Margaret Cho

Comedian / Actress


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In her nearly two-hour remote TheirStory interview, Margaret Cho talks about growing up in San Francisco and getting into stand-up comedy as a teenager. She discusses a pivotal career moment - opening for Jerry Seinfeld - and how that opened doors for her, particularly at MTV, and she describes how she honed her act over the years. She details her groundbreaking 1994 ABC series, All-American Girl, shares how much creative input she had on the show, and addresses some of the criticisms of the program. Cho then talks about returning to stand-up after All-American Girl was cancelled and speaks of the healing power of comedy. She also describes her experiences on VH1's The Cho Show, playing "Teri Lee" on Drop Dead Divaguest-starring on 30 Rock and being nominated for an Emmy for her role, and playing a North Korean general on the 72nd Golden Globe Awards. She talks of being a mentor to Eddie Huang and to Ken Jeong as they developed Fresh Off the Boat and Dr. Ken for television, respectively, recalls her time on The Masked Singer, describes hosting All About Sex on TLC, and talks about reuniting with Jerry Seinfeld on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. She speaks of co-hosting Fashion Police, guest-starring on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and hosting her podcast, and shares what the COVID-19 pandemic experience has been like for her. She discusses the violence against Asian-Americans during the pandemic, offers advice to aspiring comedians, and comments on how she'd like to be remembered. Jenni Matz conducted the interview in partnership with the American Comedy Archives at Emerson College on June 2, 2021.

"I think Asian-Americans really got to see themselves in All-American Girl. And then see themselves again in Fresh Off the Boat. Realize it took twenty years between those experiences. That was too long. I think that our visibility made our invisibility so poignantly real."  

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Margaret Cho on how All-American Girl came about -- successful comedians got their own sitcoms in the '90s and she had a unique viewpoint as a young Asian-American woman
Margaret Cho on how she learned that All-American Girl was cancelled and how that motivated her to go do comedy "for real" with stand-up
Margaret Cho on her guest roles on 30 Rock and on being nominated for an Emmy
Margaret Cho on playing a North Korean general on the 72nd Golden Globe Awards, hosted by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, and on criticism of the character
Margaret Cho on playing "Teri Lee" on Drop Dead Diva and on working with guest stars
Margaret Cho on being a role model for Asian-American female comedians
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On where she's calling in from; on her name at birth; on when she started to go by the name "Margaret"; on her parents and growing up in San Francisco around her parents' bookstore; on watching television as a kid; on her parents wanting her to be Americanized; on her interests growing up
On what drew her to comedy and what she enjoys about performing; on her first time on stage; on what she learns from bombing on stage; on imitating her mother in her act; on opening for Jerry Seinfeld and the doors that opened for her; on being inspired by Janeane Garofolo; on how her act developed
On her early guest roles on television; on her role in the TV movie/pilot Move the Crowd; on how All-American Girl came about; on the groundbreaking aspects and criticism of the show; on how she learned that All-American Girl was cancelled and how that motivated her to go do comedy "for real" with stand-up
On her first comedy show/special after All-American Girl, I'm The One That I Want, and how comedy helped her at that time; on the craft of comedy and her writing process; on her comedic influences; on getting to work with her mentors; on advice from other comedians that she's taken to heart; on balancing serious topics and humor in her comedy; on cancel culture and on whether she's ever felt restricted in her comedy; on the role of comedy in today's political climate; on John Oliver and whether or not comedians should deliver the news

