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Dinner's On Me Podcast: Host Jesse Tyler Ferguson Welcomes Standup Comic, Actor and Icon Margaret Cho

Dinner's on Me Podcast Host Jesse Tyler Ferguson Interviews Comedian Margaret Cho

Over Korean barbeque, Margaret tells me about growing up in 1980-1990s SF surrounded by hot gay men, her own sexuality and why she relates to Angelina Jolie’s character in “Girl, Interrupted.” The ‘Dinner’s on Me’ podcast, hosted by Jesse Tyler Ferguson, episode was recorded at Chosun Galbee in Los Angeles, CA.  


Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Margaret Cho share a sweet moment from filming “All That We Love” premiering at Tribeca Festival 2024

"All That We Love” is a moving, and poignant depiction of the grief process and what it means to start over from loss. After losing her beloved dog, Emma Gwon (Margaret Cho) embarks on a heartwarming journey of her own self-discovery and reconnection with loved ones in Director Yen Tan's touching dramedy that celebrates second chances and the power of family bonds.


JTF: And I mean, there is certainly comedy in the writing. And you know, humorous situations. Um, I mean, I'm going to have very fond memories of there's a scene where, um, my character Stan and your character Emma are lying in bed and we just start, we start singing.

It's a really intimate moment. And it's like, you've just remembered the song that used to be mine and my partner's song that we used to sing karaoke. And it was a song that me, Jesse wasn't personally familiar with. Yin, Tan, our director and writer had Played me the song before and I, you know, made me well up when I was thinking about how this song fits into the story But I didn't I couldn't I could not memorize this song.

It was hard. It was a hard song and You and I ended up taping lyrics to the song Onto the ceiling so we could have a cheat sheet.


Margaret Cho: It was so funny. And then we couldn't stop singing it. Like after we finished, we kept singing it and we kept laughing about it. you know, it's remembering this lost love, but also trying to remember the song, you know, it's a very, the technical aspect, it was really funny.


Margaret Cho talks about growing up in 1980-1990s SF surrounded by hot gay men “dressed as cowboys or policemen”

JTF: I love that you grew up in San Francisco. It's such an interesting time too. I mean,


Margaret Cho: yeah,


JTF: at that point in San Francisco, you know, it was the height of the AIDS epidemic.


Margaret Cho: Yeah.


JTF: Like Harvey Milk had just been assassinated. What was it like to be a kid in San Francisco at that time?


Margaret Cho: Well, it was like this Thing where you would see hundreds of men out in the street and they all had, um, either their shirts were off or they were dressed as cowboys or policemen. And it was so amazing, like it was actually walking into like a Tom of Finland illustration, you know, um, just with, you know, these guys, young guys with crazy, beautiful bodies.


Margaret Cho: And they were just walking around. and you would look down at an alley and there would be like blowjobs. And I mean, all manner of sex happening. but as a little girl, it was so, uh, normal and so safe. There were no women, there were no girls. So there was no sense of, Oh, I'm not a part of this, but I, I am.

Uh, it's okay for me to be here because they're like happy to see me. They always say, hi, how are you? You know, like it was a very, uh, I don't know, really incredible time. But then a lot of the men that worked for my dad were early supporters of Harvey Milk that I, my parents owned a gay bookstore there.


Margaret Cho’s dad, who owned a gay bookstore, thought gay men have “good taste;” his home is covered by portraits by male “admirers”

Margaret Cho: [my parents are] not gay, but my dad loves male attention because he's really handsome. So he loves when men admire him because he thinks that women don't know what's good, but men know, men have good taste. And so he has all these portraits that are like painted of him from all of the, these admirers from, you know, 70s San Francisco all these male admirers who captured his youthful beauty in paint


JTF: That's incredible.


Margaret Cho: He hangs them all about his house, and he loves it. He loves it.


JTF: That's incredible


Margaret Cho’s immigrant family was very accepting of the LGBTQ community, being queer felt like the “norm”

JTF: mean it kind of feels like destiny that like you ended up in the career that you ended up in. It just makes so much sense. I feel like You were embraced by that, that city in such a beautiful way.

And first of all, I mean, I think you just have such an interesting perspective about the gay community that, um, and a lot of it probably comes from just being surrounded by that community at such a young age and having parents who were so progressive. I mean, what were your parents... First generation, were they immigrants?

Margaret Cho: They were immigrants, but I think that they just, um, had a lot of acceptance around it. I think that they, um, experienced so much racism coming to America that any sort of marginalized community was appealing to them. So, you know, we, um, lived in a black neighborhood. We lived in this, like, gay neighborhood.

So there was so much of that, that my parents felt really comfortable with. Um, but I think also growing up there made me see gay as the norm and heterosexual was the outlier. Like heterosexuality was the secret part. Like, don't tell anybody that you're actually sometimes straight.

JTF: I mean, it's like a magical world that I wish I had grown up in.


Margaret Cho recalls dating older men and women as a young teen

JTF: With parents who were very progressive and trusted you a lot. I mean, did you get into a lot of trouble?

MC: Yeah. Totally

JTF: Were there things that like were too far for your parents?

Margaret Cho: All of it was really too far, but it was also like, they couldn't control me. So I was sort of beyond any real like. I would just take off and I would like go live at like, you know, other kids houses. Like, I had like a boy, like a gross, it was gross. I had a boyfriend when I was like 16. He was like in his late twenties. I had a girlfriend who was 50.

JTF: Whoa

Margaret Cho: I was like 18. It's so weird to think about now. I'm like, I could never, as young as I would go is maybe 40, 40, 35. I think? I mean, I've had relationships with people, like, in their 20s and it's too young.

JTF: Yeah.

Margaret Cho: Yeah, this woman who was in her mid 50s was dating me when I was like 18.

