Published in the Fall 2004 issue • Features
Loud and Proud
Comic and activist Margaret Cho takes on rowdy Republicans, fat-fearing TV execs and anyone who wants to legislate love
“George Bush is not Hitler. He would be if he fucking applied himself,” comedian Margaret Cho said to an applauding audience in January. Cho was defending the grassroots political organization MoveOn and its Bush in 30 Seconds competition, which asked Americans to submit their own anti-Bush advertisements. The winner’s piece was to air during the Super Bowl (until CBS blocked it). Two of the thousands of entries compared President George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler, enraging Republicans and making headlines across the country.
The day after the MoveOn event, the Free Republic website, a “gathering place for grassroots conservatism on the web,” posted a link to a partial transcript of Cho’s performance. It didn’t take long for the ultra-conservative American right to react. Cho received numerous hateful e-mails attacking her physical appearance with comments such as: “Take your fat slant-eyed head and go back to China.” Little of the criticism was actually related to her political views. Cho, whose family is from Korea, stood strong. It wasn’t the first time she had encountered this kind of ignorance.
Most people know Cho for her vulgar humour and impersonations of her mother. But she’s also developing a following online through her weblog, which gets 10,000 hits a day. Although she makes her readers laugh—she won this year’s Bloggie award for Most Humorous Blog—it’s politics and social issues that she writes about most often.
Cho responded to the e-mails she received after the MoveOn event in a blog entry. “Some are trying to get to me by using their unrelated, unimpressive insults. What they don’t realize is that I am untouchable, because I have been hurt so much in my life, nothing hurts me anymore,” she wrote. “I have been so rejected that I have come to expect it. I have learned to love that which is meant to harm me, so that I can stand in the way of those who are less strong.”
Onstage, in her writing and in interviews, Cho often talks about growing up in San Francisco, never feeling accepted by anyone. Although she was born in the city, Caucasian- Americans saw her as Korean. Yet, some members of the Korean community didn’t welcome her either. Conservative Koreans expressed their embarrassment early in Cho’s career because she wasn’t their idea of what a young Korean- American girl should be. Cho never finished high school, whereas “good” Korean girls obey their parents and go to university to become doctors, lawyers and business women. While the “good” girls learned to play violin or piano, Cho learned to tell jokes at comedy clubs.