More than 20 years into her career, Margaret Cho's impact on comedy is as strong as it has ever been. Amy Schumer cites Cho as a huge influence on her no-holds-barred style of comedy, while the shows "Fresh Off the Boat" and "Dr. Ken" -- in which Cho has a supporting role -- are direct descendants of her 1994 sitcom "All-American Girl," one of the first to center around an East Asian family.
amNewYork spoke with Cho about her "There's No I in Team But There's a Cho in Psycho" tour, which comes to Town Hall as part of the New York Comedy Festival.
Your show covers a lot of serious issues. What's your process for taking a topic like violence against women and turning it into comedy?
My philosophy is let's not fight with guns. To spill your blood would be cowardly! I have come to murder your ignorance. I talk a lot about how rape has affected me and how my murderous rage when expressed is healing.
You've talked a lot about losing your mentors Robin Williams and Joan Rivers. How did you get to know them and what did you learn from them?
Robin was the doorman at the comedy club I lived next door to, and after he became world famous as Mork he would still come to the club to do sets and I would always have to go after him. It was hard! Joan I met because she admired my comedy and wanted to present me with an award. We were good friends for years, and I couldn't ever even fathom how filthy her mouth was. She was such an inspiration.
How did the #BeRobin campaign come about?
It was a way to celebrate the philanthropic life of Robin Williams. The only thing to do with our grief was scream and cry, and Robin's best friend Michael Pritchard said, "Don't grieve Robin, be Robin." So we set up on street corners and people brought food and money and clothing and haircuts and all sorts of things for homeless people. … It felt great because even though we had lost our comedy father, we could still act like him, be him.
Working on "All-American Girl" was a very difficult experience for you. What do you think about the show when you look back at it now?
I am happy to have influenced an entire generation of Asian-American comedians, actors, writers, performers, etc. and the show itself is funny! It wasn't my brand of comedy exactly, but nothing I was doing onstage could have been on prime time TV then.
Do you see it as having paved the way for shows like "Fresh off the Boat" and "Dr. Ken"?
Yes, of course. I did that [expletive].
If you go: Margaret Cho performs he show "There's No I in Team But There's a Cho in Psycho" as part of the New York Comedy Festival on Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. at Town Hall, 123 W. 43rd St., $39.50-$59.50.