When you read about all the impressive things comedian and actress Margaret Cho does in the span of a year — both the volume of activity, level of impact, and quality of its humanity — it's hard to think of her as anything other than a role model. It seems as if when there is challenge, Cho sees an opportunity for reform or growth. And not just through her comedy; although that and the resulting fame are the platforms on which she can and does push for real change.
Cho has been working for marriage equality for over a decade, and with her latest psyCHO tour, she's taking the time to marry gay couples at each stop. The comedian has been performing marriages for years at the location where she was both deputized and where the late gay rights advocate Harvey Milk was shot: San Francisco City Hall. "It's a wonderful thing to go back and celebrate [Milk's] life with something that is beautiful," she says. And since a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling made same-sex marriage a right, actual progress has been made in this country.
An advocate for those who are suffering, Cho uses her pain to heal others. She's used #isurviveandthrive and #berobin hashtags as Twitter picket signs to advance goodness in the world. "It's a way to express yourself and your take on different things and a way to come together," Cho notes of this method of social media healing.
The comedian recently spoke with People about being a survivor of sexual abuse and the use of #isurviveandthrive to aid others in overcoming the shame of their sexual abuse. "When you can share what happened to you, you feel less alone," she explains, it’s "a way of being political but at the same time retaining the personal as political."
In the same vein, #berobin promoted a pop-up charity for the late Robin Williams that involved feeding the homeless and busking. "I was really devastated by his death, as was the community of comedians in San Francisco, because he was always present and always there for us and it meant a lot in terms of kind of the cornerstone [he was] of our social life. So it was hard to deal with his death and the circumstances surrounding his death,” she explains. And here’s how Cho is such a great role model: “So I wanted to find a way to celebrate his life, his humanitarian efforts, and his love for street performing. It was a wonderful thing to get people to come out and bring food and clothing for homeless people and for homeless people to come get it." She used the hashtag to call her fans and generous people together to be entertained and to donate.
Off the internet, they had to physically go and get the homeless community out. There was a big storm that week and the city opened empty buildings to get homeless people out of the rain. Google even donated $2 million and hairdressers offered free haircuts. “Not that we started anything,” she says humbly, “but we made this idea of helping homelessness kind of chic for a moment." And what a productive way of dealing with Williams' loss. "It was an active celebration of who he was as a person," she elaborates, and people who were close to him were involved. "It was a very meaningful memorial."
Another influence on Cho was Joan Rivers also passed away last year in 2014. Cho was able to honor her by joining the Fashion Police as a host during the MTV Video Music Awards. "Joan was a hero and a real champion for me," she says. The last time Cho saw Rivers alive was during Fashion Week and wanted to “do something in her honor." She even bought a "beautiful" sculpture of Rivers made out of garbage — from Phyllis Diller to Amy Schumer, every female comedian is noted in this work of art. It’s on an altar with all the gifts Rivers gave her. "It's a nice tribute to her and a nice thing to have at my home," she says of the display.
The psyCHO tour will also address many human issues. "I want to talk a lot about this insanely violent world that doesn't understand women's rights. We have a culture that really is a rape culture," she points out, citing all the women coming forward that were affected by Bill Cosby’s criminal sex acts. “We can use our own anger to somehow help the situation and rise above it as opposed to turning that anger internally," she notes.
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An institution she does support is Planned Parenthood and is horrified that there would be any defunding of it. “I think it's insane. Why would you want our progressive society to turn backwards?" Cho believes the GOP’s "power lies in money and hanging on to their money so they're going to try to incite homophobia, sexism, and racism in order to really hang on to that money. They're trying to use these devises and strategies... to harness that energy to get votes."
She is a fan of Hillary Clinton though and has had a relationship with the presidential candidate since she was in the White House with Bubba. Cho believes her opponent, Bernie Sanders, is bringing forth issues that need to be discussed, but ultimately, "I think he's really great. I think he'd be an amazing running mate for Hillary."
Margaret Cho's psyCHO Tour
Friday, October 30, at The Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. Call 305-673-7300, or visit fillmoremb.com.