JTF: Wow.

MC: And I remember she came to see me do comedy, and she brought her friend. And her age, same age friend. And I was saying on stage how old I was, I was saying I'm 18. And I saw her friend look at her and hit her.

JTF: Oh no!

Margaret Cho: Like, it was so, uh, funny.

Margaret Cho recalls always liking women more than men but says “I like sex with men a lot”

JTF: Have you, do you, do you remember a point where you're like, I think I'm bisexual? Or is it just something that you always…

Margaret Cho: When I was younger, I like really felt like I just gonna be with women.

JTF: Mhmm.

Margaret Cho: I ended up getting into these relationships with guys and it just, I like the sex. But I didn't really like hanging out with them that much. (They both laugh) So, I think it was confusing. Every relationship I've had with a man has been horrible. But I like the sex, so I keep going back to it. But, uh, with women they've been better. But, um, I, I like sex, but with men a lot.

JTF: Yeah.

Margaret Cho: I just don't, I don't like them. (They both laugh) Is that bad? That's bad.


MC: I mean, if I could just have sex with men and not have them in my life.

Margaret Cho’s parents hate that she’s single, want her to download Tinder or get a Korean matchmaker

JTF: I mean, what do [your parents] think about, like, your sort of carefree way of being in relationships?

Margaret Cho: My parents are okay with whatever except what I'm doing now. They hate that I'm single. Ah. That's really upsetting.

JTF: Uh huh.

Margaret Cho: So my mom keeps trying to get me to download Tinder.

JTF: Uh huh.

Margaret Cho: “Because Timber, if you do Timber, you can find Timber.” And then they're like, want me to go to Korea and get a matchmaker service, and I'm like,

JTF: Oh, wow.

MC: No. No, why would I do that? Why would I do that? But it's like very distressing. [to server] Thank you. [back to convo] That I would even like think about being alone. That to them is really hard, right?


Margaret Cho says telling jokes about her recovery is “therapeutic”

JTF: Yeah. You've also been very honest about like relapsing and having that be an ongoing struggle, which I think is so important to like your sort of candidness about being sober. What made you want to talk about it?

Margaret Cho: Well, I think it's important to talk about, which is a big part of my life. Like now recovery is such a huge part of my life and it's a big part of the way that I approach life. So I think talking about is really therapeutic, but it's also just a funny aspect of humanity.

It's a funny thing that we get hung up on these addictions, you know? Yeah. Um, and rely on the substances to get by, but they often make our lives a million times worse. So I, I just think it's a problem, but also a problem that currently is solved, but it could always go back. So I keep talking about it in order so that I'm reminded of how bad things could get.

Margaret Cho was forced to go to a birthday party, that turned out to be an intervention

JTF: Right. I know you, um, you spoke about having an intervention, I think at a birthday party was it?

Margaret Cho: No, they said it. This is so evil. My friend said it was a birthday party. That I could not miss, and then it was actually an intervention. Like, you know, like, they forced me to go to a birthday party that was not happening. It was just my intervention. and then I, um, went and, uh, I went to treatment.

Margaret Cho says she loves rehab, is very “Girl Interrupted”

Margaret Cho: I love rehab. I'm like a big fan of institutionalization. I really think that's important. really where I belong. Like I'm very girl interrupted. I love

JTF: Winona or Angeline --?

Margaret Cho: I'm very Angelina Jolie. Like I'm the bad girl in rehab. Like I love a hospital gown or, you know, like, or like a juicy, like a terrycloth juicy, um, tracksuit. It's very me. And Uggs, like flipping around with my hair in a scrunchie, um, and makeup all over my face. Like I love it. I think rehab is just good because people are like, Making you food. You just get to go and like sit with other people and talk about your feelings. You can make, um, crafts.

JTF: How long did that last for you?

Margaret Cho: I was in my facility for a year and nine months.

JTF: Oh, wow.

Margaret Cho: People usually just stay for 30 days.

JTF: You moved in.

Margaret Cho: Yeah, I loved it.

Margaret Cho shares she made amazing friends in rehab, lost 20 of them – some to fentanyl overdoses

Margaret Cho: I was in there with like really kind of amazing people. Like 20 people died from my facility. So it was really like the people who were like amazing but they just died because they just wanted to try it one more time and then people get fentanyl so it was really crazy.

JTF: It's crazy to be around such people who aren't such a you know, a razor edge with that...

Margaret Cho: yeah. Yeah.

JTF: Wow.



Margaret Cho says it was “shocking” for it to take 20 years after “All American Girl” for another all Asian American cast show with "Fresh Off The Boat”; “gratifying” to see more Asian American faces on TV

Margaret Cho: I mean, the, the, um, the fact that it took 20 years, you know, it was really shocking, but also not, you know, but we have a lot more Asian American faces on TV and movies. Now it's very gratifying.

Margaret Cho’s dream is to do a multi-cam sitcom, like “All American Girl”

JTF: I think there's something also about the story you were telling with “All American Girl” is so important and like you sort of, you were so young at that time.

MC: Yeah.

JTF: There's something about perspective and like having some space away from it and also with the kind of Hollywood changing a bit. And like, see… was there an opportunity for you to like revisit that story?

Margaret Cho: Oh, I would love to. I mean, I think, um, my dream now is to go back and do like a multi-cam sitcom and have it be sort of family based. And you know, to me, that would be really exciting because I also love the art form of the multi-cam sitcom. Like I love those old shows.

JTF: Like in front of an audience.

Margaret Cho: Yeah. It's to me very alive. It's a. That is, um, not used often nowadays, but it's so fresh and so fun. So hopefully I'll be able to get to do that again.

JTF: Yeah.

Margaret Cho: That’s…that's my dream.


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