Chapter 2

On her VH1 show The Cho Show; on playing "Teri Lee" on Drop Dead Diva and her love of procedurals; on shooting Drop Dead Diva in Peachtree City and moving to Atlanta; on why Drop Dead Diva was successful and on Drop Dead Diva tackling body issues head on; on her guest roles on 30 Rock and on being nominated for an Emmy; on playing a North Korean general on the 72nd Golden Globe Awards, hosted by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, and on criticism of the character
On Eddie Huang approaching her to discuss Fresh Off the Boat since she had previously navigated a show starring an Asian-American family on U.S. primetime television; on what had changed in the culture between the time of All-American Girl and Fresh Off the Boat; on the legacy of All-American Girl; on playing Ken Jeong's sister on Dr. Ken and on knowing Ken Jeong for decades; on Ken Jeong not guessing her identity on The Masked Singer; on hosting All About Sex on TLC; on reuniting with Jerry Seinfeld on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee; on a comment by Bobby Lee on the Virginia Tech shooting and humanizing an inhumane act
On her time co-hosting Fashion Police; on playing a villain on an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; on what the COVID-19 pandemic experience has been like for her; on the violence against Asian-Americans during the pandemic and on the many streaming services she's been watching; on doing remote shows and connecting with fans during the COVID-19 pandemic; on what production has been like during the COVID-19 pandemic;
On her podcast; on the progress television has made in Asian-American representation in front of and behind the camera; on being a role model for Asian-American female comedians; on advice to aspiring comedians; on the value of oral histories; on her proudest professional achievement and career regrets; on what she's most looking forward to when the COVID-19 pandemic ends; on how she'd like to be remembered
Shows

30 Rock

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Margaret Cho on her guest roles on 30 Rock and on being nominated for an Emmy

All About Sex

View Show Page
Margaret Cho on hosting All About Sex on TLC

All-American Girl

View Show Page
Margaret Cho on how All-American Girl came about -- successful comedians got their own sitcoms in the '90s and she had a unique viewpoint as a young Asian-American woman
Margaret Cho on the groundbreaking and controversial aspects of All-American Girl -- the first representation of a Korean-American family on U.S. primetime television
Margaret Cho on network notes she got on All-American Girl -- that she was too fat
Margaret Cho on not having creative input on All-American Girl even though it was supposed to be based on her stand-up
Margaret Cho on how she learned that All-American Girl was cancelled and how that motivated her to go do comedy "for real" with stand-up
Margaret Cho on what had changed in the culture between the time of All-American Girl and Fresh Off the Boat
Margaret Cho on the legacy of All-American Girl

Cho Show, The

View Show Page
Margaret Cho on her VH1 show The Cho Show and on working with her family and Selene Luna

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

View Show Page
Margaret Cho on reuniting with Jerry Seinfeld on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

Dr. Ken

View Show Page
Margaret Cho on playing Ken Jeong's sister on Dr. Ken and on knowing Ken Jeong for decades

Drop Dead Diva

View Show Page
Margaret Cho on playing "Teri Lee" on Drop Dead Diva and on working with guest stars
Margaret Cho on shooting Drop Dead Diva in Peachtree City and moving to Atlanta
Margaret Cho on why Drop Dead Diva was successful
Margaret Cho on Drop Dead Diva tackling body issues head on

Fashion Police

View Show Page
Margaret Cho on her time co-hosting Fashion Police

Fresh Off the Boat

View Show Page
Margaret Cho on Eddie Huang approaching her to discuss Fresh Off the Boat since she had previously navigated a show starring an Asian-American family on U.S. primetime television
Margaret Cho on what had changed in the culture between the time of All-American Girl and Fresh Off the Boat

Golden Globe Awards, The

View Show Page
Margaret Cho on playing a North Korean general on the 72nd Golden Globe Awards, hosted by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, and on criticism of the character

Good Times

View Show Page
Margaret Cho on Good Times being her favorite show

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

View Show Page
Margaret Cho on playing a villain on an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Masked Singer, The

View Show Page
Margaret Cho on Ken Jeong not guessing her identity on The Masked Singer

Move the Crowd

View Show Page
Margaret Cho on the challenge of getting roles on television when there were no parts for Asian-Americans and on her role in the TV movie/pilot Move the Crowd
Topics

Advice

View Topic
Margaret Cho on advice from other comedians that she's taken to heart
Margaret Cho on advice to an aspiring comedian
Margaret Cho on advice to an aspiring comedian
Margaret Cho on what she wishes she had known when she first started her career
Margaret Cho on advice for young women entering the industry

Censorship / Standards & Practices

View Topic
Margaret Cho on network notes she got on All-American Girl -- that she was too fat

Creative Influences and Inspiration

View Topic
Margaret Cho on her comedic influences
Margaret Cho on getting to work with her mentors
Margaret Cho on being a role model for Asian-American female comedians
Margaret Cho on being a role model for Asian-American female comedians

