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Cho Mama

Actress, comedian and queer-rights advocate Margaret Cho will make a rare Utah appearance with her new stand-up show, “Mother.” The raunchy and hilarious Cho has been heralded as “murderously funny,” by The New York Times and “fearless,” by The Boston Globe. She was also recently nominated for an Emmy for her performance on 30 Rock as Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un.

She’ll be at Wiseguys in West Valley City on Sept. 5 for two shows, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and available online at wiseguyscomedy.com.

Congratulations are absolutely in order for your Emmy nomination. What was it like to work with Tina Fey on 30 Rock?

Well she’s great. I’ve done a few episodes now. She and I have a friend in common and it’s nice to know someone who knows him as well. He is the head writer of Saturday Night Live. She’s like an extended family member you’ve never met.

I’ve wanted to do something with 30 Rock since the beginning. And this felt so perfect. It was so funny and so fun to do. It’s a real honor to be nominated, especially considering everyone else from the show and how talented they all are.

I guess because I really looked so different it’s like switching over. As an actor, you want to be a bit like a chameleon, in a different space where people don’t know who you are.

I’m sure you realize that in Utah the approval for Mitt Romney is off the charts. Will the presidential race and Romney be big parts of the new act?

I think so; I’m just kind of figuring it out myself. The act is kind of personal — it’s all about my mother. It’s her journey in becoming an American, how she became part of the country and part of me. It’s about having me and raising me. I’ve always wanted to do a show all about my mother and I haven’t exactly finished all the details, yet.

I can tell you that I know that I’m voting for Obama and I hope to work for the campaign again, like I did in 2008. I’m all about the Obama administration.

I’ve never taken any GOP candidate seriously, and I hope the American people don’t take this one seriously.

Will you change your act to match your Utah crowd? What do you remember about your previous Utah visits?

I think there’s a basic form that we draw from wherever we go. There’s a measure of improvisation and Utah is such a different place and I rarely perform there.

I remember my first visit I performed at a club in Provo. It was so clean. The city was the cleanest place I’ve ever seen, it was shockingly clean.

I remember doing the show and so many people were very upset that I used a lot of profanity. People were really offended by my act. I had never encountered that — ever. I was especially surprised because it was a younger crowd with a lot of college-age kids.

But boy did they let me know they felt that I was being too dirty. It was my first experience with protestors.

I stayed in a Travelodge that night in Provo and my sink in my room exploded during the night. It covered the room and everything in it with about a foot of water. This was before the age of electronics; if that happened now I would be so upset. But it was the early ‘90s, so I didn’t even have a computer.

I was really shocked and freaked out. Honestly, I was kind of scared. I wasn’t sure if it had something to do with the protest, or if it was just an accident.

Your new show is about mothers and women, who are some of the strong women you look up to in your life and career?

Definitely my mom. And then all the greats, like Madonna and now Lady Gaga. And then the great queer icons who are also my friends like Cyndi Lauper, Joan Jett and others. They may not be queer themselves, but they speak up for the queer community, which is so important to me.

I’ve noticed is that you’re not just a great comic and a great actress, but it appears to me that you’re very careful about the roles you select and the material you talk about in your shows. How do you decide what to talk about and what roles to take?

I select things I think I can do and are possible for me. I just do what I think is right and what feels authentic.

My writing process is simple. I’m also a blogger and for stand-up I do a lot of writing and I touch all different sorts of topics. I try to think about what would be productive and helpful — and of course funny and interesting.

I’m curious about your take on queer politics and women’s rights and how they intersect. They seem to meet directly with you in the middle. Do you identify as stronger for one or the other? How do you feel they’re related?

I don’t know if there’s a separation between women’s rights and queer rights. I don’t think there is a separation between queer, race and gender because they’re all combined in my person. I don’t need to focus on just one because they’re all so important to me and are all so related.

What do you think is going to happen with queer rights in the country and in conservative areas like Utah? How long until full equality is achieved?

I hope that we get it soon, especially in Utah.

What’s so great is that things have happened solidly and quickly recently. I think gay marriage is such an important symbol for equality. Same-sex marriage is really a way to define equal rights and I’m hoping that there is an even bigger shift soon. Hopefully Obama coming out in favor of gay marriage will shift the country and the world, even Utah.

We need equality and we need it now.

Do you have any words for your young Utah fans that are growing up in a conservative area?

It absolutely does get better. Those words are so simple and so remarkable because they encapsulate how we can face the future and the present. Hang in there and remember that it does get better. You will finally be able to make your own choices. You’ll be so much more grateful for autonomy and freedom.

It’s not always about leaving, but surviving and thriving and making your community a better place. And that’s totally possible and important.

Bur right now, especially with the Internet, the best thing is to reach out and connect, find others like you and that understand you. We’re out there, never forget that.

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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