Margaret Cho talks about sex

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Emmy and Grammy-nominated comedian Margaret Cho co-hosts a new TLC talk show, All About Sex. We caught up with her and chatted about sex and sexuality, Robin Williams and homelessness, self-love, and the upcoming ABC sitcom Fresh Off The Boat.

CAAM (Center for Asian American Media):

Cho is also performing in the upcoming weeks in Sacramento and Nashville. She’s filming a special standup performance in New York City at the Gramercy Theatre on March 7. Check her website for more information. All About Sex premieres January 10th on TLC at 11 pm.

—Momo Chang

So, yeah, we can just dive right in. Can you tell me a little bit about All About Sex and what it’s going to cover?
It’s an advice show and it’s a talk show. And we’ll take questions from social media about sexuality. It kind of covers all different kinds of sexuality. My area is alternative sexuality—BDSM, queer questions, questions about sex toys. I have been in the alternative sexual community for my entire adult life and I served on the board of Good Vibrations, which is a really important sex toy company for women. And I have a lot of experience in the area of polyamory and alternative sexuality in general. So I’m there to field questions about that.

I’m really thrilled about the show. We have myself on the panel, a doctor who’s really knowledgeable about everything— Dr. Tiffanie [Davis Henry]—and Heather [McDonald] and Marissa [Jaret Winokur] are there to keep it really funny. We’re ready to rock. (See all the hosts’ bios below).

This question is a reader submitted question—Lauren Lola asks: What do you think is the most fascinating thing about sex?
I think it’s just so personal and it’s private. And what I think is most important about sexuality is your own relationship to your own [sexuality]. I think sexuality is always brought up in context of relationships but in truth, the sex life that you have with yourself is way more important than anything you would have with somebody else. The meaning of women’s sexuality is always kind of in relationship to men, or has been historically, but I want to separate that and make it about the individual and make it about establishing that connection with yourself, which I think builds a lot of self-esteem, it builds a lot of trust in our own bodies. That’s my goal, is to help women establish a better relationship with their own sexuality.

Could you talk about your other show, your standup comedy show?
My standup comedy show, I’ll be filming the special for it at the Gramercy Theatre in March. It’s a really a show that is about the way that there’s a rising tide against women, violence, there’s an incredible, terrible trend that I’ve noticed and it’s been around and it makes me really insane. The show is really about finding an answer and trying to stop it. And that anger is okay. I feel it and a lot of women are feeling it. And the show is called There’s no I in Team, but There is a Cho in Psycho.

Margaret Cho in 2010. Photo credit: Lindsey Byrnes.

I have a question about All American Girl. It’s been 20 years and it was a very historically significant show. Do you have any reflections on it looking back?
Well, I’m grateful to have been a part of it. I’m glad to have done it, I’m glad that it was a part of my life. I wish things that I’d done things differently, or I wish I had more control or confidence. But what’s great is that now, finally, there’s going to be another Asian American family show with Fresh Off The Boat. And that’s a show that I helped out a little bit with. I helped Eddie [Huang] out in the beginning and offered him some advice and I learned a lot from him as well. But I feel like with his show Fresh Off The Boat, my dream is realized. Like I actually set out to do something, and it finally got done 20 years later by Eddie Huang. So I’m grateful to him. I think the show is really great. I think it’s going to be a hit.

Nowadays, there are a lot of Asian Pacific American comedians doing their thing. And I think you really helped pave the way for that. What does it feel like seeing a little more diversity in standup comedy?
I’m really proud. I feel very responsible for all of them. I feel like they’re my children. Like I really feel this maternal feeling towards all Asian American comedians. I’m so proud and grateful that they are doing it. I feel like in my little part, I contributed to that. I’m so elated to have inspired people. So they can do what I did and take it so much further. And that’s the best.

Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for people who don’t fit into the mainstream? Anything you want to share with young people?
It’s great to not fit in. It’s great to be different. It’s important to be different, and I think everybody is different. Nobody is the same. We’re all individuals. Whatever you want to pursue, you should do it. A lot of times, especially with Asian American kids, we tend to put other peoples’ happiness or other peoples’ ideas about us first, which is why I think there are fewer Asian American artists because we tend to want to please our parents and please other people before we please ourselves. In truth, we can’t really do that. We have to just do our own thing and be yourself. I encourage everybody to be themselves.

I know homelessness is a big issue you care about, in part because of your late friend Robin Williams. Are there other social issues you’re really passionate about?
Oh yeah, I mean, many things. Before this, the last several years I’ve been working on marriage equality and I’m always about racial politics. I’m always about gender politics, and feminism is really important to me. Homelessness is an issue that it’s something I can directly affect in a very small way but in a gratifying way. So that’s why I’m doing this [#BeRobin] project here [in San Francisco]. I feel like what you say is one thing, but if you can actually do something to alter the situation, that’s really important.

Is there anything else—any other projects we can look forward to?
Well I think I’m going to be putting some music that will be related to the #BeRobin project. It’s like very, very connected to music to me. As well as a documentary about the events, which is really beautiful. I’ll be touring a lot, so there’s a lot of stuff coming up.

Thank you so much. Is there anything else you want to add?
No, I’m excited about this upcoming year. 2014 was really hard for a lot of reasons, you know, the loss of Robin, the loss of Joan Rivers, which was really devastating. But I feel like I’m so lucky to have known them, and so lucky to have them in my life and now it’s time to come up and parent myself. I feel kind of like an orphan but I feel really confident and strong and just proud that I got to know these great people.

 

The importance of diversity, and ABC’s “Fresh Off The Boat”

IMDB TV:

Press Tour wouldn’t be Press Tour without a few stunningly thoughtless questions posed to panels of actors and producers.