Criticism of TV

View Topic
Margaret Cho on the groundbreaking and controversial aspects of All-American Girl -- the first representation of a Korean-American family on U.S. primetime television
Margaret Cho on playing a North Korean general on the 72nd Golden Globe Awards, hosted by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, and on criticism of the character

Diversity in Television

View Topic
Margaret Cho on Good Times being her favorite show
Margaret Cho on the challenge of getting roles on television when there were no parts for Asian-Americans
Margaret Cho on how All-American Girl came about -- successful comedians got their own sitcoms in the '90s and she had a unique viewpoint as a young Asian-American woman
Margaret Cho on the groundbreaking aspects of All-American Girl -- the first representation of a Korean-American family on U.S. primetime television
Margaret Cho on network notes she got on All-American Girl -- that she was too fat
Margaret Cho on Drop Dead Diva tackling body issues head on
Margaret Cho on Eddie Huang approaching her to discuss Fresh Off the Boat since she had previously navigated a show starring an Asian-American family on U.S. primetime television, and on what had changed in the culture between the time of All-American Girl and Fresh Off the Boat
Margaret Cho on the legacy of All-American Girl
Margaret Cho on the progress television has made in Asian-American representation in front of and behind the camera
Margaret Cho on advice for young women entering the industry

Emmy Awards

View Topic
Margaret Cho on being nominated for an Emmy for her guest role on 30 Rock

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Margaret Cho on Good Times being her favorite show
Margaret Cho on the challenge of getting roles on television when there were no parts for Asian-Americans
Margaret Cho on how All-American Girl came about -- successful comedians got their own sitcoms in the '90s and she had a unique viewpoint as a young Asian-American woman
Margaret Cho on the groundbreaking aspects of All-American Girl -- the first representation of a Korean-American family on U.S. primetime television
Margaret Cho on network notes she got on All-American Girl -- that she was too fat
Margaret Cho on Drop Dead Diva tackling body issues head on
Margaret Cho on Eddie Huang approaching her to discuss Fresh Off the Boat since she had previously navigated a show starring an Asian-American family on U.S. primetime television, and on what had changed in the culture between the time of All-American Girl and Fresh Off the Boat
Margaret Cho on the legacy of All-American Girl
Margaret Cho on what the COVID-19 pandemic experience has been like for her, on the violence against Asian-Americans during the pandemic, and on the many streaming services she's been watching
Margaret Cho on doing remote shows and connecting with fans during the COVID-19 pandemic
Margaret Cho on what production has been like during the COVID-19 pandemic
Margaret Cho on COVID protocols for TV production during the COVID-19 pandemic
Margaret Cho on shooting and traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic
Margaret Cho on the progress television has made in Asian-American representation in front of and behind the camera
Margaret Cho on advice for young women entering the industry
Margaret Cho on what she's most looking forward to when the COVID-19 pandemic ends

Natural Disasters

View Topic
Margaret Cho on what the COVID-19 pandemic experience has been like for her, on the violence against Asian-Americans during the pandemic, and on the many streaming services she's been watching
Margaret Cho on doing remote shows and connecting with fans during the COVID-19 pandemic
Margaret Cho on what production has been like during the COVID-19 pandemic
Margaret Cho on COVID protocols for TV production during the COVID-19 pandemic
Margaret Cho on shooting and traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic
Margaret Cho on what she's most looking forward to when the COVID-19 pandemic ends

New Media

View Topic
Margaret Cho on doing remote shows and connecting with fans during the COVID-19 pandemic

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
Margaret Cho on her comedic influences
Margaret Cho on getting to work with her mentors

Television Industry

View Topic
Margaret Cho on the groundbreaking and controversial aspects of All-American Girl -- the first representation of a Korean-American family on U.S. primetime television
Margaret Cho on network notes she got on All-American Girl -- that she was too fat
Margaret Cho on advice from other comedians that she's taken to heart
Margaret Cho on playing a North Korean general on the 72nd Golden Globe Awards, hosted by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, and on criticism of the character
Margaret Cho on doing remote shows and connecting with fans during the COVID-19 pandemic
Margaret Cho on what she wishes she had known when she first started her career
Margaret Cho on advice for young women entering the industry

