Comedian and San Francisco Native Margaret Cho wouldn’t mind being compared to “Mommy Dearest” Joan Crawford.
“She’s like the best kind of mother because she’s so comical and crazy, and at the same time, you could totally look to her as an authority figure,” Cho said. “There’s a reason why so many men do drag versions of Joan Crawford.”
Cho is bringing her latest show, simply titled “Mother,” to San Francisco’s Nob Hill Auditorium at 8 p.m. on Saturday, October 12.
While not a biological mother, Cho is mother to two dogs and is called “Mother” by lots and lots of friends in the LGBTQ community.
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“They look for mothers and icons like Joan Crawford or Judy Garland or even Lady Gaga,” she said. “In my work, I’ve gotten to meet a lot of these people, and I find that they continue to get younger. I find a lot of younger people in my audience, and that’s a really exciting thing. I do feel very maternal.
“You can learn a lot from teaching, too. From being queer for so long and being out for so long, I think I have experiences I can share with people. I’m really grateful for that.”
While Cho’s own mother has been a longtime character in her touring shows, she wasn’t tempted to call the show “Mommy,” even though that’s what Cho calls her. Instead she wanted something more formal and with authority.
“Like a Mother Superior,” Cho said. “There is something a bit distant and formal, and there is some tradition there. Mothers are still warm and loving, but there’s a certain dignity to it. It’s not like mommy culture. It’s almost like a prison warden—severe in a way.”
Cho’s mommy is a huge part of this show, she said, which is important because she’s part of a community that becomes less visible with passing time.
“Asian women often, as we get older, become invisible,” she added. “A lot of our visibility has to do with youth and sexual attractiveness. She relies on my shows to be in the spotlight. She would rather it be all about her.”
When she was coming of age in San Francisco, Cho was obsessed with the pop duo Yaz, specifically with singer Alison Moyet’s voice, which she found maternal. Soon Cho was taking on the maternal role with her peers even though they were the same age. As time has passed, she’s aged into the role, and now her mothering includes a lot more transgender people.
“There’s a lot of that culture growing,” Cho said. “I find the biggest change in the community is more trans people.”
As a pet parent, Cho said one of the world’s biggest misfortunes is that animals don’t live as long as people. Her dog, who died not so long ago, still serves as a muse and ends up in several of the songs Cho writes. In a city where dogs outnumber kids, Cho said she can relate to the deep feelings San Franciscans have with their pets.
“Just go to Dolores Park, and you’ll see it,” she said. “I wish I could love somebody as fearlessly as I love my dogs, or I wish that someone could love me as fearlessly as a dog can love a person.”
Cho is coming to town just as people are making big Halloween plans. Her last costume was ironic.
“I was a tattooed lady from the circus, which was funny because I had a body suit on that had less tattoos than my own body,” she laughed.
Cho has fond memories of Halloween in San Francisco.
“I remember the most outrageous experiences in the Castro,” she said. “The dark humor people would display, like the year after Jonestown, people coming dressed as Jim Jones. I remember people dressing up as the AIDS virus. That was intense. The dark humor and the campiness that is San Francisco at Halloween are unmatched.”
Visit MargaretCho.com for more information about her October 12 performance.
Corey Andrew has been interviewing comedians and writing about comedy for the last decade and a half. He recently published the book, “Laugh Lines: Conversations with Comedians.” Corey was a writer and performer with Midwest sketch troupe, The NonProphets, before moving to the Bay Area with his family several years ago. If you have ideas for future columns about comedy, you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/coreywrites.