Emil Guillermo: Margaret Cho talks to me about the Golden Globes, the White Oscars, "Fresh Off the Boat," and SexJanuary 16, 2015 5:32 PM
E: Let's go to the beginning. Did they approach you? Did they say, "Hey Margaret, why don't you do this for us?"M: Yes. Well, Tina [Fey] asked me to do it a few weeks ago, and I was delighted because I love her and love working with her. And so I just came in the day before and we worked it out. And I wrote the jokes for like the whole thing and we just did it.E: And it was planned to do the open with the magazine and the selfie or the "semi-selfie" with Meryl Streep?M: Yes.E: She was in on it?M: No, not really. But she's kind of up for whatever, so she was into doing it. It was great because we were ready to handle whatever, so it was fine.E: And Michael Keaton, he was going to take [the picture]?M: Yes, so we arranged that beforehand. That worked out well.E: And [Benedict] Cumberbatch, he did his [photobomb] thing. That was a surprise, or was he supposed to do that?M: That was a surprise.E: It made it even punchier...Tell me about going into this. Any trepidation at all? You knew it was going to be somewhat polarizing?M: No, I didn't think there would be any...I thought it was great. I was [hearing] laughs. I really enjoyed myself. It was a moment to have some fun with my friends, whom I never get to see, so it was great.E: When I saw you, I said, "That's Margaret Cho;" it didn't surprise me considering the edgy nature of your comedy. I thought it was funny, but the reaction was mixed. Do you understand why some people might have felt...negatively?M: No, I'm not a racist person so I don't know. It's only people that are racist who were acting negatively, unfortunately. What is really racist is that I'm the only Asian person involved in the entire event. And what's really racist is there's no people of color in any of the acting nominations for the Oscars.E: People in the background, in the wings, you didn't see any Asians there at all?M: No. Wait, there was one Asian cameraman. That's it. I know him. So that was awesome...I said hi to him [giggle]. Julie Chen was in the audience, but she was not presenting or anything.E: What's amazing is you've been at this for so long. It's been 20 years since the cancellation of "All American Girl." March of '95. And we're still fighting for representation.M. Right, I don't know over what. But something.E: We're still fighting for some kind of representation.M: Right.E: And even then when you broke through in '94 and we were all rooting for you and I was writing for Asian Week at the time, even then you had a kind of mixed reaction to "All American Girl."M: Well, yeah. But I don't know why. I don't think there really was anything that could have been done. That wasn't the show I would have done. I don't think it would have gotten on the air if it hadn't been the way that it was. I didn't have that much control then over what I could do. But I guess anytime there is Asian American representation in the media in Hollywood and television and movies, whatever, there's got to be some kind of backlash because people are racist and they are not used to seeing Asian faces out there.E: I thought it was incredible to see that cast, Amy Hill, BD Wong, a Lincoln High guy from San Francisco, but now 20 years later, are you still astonished that it's taken so long?...[TV] is [still] not quite the perfect mirror to society.M: No.E: It must be frustrating for someone like you.M: It's very frustrating.E: Now 20 years later, we've got "Fresh Off the Boat." Have you seen it? What do you think?M: Yes, I helped Eddie [Huang] tremendously in the beginning. And I feel like in a lot of ways, this is my show too. I'm really proud of it. I think it's great. It's really funny. And I feel like it accomplishes a lot of the things that I set out to do, but could not do 20 years ago because of the time, my own situation within show business, my own inexperience then. Now, finally, there's someone who can do it, Eddie Huang and the show "Fresh Off the Boat" is genius. I'm very proud of it.
But after consulting Cliff Notes, I think I understand.
Cho responded: "That's the dumbest thing. People trying to qualify their racism by saying that I was trying to be like Charlie Chan. They don't understand that I'm actually Asian, I'm actually Korean. That's the stupidest justification for their own racism."
Being from San Francisco, I guess having three kids makes me some kind of expert. But maybe not to the degree of Cho, self-described as polyamorous, which has nothing to do with a love of polyester.
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