Underrepresented Voices

View Topic
Margaret Cho on Good Times being her favorite show
Margaret Cho on the challenge of getting roles on television when there were no parts for Asian-Americans
Margaret Cho on how All-American Girl came about -- successful comedians got their own sitcoms in the '90s and she had a unique viewpoint as a young Asian-American woman
Margaret Cho on the groundbreaking aspects of All-American Girl -- the first representation of a Korean-American family on U.S. primetime television
Margaret Cho on Eddie Huang approaching her to discuss Fresh Off the Boat since she had previously navigated a show starring an Asian-American family on U.S. primetime television, and on what had changed in the culture between the time of All-American Girl and Fresh Off the Boat
Margaret Cho on the legacy of All-American Girl
Margaret Cho on the progress television has made in Asian-American representation in front of and behind the camera

Women

View Topic
Margaret Cho on the groundbreaking aspects of All-American Girl -- the first representation of a Korean-American family on U.S. primetime television
Margaret Cho on network notes she got on All-American Girl -- that she was too fat
Margaret Cho on Drop Dead Diva tackling body issues head on
Margaret Cho on advice for young women entering the industry
Professions

Actress

View Profession
Margaret Cho on always wanting to be an actress and on how she got roles when there were no parts for Asian-Americans

Comedian

View Profession
Margaret Cho on what she enjoys about comedy and why performing in front of an audience feels safe
Margaret Cho on what she learns from bombing on stage
Margaret Cho on how her act developed
Margaret Cho on her first comedy show/special after All-American Girl, I'm The One That I Want, and how comedy helped her at that time
Margaret Cho on the craft of comedy and her writing process
Margaret Cho on her comedic influences
Margaret Cho on her comedic influences
Margaret Cho on getting to work with her mentors
Margaret Cho on advice from other comedians that she's taken to heart
Margaret Cho on balancing serious topics and humor in her comedy; on cancel culture and on whether she's ever felt restricted in her comedy
Margaret Cho on the role of comedy in today's political climate
Margaret Cho on being a role model for Asian-American female comedians
Margaret Cho on advice to an aspiring comedian
Margaret Cho on what she wishes she had known when she first started her career
Margaret Cho on advice for young women entering the industry

Performers

View Profession
Margaret Cho on what she enjoys about comedy and why performing in front of an audience feels safe
Margaret Cho on what she learns from bombing on stage
Margaret Cho on how her act developed
Margaret Cho on always wanting to be an actress and on how she got roles when there were no parts for Asian-Americans
Margaret Cho on her first comedy show/special after All-American Girl, I'm The One That I Want, and how comedy helped her at that time
Margaret Cho on the craft of comedy and her writing process
Margaret Cho on getting to work with her mentors
Margaret Cho on advice from other comedians that she's taken to heart
Margaret Cho on balancing serious topics and humor in her comedy; on cancel culture and on whether she's ever felt restricted in her comedy
Margaret Cho on the role of comedy in today's political climate
Margaret Cho on being a role model for Asian-American female comedians
Margaret Cho on advice to an aspiring comedian
Margaret Cho on what she wishes she had known when she first started her career
Margaret Cho on advice for young women entering the industry
Genres

Awards Shows

View Genre
Margaret Cho on playing a North Korean general on the 72nd Golden Globe Awards, hosted by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey

Comedy Series

View Genre
Margaret Cho on Good Times being her favorite show
Margaret Cho on how All-American Girl came about -- successful comedians got their own sitcoms in the '90s and she had a unique viewpoint as a young Asian-American woman
Margaret Cho on the groundbreaking and controversial aspects of All-American Girl -- the first representation of a Korean-American family on U.S. primetime television
Margaret Cho on network notes she got on All-American Girl -- that she was too fat
Margaret Cho on not having creative input on All-American Girl even though it was supposed to be based on her stand-up
Margaret Cho on how she learned that All-American Girl was cancelled and how that motivated her to go do comedy "for real" with stand-up
Margaret Cho on her guest roles on 30 Rock and on being nominated for an Emmy
Margaret Cho on Eddie Huang approaching her to discuss Fresh Off the Boat since she had previously navigated a show starring an Asian-American family on U.S. primetime television; on what had changed in the culture between the time of All-American Girl and Fresh Off the Boat
Margaret Cho on the legacy of All-American Girl
Margaret Cho on playing Ken Jeong's sister on Dr. Ken and on knowing Ken Jeong for decades

