Nothing about Margaret Cho made it look like she had a chance in hell in Hollywood. Chubby, Korean, and bisexual (she admits to all three) in a business that typically has a hard time swallowing that list, Cho’s rank as one of the biggest female comedians on the planet is the result of a one-woman battle, built from her fi rst stand-up comedy gigs in a club near her parents’ book store in San Francisco to tours with Jerry Seinfeld and a showcase full of awards. For a while, Hollywood won. After a failed TV show attempt, where suits told her she was “too Asian” then hired a coach to train her to be “more Asian,” Cho battled with an eating disorder and alcohol abuse. She returned with a vengeance in 1999’s I’m the One That I Want, her fi rst truly hilarious special, which savaged the suits she experienced in Hollywood. Her follow-up, 2002’s Notorious C.H.O., spawned a best-selling book, DVD, and CD, as did followups Assassin and Revolution. Along the way, she dated Quentin Tarantino and Chris Isaak, launched a clothing company, and took up belly dancing.
Over the last few years, the 39-year-old comedian has also become increasingly linked with the world of ink. She sports original tattoo work by Ed Hardy, LA Ink’s Kat Von D, and Chris O’Donnell. We chatted with Cho about her tattoos (about 50 percent of her body is covered), her spring comedy tour, Beautiful, the secrets of joke telling, and her theories on the proper way to get trashed.
INKED: Your new tour is called . What can we expect?
CHO: I got the idea for the show after a radio interview. The DJ asked me, ‘What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and you were blonde, with blue eyes, and 5’11” and you weighed 100 pounds and you were beautiful.’ I said, ‘Well, I probably wouldn’t be able to get up because I’d be too weak to stand.’
What an asshole.
I know. But I feel bad for him because that’s the only kind of person he thinks is beautiful. If he doesn’t think I’m beautiful, he is fucking missing out. So the whole show is about wanting to be taken seriously as a beauty. And tattoos are a part of the show. A lot of women my age in Hollywood are getting plastic surgery. But instead, I decided to get tattoos. I want my body to be completely covered when I’m 70 so people won’t be looking at my wrinkles. They’ll be like, ‘Oh my God. Look at her lizard tattoo.’
When did you get your first tattoo?
Just a few years ago. Ed Hardy did it. It covers most of my stomach, my back, and my ribs. It was a huge, ambitious piece for a fi rst tattoo. Since I was a kid, I wanted a Japanese body suit. A guy who worked for my dad has a body suit from Ed. He’s the guy who put me in touch with Ed when I wanted my own.