Most of the terrible questions that get asked as part of the Television Critics Association’s press conferences don’t turn up in articles. We keep them as Press Tour war stories to be hauled out for our own entertainment later on. Plus, we’re all just trying to do our jobs here. Nobody’s perfect. Cover this beat long enough, and attend enough TCA events, and a person is bound to bungle a few questions. Besides, to the millions of folks who aren’t here, a minor gaffe at an industry event simply isn’t interesting.

But every now and again, someone sputters out a verbal air biscuit that leaves the room reeling while also speaking to a larger conversation about a show. This is precisely what happened Wednesday morning during the panel for “Fresh Off the Boat,” ABC’s midseason sitcom based on the bestselling memoir by celebrity chef Eddie Huang.  Starring Randall Park and Constance Wu,Fresh Off the Boat” is the only sitcom on television that stars Asian actors and captures one view of what it’s like to grow up Asian in America.

And what, some may ask, makes that experience unique among minorities? For the “Fresh Off the Boat” cast and producers, nearly all of whom were born in the U.S., it means getting a question like this in a forum where people really should know better: “I love the Asian culture. And I was just talking about the chopsticks, and I just love all that. Will I get to see that, or will it be more Americanized?”*

Yes. That happened.

This may be the most ignorant question spoken in this room in a long time,  but it also demonstrates why television desperately needs “Fresh Off the Boat” and more shows like it. Comedies and dramas that deftly employ universal themes and humor that resonate with the wider audience, featuring minority-led casts that don’t ignore said cast’s ethnicity, are still uncommon.  In fact, ABC is the home to more series featuring non-white leads than any other broadcast network. Think “black-ish,” “Scandal,” “Cristela,” and “How to Get Away with Murder.”

Amazingly, in 2015, ABC’s insistence on diversity is met with a sense of awe, and an implication that what the Alphabet network is doing is a bold experiment.

In the case of “Fresh Off the Boat,” maybe it is. Networks have a long history of waxing and waning on the diversity front, though the occasional industry-wide pushes for diversity every few seasons tends to benefit African American and, to a far lesser extent, Latino actors. “Cristela” and “black-ish” may not be monster hits, but they still have mass appeal, and are not required to divorce the culture of their characters from the story. Credit the success of Norman Lear‘s comedies in the ’70s, “The Jeffersons,” “Sanford and Son”, and just as significantly, “The Cosby Show” in the ’80s, for that.

Can you remember the last time a series gave us a view of life from an Asian American perspective? There was 1994′s “All-American Girl,” the short-lived and quickly whitewashed sitcom vehicle for Margaret Cho that nearly killed her. (It also aired on ABC.)  The show only focused on Cho’s character and her family briefly before revamping into a weak “Friends” clone, then disappearing altogether. For years after its demise, shows cast an Asian friend now and again, but it took until 2005 before audiences got a deeply complex, powerful Asian character in “Grey’s Anatomy‘s” Cristina Yang. So yes — there have been strides.

Then again, see: “2 Broke Girls.” As long as characters like Han Lee are still on TV, well, one can understand why somebody would think that it’s perfectly reasonable to ask a cast of Asian actors if their eating utensils will play a prominent role in a comedy about so much more than their cultural experience.

The thing is it’s important to have, for me, [is] a qualified support for the show, to make sure the show stays authentic, the show stays responsible to the book and the Asian community and people of color in America in general,” Huang explained to the TV reporters in the room. “I believe the show is doing that, and I believe the show is very strategic and smart in how it’s opening things up.”

In its first episode, “Fresh Off the Boat” dives into the absurdity that can be found when one moves from a large, multi-ethnic city (Washington D.C.) to a homogenous Florida neighborhood; the universal appeal of hip-hop to outsiders and its caché within the dominant culture; and the odd, clique-ish behavior that exists within suburbia. The same episode also shows what happens when its young central character,  Eddie Huang (played by Hudson Yang), gets slapped by a racial slur.

Through it all, the rap music-obssessed Eddie has the same concerns as any kid his age would have. He’s trying to fit in at his new school but he doesn’t eat the right food, or wear the right shoes. He just out there trying to survive. No wonder he idolizes Nas and Biggie Smalls — their music extols the virtues of hustling to get rich and getting over, ideals that many consider to be the at the heart of the American dream.

In America, I’m a foreigner because of my Korean heritage,” Cho once said. “In Asia, because I was born in America, I’m a foreigner. I’m always a foreigner.
Nowadays Cho is a personality known for her comedy and for her outspoken support of gender equality and LGBT rights. She’s currently a co-host of a TLC’s weekly series “All About Sex,” where she serves as the show’s expert on alternative sexuality.  With time, and more television series that expose viewers to artists like Cho and stories like the ones told in “Fresh Off the Boat” — American stories with a different flavor — the day will come when Asian culture is fully recognized as an aspect of American culture. On that day, nobody’s going to care about the chopsticks.

Margaret Cho to co-host new late night talk show on TLC

The Hollywood Reporter:

TLC is throwing its hat into the late-night battlefield. The reality-focused network has ordered to series weekly late-night talk show All About Sex, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Actress-comedian Margaret Cho, New York Times best-selling author and Chelsea Lately favorite Heather McDonald, Dancing With the Stars‘ Marissa Jaret Winokur and sex and relationship expert Dr. Tiffanie Davis Henry will host the series.

From Relativity Television and Ellen Rakieten Entertainment (The Marriage Ref, NBC comedy Undateable), the network has picked up six half-hour episodes of the series, which will air on Saturdays at 11 p.m. following Sex Sent Me to the ER.

Each episode of the Saturday night series will feature a rotating selection of segments, including observations on the week’s “craziest sex-related news,” as well as dialogues about relationship challenges and questions that many people are “too embarrassed to even Google,” TLC said.

The series will premiere on Jan. 10 at 11 p.m.