Ribald as ever, on-again/off-again bisexual comedian (and lately ‘DWTS’ contestant) Margaret Cho takes on a new passion: Her music
LAWRENCE FERBER | Contributing Writer email@example.com
Verizon Theatre, 1001
Performance Place, Grand Prairie
Sept. 11 at 8 p.m. $39–$55.
After belly-dancing across the country with her burlesque variety show The Sensuous Woman, Margaret Cho is ready to get back to her first love: standup comedy. Having just kicked off a national tour and a new album, Cho Dependent, this time she’s doing it with a slight modification: An electric guitar slung around her shoulder and some songs to sing.
The album marks her first foray into music: 14 tracks of what she calls “songs that are jokes yet have musical value to them.” Indeed, renowned indie heavyweights like Ben Lee, Tegan & Sara, Jon Brion (Aimee Mann, Rufus Wainwright), Ani DiFranco, Fiona Apple, Grant Lee Philips, Andrew Bird, Garrison Starr, Patty Griffin and others joined her as collaborators. And as for the guitar? At age 40, inspired by the sight of Madonna working an ax, Cho learned to play.
Always a risk-taker, Cho signed on last week to be on Dancing with the Stars (the season begins Sept. 21 on ABC), where she’ll share the floor with Sarah Palin’s daughter, teen mom Bristol. That will no doubt be a source of great standup material on Cho’s next tour.
Until then, we’ll just enjoy having Cho discuss provocatively titled songs like “Lesbian Escalation” and “Eat Shit and Die,” her open relationship with husband Al Ridenour and the unrequited love she later discovered was a murderer.
Dallas Voice: How did you come up with the Cho Dependent project? Cho: I wanted to make a record, but a comedy album that had really great music, so I enlisted some of the greatest musicians out there to help me. Some I met through the process of making the record and others I’ve known forever. It gave me a chance to hang out with people I love like Ani DiFranco. I’m really proud of the record.
Let’s talk about your collaborators. Which twin is hotter: Tegan or Sara? They’re both beautiful. They’re great musicians and so fun to be with. I love them both. What’s interesting is I think they look really different from each other and have such different personalities.
Did you tell your collaborators that you wanted particular songs to have a specific sound or vibe? Like, “I want this to sound like Pet Shop Boys?” There’s a song called “Eat Shit and Die.” I hired the same engineer who works with Aimee Mann, then her entire band, and then I went to where she recorded her albums in Santa Monica and said, “I’m going to be Aimee Mann all day.” I have her band, her collaborators. I was Aimee Mann all fuckin’ day. It was the best feeling.
Do you think fans be surprised to hear you actually sing? You’re pulling a bit of a Sandra Bernhard here. I love Sandra Bernhard. To me it’s really a comedy album because it’s super jokey — something that could be played on Jersey Shore. I never would want to transition completely into a singer. I always want to stay a standup comic. I’m like Lady Caca.
Did you ask Lady Gaga to be on this? No. I never got around to her. I’m a big fan so I’m going to go for her for the next project. She’s amazing, and a very gifted musician, which people don’t really talk about. She’s not just a cultural icon. She’s a talented musician. I’m inspired by her.
Why is Justin Bieber not on here? Well, he should be. Maybe next time. Him and the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus.
What’s the story behind the hidden 14th track, “Lesbian Escalation?” That’s a very common happenstance for most lesbians and also a trend with younger gay men, too: They act like lesbians and move in together real fast. Bringing U-Hauls to their dates, they move in fast, and almost immediately stop having sex and it becomes something else. I’m trying to encourage women not to do that. Take it slowly. I’ve been in a lot of relationships with women where it just escalates and then we can’t have sex and it gets boring. Keep the mystery alive.
When was the last time you had a girl-girl thing? Not long ago. There’s always something going on.
Is Al liberal about you having same-sex “side dishes?” Yeah, that’s totally fine. I can do whatever I want. Men and women, it doesn’t matter. We have like an old gay man’s Palm Springs relationship. Whatever the other person does is fine. It’s don’t ask don’t tell. We just don’t talk about it.
But it’s fine.
What about having sister wives? Yeah, I think that would be great. With that braid. That horrible Nicky braid? That would be really great.
Although it’s a comedy album, do any songs have their roots in a serious issue? “I’m Sorry” does. That’s a country song with Andrew Bird, and it’s inspired by something horrible. I was in love with this guy who worked on All-American Girl and he didn’t like me back. When I turned 40 I was still in love with him and I Googled him, and on Wikipedia it said: “American screenwriter, producer, worked on All-American Girl, and in 2007 was convicted of the murder of his wife. Bludgeoned her to death and stuffed her body in the attic for a month until it had partially mummified.” And I was so horrified. It could have been me. But it couldn’t have been me. I had so many complicated emotions about it and really didn’t know how to deal with it and thought I should try and write a song about domestic violence and the crazy shit people do.
So I wrote that song and in a sense it’s a very traditional “murder ballad” — it’s a country music staple, that kind of song. It helped me to make sense of how I was feeling and sometimes dark humor is the only way to approach horrible things like murder.
I understand that Bitch recorded a duet with your parents, but I can’t find that track on the album. That track will be on the next one. It’s really hard to schedule my parents into the studio. They’re real prima donnas. It takes a lot. Bitch did a great job, we wrote a great song with my family, but that will be recorded for the next album.
So you already have a sequel in mind? I don’t know what it will be called but I have quite a few songs I recorded that have to wait. More with Ben Lee, Garrison Starr and Jay Brannan, who is an amazing singer-songwriter. Those will be on the next volume.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010