Comic gets serious about war, minorities and laughs
By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
War, it turns out, has fueled her ire, as she brings her "Revolution Tour" Saturday to the Waikiki Shell, with a Maui playdate on Sunday.
"Surprisingly so, people are so willing to laugh, despite the world situation," she said of the Iraqi conflict she abhors.
She feels her appearances provide audiences some salve from the emotional wounds.
"They need the relief, so from a comic's standpoint, there's this incredible desire to get to a kind of mirth that will alleviate this incredible waste (the war) hanging over the people," said Cho.
"I feel fortunate to be able to do my job effectively, so the shows are a blessing. And I'm happy the way the tour is going."
Can't say she's thrilled about the war, however.
Nor has she toned down her sentiments there are no sacred cows in her barn as she treks from city to city in a tour that started March 1 in Chicago and ends June 1 in Washington, D.C.
"I can't avoid the fact that this country's at war," she said in a phone interview from Los Angeles. "I'm anti. I'm very active in the anti-war movement. It's a strange feeling, because I am close to some people who are in combat. I don't understand what is going on, in terms of why we're there. But I am supportive of my friends who are in the battle, and the children of my friends who are serving."
She said military enlistees "are in the service because they need to get started in life; maybe it's money for education of their kids, or family history, because someone else in the family had a career with years of experience. And it's a class thing; the lower classes are being sent there. I believe only one member of Congress has children involved (in the war); mostly, these politicians who have never been to war (are) sending people to battle."
All of which makes her see red.
Her show does not specifically target the war or her politics about the conflict. But the issue surfaces, with Cho doing her mince-no-words take.
"Basically, what I'm trying to show on this tour is how we are all warriors, how we all can declare war on everything from (the lack of) manners to racial epithets to sexual harassment. I used to let these things slide off my back. Now, I want to defend these minorities and issues in America. Of course, this doesn't apply in Hawai'i, which I love, where the minorities are the majority."
Following her "Notorious C.H.O." and "I'm the One That I Want" tours here, Cho is looking forward to renewing ties with island fans. And to the food, of course.
"I love working in Hawai'i because I love being in the majority," she said of the large Asian population here. "I like being a part of a community where I feel totally comfortable and totally at home."
Comfort in her book also means eating Hawaiian breakfasts "Portuguese sausage and eggs ... and even Spam. I love Spam," she declared.
"Mostly, I love Hawai'i because it is (largely) Asian American," she said.
Cho made TV history when she became the first Korean to star in her own ABC sitcom, "The All-American Girl," even if it was short-lived. She doesn't dwell on the failure. There was a reason, she said, and she was partly to blame.
"My philosophy has shifted politically," she said of her healing. "I don't feel a sense of need; I don't believe I'm an actress. To me, comedy is what I do and what I love. I've never been comfortable working with other people's material, denigrating about other people's lives. I have to write what I deliver. To say things someone else wrote is, well, not what I'm made for.
"In Hollywood, I think my experience is quite unique. I don't have other people writing for me. I would have difficulty delivering that material. So do I miss the TV show? No."
She hasn't written the tube out of her life yet.
"My desire is to do something in news. To be considered in a news format, as opposed to comedy. Anything else for me would be trivial. Incredibly trivial. Frankly, boring, too."
So is Cho forsaking the funny for the serious? Uh-uh. She simply feels she has "a higher purpose of doing something relevant."
She knows what she doesn't want to be: "A politician."
She loves comedy for its impact, its immediacy.
"It's subversive," she said. "It's a kind of power that makes an impact. It makes me feel very good to have power. And what is power? A willingness to work. The work ethic. Going out and doing it, in terms of living a life. Going the straight and narrow I don't believe that."
Power means risks, of being frank and truthful.
"I am a serious person," she said. "This tends to surprise people, particularly when I'm off stage. I speak openly and honestly and forthrightly. And, yes, I can be full of love."
What she does on stage is an act, but her sentiments are real.
Like her take on the volley of reality shows, all over the tube.
"In general, I think it's dangerous to label them reality shows," said Cho.
"It's not reality. Many avoid the issues in the country; people are duped in their take on reality. I particularly don't like those talent shows (like 'American Idol' and 'Star Search'). I've been on them they are demoralizing, creating losers in life. I lost on 'Star Search.' So did Britney Spears. The reality is, though, that there's always hope for losers, who can win in life. And I'm living testament for hope for losers."
Reach Wayne Harada at firstname.lastname@example.org, 525-8067 or fax 525-8055.
Cho biz at a glance
Born: Dec. 5, 1968
Raised in: San Francisco
Family ties: Grandfather was a Methodist minister who operated an orphanage in Seoul during the Korean War. father wrote Korean joke books, which may have been part of her comic roots.
Stand-up comedy: First gig at 16 was at The Rose & Thistle, above bookstore her parents operated.
Awards: Won American Comedy Award for Female Comedian in 1994; New York Magazine's Performance of the Year award and Entertainment Weekly's Great Performances of the Year Awards, 1999; GLAAD's first-ever Golden Gate Award, 2000
Groundbreaking moments: Short-lived ABC sitcom, "All-American Girl;" off-Broadway "I'm the One That I Want" live show
Cartoon character: Was the voice of the detective in "Rugrats" movie.
Notable quotable: "I really love the way my life is going right now. I love touring and writing. There's a great lack of different faces out there. I think part of my journey has to be illustrating my experience, showing what you can do. I feel like I've gotten to a great place in my life. I just want to do it for a long time ... at least until the next Korean-American fag hag, girl comic, trash talker comes up and takes my place."