Drama Series

View Genre
Margaret Cho on working on Drop Dead Diva
Margaret Cho on playing a villain on an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Reality TV

View Genre
Margaret Cho on her VH1 show The Cho Show and on working with her family and Selene Luna
Margaret Cho on Ken Jeong not guessing her identity on The Masked Singer
Margaret Cho on hosting All About Sex on TLC
Margaret Cho on her time co-hosting Fashion Police

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

View Genre
Margaret Cho on the challenge of getting roles on television when there were no parts for Asian-Americans and on her role in the TV movie/pilot Move the Crowd

Talk Shows

View Genre
Margaret Cho on reuniting with Jerry Seinfeld on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
People

Patty Duke

View Interview Page
Margaret Cho on working with Patty Duke on Drop Dead Diva

Brooke Elliott

View Person Page
Margaret Cho on why Drop Dead Diva was successful

Tina Fey

View Person Page
Margaret Cho on her guest roles on 30 Rock and on being nominated for an Emmy
Margaret Cho on playing a North Korean general on the 72nd Golden Globe Awards, hosted by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey

Janeane Garofolo

View Person Page
Margaret Cho on Janeane Garofolo telling her to move to Los Angeles and on what a comedic influence Garofolo was

Tom Hanks

View Person Page
Margaret Cho on Tom Hanks telling her that he has Chinese ancestry in his family

Eddie Huang

View Person Page
Margaret Cho on Eddie Huang approaching her to discuss Fresh Off the Boat since she had previously navigated a show starring an Asian-American family on U.S. primetime television

Ken Jeong

View Person Page
Margaret Cho on playing Ken Jeong's sister in Dr. Ken and on knowing Ken Jeong for decades
Margaret Cho on Ken Jeong not guessing her identity on The Masked Singer

Selene Luna

View Person Page
Margaret Cho on her VH1 show The Cho Show and on working with her family and Selene Luna

Seth Meyers

View Person Page
Margaret Cho on playing a North Korean general on the 72nd Golden Globe Awards, hosted by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey

John Oliver

View Person Page
Margaret Cho on the role of comedy in today's political climate and on John Oliver's reporting and comedians delivering the news

Amy Poehler

View Person Page
Margaret Cho on meeting other comedians through her comedy shows - Amy Poehler
Margaret Cho on playing a North Korean general on the 72nd Golden Globe Awards, hosted by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey

Prince

View Person Page
Margaret Cho on seeing Prince in person for that last time -- when she played a North Korean general on the 72nd Golden Globe Awards, hosted by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey

Joan Rivers

View Interview Page
Margaret Cho on being in awe of Joan Rivers when she was on Saturday Night Live and on the power of stand-up comedy
Margaret Cho on her biggest comedic influence - Joan Rivers
Margaret Cho on getting to work with her mentors - Joan Rivers
Margaret Cho on advice from Joan Rivers that she's taken to heart
Margaret Cho on her time co-hosting Fashion Police

Sam Rockwell

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Margaret Cho on being in a comedy duo with Sam Rockwell

Jerry Seinfeld

View Person Page
Margaret Cho on opening for Jerry Seinfeld
Margaret Cho on reuniting with Jerry Seinfeld on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

Wanda Sykes

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Margaret Cho on her comedic influences - Wanda Sykes

Robin Tran

View Person Page
Margaret Cho on her new favorite comedian - Robin Tran

Robin Williams

View Person Page
Margaret Cho on Robin Williams shopping at her Dad's store and on loving him as a comedian
Margaret Cho on comedian Robin Williams' ability to play dramatic roles and to play a villain

Ali Wong

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Margaret Cho on some of her favorite comedians - Ali Wong

All Interviews

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