O. has risen to much fanfare and to the delight of a huge non-network television-watching following.
Margaret Cho was born in San Francisco, after her parents moved there from Seoul. She grew up on Haight Street in the '70s and got kicked out of high school before being accepted to McAteer High School for the Performing Arts. At age 16 she started performing comedy in a club called the Rose and Thistle, which was above her parents' bookstore. There she won a comedy contest. First prize: opening act for Jerry Seinfeld. She has toured the country extensively, been nominated for Campus Comedian of the Year, and in 1994 she won the American Comedy Award for Best Female Comedian. Cho has also contributed writing and acting to several movies. In August 2002, Cho issued The Notorious C.H.O., a double-disc set capturing the last night of her 2001 North American comedy tour at Carnegie Hall. A film of the same name followed in late September. Two years later, Cho once again captured her sold-out Revolution tour on both CD and DVD. Revolution went on to be nominated for a Grammy for best comedy album of the year. Assassin, which was filmed at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C., was released in October 2005. Cho Dependent, her first long-player devoted to music, arrived in 2010. The album featured guest appearances from Tegan and Sara, Ani DiFranco, Fiona Apple, and others. Cho returned to comedy in 2012 with the release of Cho Dependent: Live in Concert, which earned the comedian a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album. ~ Sandy Lawson