The Sensuous Woman: Margaret Cho
By Peter Mavrik in Miscellaneous on Sep 12, 2007 8:00PM
She's our All-American Girl who hails from San Francisco and has never, not even for a moment, forgotten the wonderfully diverse community she grew up in. Her stand-up comedy sells out venues across the country, and her name is probably known in more circles than we can think of. She's made a movie, and now Margaret Cho is coming back to town, this time carrying a decidedly smaller suitcase. Her new show The Sensuous Woman opens at the Lakeshore Theatre on September 19th and runs through September 22nd. We had the chance to chat with her recently and it went a little something like this...
Chicagoist: Before we start talking about your latest show, tell us first a little bit about your recent work on the True Colors tour.
Margaret Cho: It was amazing, it was Cyndi Lauper's big tour. It was her, Debbie Harry, Erasure, The Dresden Dolls, The Clicks, and lots of other great people like Rufus Wainwright and The Indigo Girls, and of course Rosie O'Donnell who joined us. It was an amazing adventure and I had a great time hanging out with people that I've admired for a long time. It was Cyndi's vision to create this show that was all this amazing effort to end homophobia and hatred and promote tolerance. And also to bring the queer community together with all the different kind of music. It was a wonderful experience and I loved doing the tour.
C: You've certainly been busy. At the beginning of the year you were here in Chicago as part of The Sissy Butch Brothers Gurlesque Burlesque show. Was that the first time you did burlesque?
MC: I actually made my "burlesque debut" last year at the Exotic World competition which is where I met the Sissy Butch Brothers. They're so cute the Sissies! They approached me and I was really into it. I really enjoyed the show because I think it was the most grand and exciting burlesque event ever produced.
C: Many of us know you from your brand of edgy stand-up , and we know you as an actress from All-American Girl on TV . Why have you chosen to become a burlesque performer?
MC: I'm doing a lot of different things these days; music, burlesque, different kinds of comedy. I think that for me it's just another way to express myself and to have fun. It's really an enjoyable kind of art. It's a very old art form and it certainly is comedic and political. I really have a lot of fun with it.
C: A lot of people, when they get into a new project, tend to go a bit crazy by researching everything about it and diving as deep into the history as possible. Are you crazed with burlesque in that way?
MC: Oh yeah!. It's wonderful knowing people like Red [of the Sissy Butch Brothers] and other people in the burlesque community who have been very helpful in teaching me lots of stuff, coaching me, and helping me with costumes. All of that is really important. Burlesque has a varied and rich history. And it's all women, which is pretty incredible. I think it's very important to learn about it.
C: For those people who don't know, and because when many of us hear the word "burlesque" we think "naked women", can you define what your vision of burlesque is?
MC: Well, there is a part of it that is nakedness and that part of it is very important. But it's also a sort of political comedy. There is a lot of political comedy. There is a lot of things that we're saying about women's bodies. We're using women's bodies to create an image, to create an idea, to create a new ideal beauty and to inspire. Burlesque is a lot of things, but it is a very old kind of entertainment that combines dance, music, comedy and maybe a little bit of nudity or not. It depends on what you're doing.
C: You've just summed up what we've been reading about your show The Sensuous Woman which begins its run in Chicago on September 19th. Tell us about the show.
MC: It's a show that combines a lot of different elements of entertainment that I've always wanted to do. It's my variety show. I've always loved shows like Sonny and Cher and Donnie and Marie. This is my own version of that kind of idea. You can have your star and your star does lots of other things, and you can have other stars on too. It's a really fun show and I love it.
C: Who are some of the people, other than yourself, who will be performing?
MC: I'm working with Kelly, who some people may know from YouTube, who made the song Shoes. There's another dancer named Selene Luna who is a little person, and then there is our principal dancer Princess Farhana who is amazing, and an amazing gay rapper, so there's lots and lots of fun people.
C: Burlesque has traditionally had a sort of behind-closed-doors or underground connotation. Do you think it's becoming more popular?
MC: I think it's become very popular. There are more burlesque reviews, and burlesque troupes, and burlesque dancers so I think it's becoming more visible as the movement progresses.
C: What's different in the burlesque style that you're working on now compared to, say, older burlesque. You've mentioned it has had a very long history. What's different?
MC: I think my version of it is a little wilder. A little more risqué, and maybe a little more punk rock. Definitely a lot more queer. Traditional burlesque didn't really have much of a queer audience and I think that's changed.
C: You've been to Chicago many times during past performances. Have you had much of a chance to see the city, and what things do you enjoy when you're here?
MC: I do like to go to Sidetrack and watch videos, but that's pretty much the only thing I've gotten to do because I'm usually so busy when I'm in town. But hopefully, because this time I get to spend a week in town, so I get to relax, hang out, and hopefully do a lot more.