The comedian tells EW she blames MMA and NASCAR for Trump's win, why she supports Kathy Griffin, and more
He’s been criticized for pledging to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, banning transgender people from serving in the military, and ascending to the most powerful position in the world with no political experience; but, according to Emmy-nominated actress, comedian, and LGBT and women’s rights activist Margaret Cho, what’s Donald Trump’s most glaring offense? His inability to properly beat his mug.
“I don’t know how he’s president, because he can’t even blend his under-eye concealer with the rest of his makeup,” Cho jokes during a recent conversation with EW. “So first up, he needs a beauty blender.”
If Cho’s upcoming stand-up tour, Fresh Off the Bloat, is any indication, the 45th commander-in-chief will also need a thick shield to deflect the jabs coming his way as part of the traveling comedy show, which begins its first leg Friday in Alabama before traveling across North America and Europe in the months ahead. In addition to Trump, Cho will speak candidly about her past struggles with addiction, Asian representation in the media, as well as her family’s experience with the AIDS crisis, as her parents owned a gay book store in San Francisco and lost many members of their community to the disease throughout the ’80s and ’90s.
The Fresh Off the Bloat tour runs now through Dec. 12. Tickets and a list of show dates are available now here. Read on for EW’s full conversation with Cho — during which she opens up about factors that contributed to Trump’s presidential victory (spoiler: she blames NASCAR and MMA) and why she supports fellow comedian Kathy Griffin after her maligned photoshoot with a bloody Trump head — below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How will Fresh Off the Bloat represent an evolution for you as a performer?
MARGARET CHO: It’s very on-brand. The show is fun. It’s a lot about mistakes I’ve made, and also fights I’ve had, whether they’re with myself or Tilda Swinton. There’s so much about the election and Trump as well, because I worked for Hillary Clinton and I fully expected her to win. I don’t understand the unbelievable results of this election. It’s a lot about misogyny and people being unable to accept that a woman could be president.
I’m going to talk a lot about my mom and how she dealt with AIDS. My parents owned a gay bookstore [in San Francisco] in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, and everybody [they knew] died of AIDS. I’ve never talked about her perspective on that, so I’ll be speaking about the disease in a way we haven’t been able to for a long time.
Can you give me a preview of what you’ll be saying about Trump on this tour?
He needs to be impeached. That’s what I’d love to see. I think everybody’s still wildly amazed in a very bad way at the capacity Americans have for hatred. I can’t believe it, but that’s what we’re dealing with.
What do you think created the politician Trump has become?
There’s something about monster trucks, cage fighting, and energy drinks that contributed. I feel like [those people] have taken America and looked at it through a lens of MMA and cage fighting [laughs]. Their MMA fighter is now going to jump into the ring. They’re like, oh, I’m a white person [so Trump is going to help me] reinvent myself. That’s part of the American Dream. If you’re white, you can totally reinvent yourself and be whomever you want. Donald Trump is not qualified to do the job; he was fighting against somebody who was Secretary of State, someone who had serious experience. It just shows the country’s misogyny and the crazy racism against Obama, who had one of the most successful presidencies of all time, which is discounted because of his race. There’s a lot going on, but I blame NASCAR.
On previous tours like Assassin and Revolution, you took the Bush administration to task, but Trump is a different animal. Do you think it’s easier to respond to this president’s actions through comedy?
It’s both easy and difficult to talk about him because he’s gambling with the world. He’s letting it ride on his ego and bluster and Twitter, and he doesn’t have a plan. It’s not real. As dumb as the Bush administration was, as stupid as Bush is, as stupid as his paintings and politics are, he wasn’t necessarily qualified for the presidency, but he had the dignity of presidential life, if that makes sense. Everybody thought he was the worst president ever until Trump came along, so it’s like when you have that horrible psycho ex-boyfriend but now he seems kind of cool compared to your new situation? That kind of feeling is in the air. Like oh, maybe I should have stuck with that a—hole. It’s hard to make fun of Trump because the world is on the line.
As a public figure, do you think you have a responsibility to criticize the powers that be with your art?
I come from a “Jane Fonda in Vietnam” mindset, I want to have the shag haircut and deny my own citizenship. I love that brand of celebrity activism. There’s something serious and dangerous about that. This is one of the reasons people wanted to vote for Trump, too, is they hated the way celebrity activism looked. Whether it was through George Clooney or Susan Sarandon or Tim Robbins. The way that looks is upsetting to certain people in America, because they’re thinking, here’s the elite commenting on how I should be, so people immediately resented that privileged view or take on the world and went the opposite direction, but I love a revolutionary Jane Fonda or Marlon Brando types, that kind of cool, ‘60s, ‘70s activism that’s dangerous and has more to do with haircuts [laughs]. I love that dangerous edge, so that’s where I’m trying to come from.
On that note, I think people found Kathy Griffin’s recent photoshoot with a fake severed Trump head to be a dangerous form of activism. I know she’s your friend, so how do you feel about that situation?
It sucks, but I’m a total Kathy Griffin scab. Every time she loses a job, I frickin’ snatch it up. I always take her sloppy seconds, so I love when that bitch gets fired because I get that job [laughs].
Seriously, all of that was awful because that picture was just a #TBT to the French Revolution as far as I’m concerned. It’s not a big deal, but people are so outraged, I’m like, why are you outraged? It’s not serious, it’s just a joke. Right now, Trump has raised the stakes in the way that he talks to people or talks about people, from Rosie O’Donnell to Hillary Clinton to Megyn Kelly; any woman who stands in his way, he’s [out to get]. He talked about Megyn Kelly [bleeding on] her period, how is that any better than [Kathy raising his] head? It’s a stupid game.
Do you think people piled so heavily on her because she’s a woman?
Yes. It’s unfair. People hate women! It’s unfair. She’s hilarious and she came out of that totally fine, and I think she’ll always be great. She loves when people are up in arms and outraged. That’s where she lives, and that’s when she’s most brilliant. It was very telling, the way that the world reacted to it, and she loves to be that person, a real instigator in the way that Joan Rivers was, and that’s awesome!
Not just for women, but there’s still trails to blaze for Asian representation in the media, right?
It’s happening. The way old ideas about what a movie star is and who can be a movie star [are changing]. We’re now questioning what a Best Picture Academy Award winner looks like. This is a perfect moment to talk about the Oscars and La La Land, and how all the white people’s faces just cracked when Moonlight won! It was completely symbolic. The Oscars are a weird theater of the world, and we’re seeing the collective’s views change. You see this s–t in Hollywood and it mirrors what’s happening in life, and Moonlight winning was such a triumph for all people of color, for all marginalized communities, because it’s a queer movie too, so it’s an incredible thing when a film that’s about people of color and about queerness [wins].