Comediam Margaret Cho performs during the kickoff of the first annual True Colors Tour at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. She will play the San Jose Improv on Saturday night.
Get your cameras ready because local girl funny girl Margaret Cho is coming back home and she needs a reason to flip you off.
"It was different than any other place on Earth," she said. "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."
Her 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 - real corny stuff," Margaret 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."
Margaret 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.
"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, Cho 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. 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.
In 1994, she starred in a short-lived ABC sitcom called All-American Girl.
"There were just so many people involved in that show, and so much importance put on the fact that it was an ethnic show," she said. "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."
In 1999, Margaret chronicled her experience on the sitcom in an off Broadway one-woman show called "I'm The One That I Want."
The show was extremely well received, toured the U.S, and was made into a concert film and a best-selling book of the same name.
The film, which garnered incredible reviews, broke the record for the most money grossed per print in movie history. After the success of her first show, Margaret launched "Notorious C.H.O." in 2001, a smash-hit 37-city national tour that culminated in a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall.
"Notorious C.H.O." was also recorded and released as a feature film, hailed by the New York Times as, "Brilliant!"
Both films were acquired by Showtime Cable Networks in 2004 and are currently airing on their channels.
Cho embarked on her third sold-out national tour, Revolution, in 2003.
The tour ultimately grossed 4.4 million and was heralded as, "Her strongest show yet!" by the Chicago Sun Times. The concert film premiered on the Sundance Channel in 2004 and was released on DVD later that year. The CD of Revolution was nominated for a Grammy for best comedy album of the year for 2003.
In 2004, Margaret took her politically charged "State of Emergency" tour through the swing states of the presidential election.