Margaret Cho said she's building up to a Harley.
The comedian has a vintage Honda motor-
cycle, but has ridden some hogs. She'll be in the middle of Harley country Wednesday when she performs at York's Strand-Capitol
Performing Arts Center.
"I think it's a wonderful sport," she said about biking during a phone interview last month. "I have a license. I've taken a lot of courses. (I'm) trying to make something that's pretty risky as manageable as I can."
A self-proclaimed tomboy, Cho has tattoos and sometimes sports leather. But before the Primetime Emmy awards Sept. 23, she was psyched to wear a dress.
"I'm having a gown made by Ina Soltani," Cho said. "They've drawn out a beautiful gown and designed the hair and makeup. It's pretty elaborate."
No stranger to controversy, Cho was nominated for her guest role portraying the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il on "30 Rock." She attended the 1994 ceremony and also earned a few Grammy nominations, but said it was nice to be recognized. Kathy Bates ended up taking home the statue for her guest role on "Two and a Half Men."
But for Cho, the "30 Rock" stint was just one of her TV roles. She appears on Lifetime's "Drop Dead Diva" - a dramedy about a model who dies and is re-incarnated as a smart, driven and plus-sized lawyer. Cho plays the wisecracking legal assistant Teri Lee, but as the survivor of an eating disorder, she knows that beauty standards are no laughing matter.
"I really wanted to be part of it," Cho said of the show. "I really thought this was a great opportunity to tell some great stories and to have this new kind of hero women could identify with."
Her work schedule is split between a few months of shooting the show and a few months of touring the country with her standup show.
"I always knew I wanted to do this," she said. "I started my career very young as a teen. In that, I'm pretty lucky."
The San Francisco native's talent was evident from the start. She won a standup competition and the chance to open for Jerry Seinfeld. By her early 20s, she was booking shows at college campuses. Appearances on "The Arsenio Hall Show" followed as did a Bob Hope primetime special.
Along the way, Cho become an advocate for gay rights and the anti-bullying movement.
In her latest comedy show, "Mother," Cho celebrates the strong women - from Madonna to Lady Gaga - who have inspired her through the years. She shares her thoughts on motherhood as well as stories about her mom.
At first, Cho said her parents didn't understand her desire to sling jokes.
"They were really scared ... and very troubled by it," she said of when she first moved to Los Angeles to pursue her stage dreams. "I became very successful quite quickly. It wasn't like they have to worry about for very long. Now it's really exciting and ... thrilling for them."
And Cho, a proud Korean American, said her mom loves that she's part of "Mother."
In addition to family members and pop culture icons, Cho said other outspoken females, including Rosie O'Donnell and Wanda Sykes, continue to be her role models.
"I'm a big fan of comedy," she admitted. "I love Joan Rivers. She has a really great work ethic and a brilliant mind."
Since Cho's packed schedule rarely allows her to see fellow female stars, she's bringing one on the road with her. Selene Luna has been on tour with Cho this fall and will open Wednesday's show at the Strand.
"She's fantastic," Cho said of Luna. "She is something fresh and exciting and new."
In a few weeks, Cho will take "Mother" to Europe. And it doesn't sound like she'll get much time to test her motorcycle skills after that.
Even though she said she plans to take time off at the end of the year, as she's got more TV roles cooking. She recently shot the pilot for a Food Network reality show called "Blind Dinner Party."
The concept is that she throws a dinner party for strangers with different points of view. Cho said her quick-thinking standup experience will likely come in handy.
"It changes all the time," Cho said of live comedy. "You can never tell what's going to happen. I love the challenge (to) do something new and different every day."
- ERIN McCRACKEN,
The Cho You Don't Know
Margaret Cho is a musician
"I love (playing) occasionally on my standup shows," she said. "I do a song once in a while. I do play quite a few instruments."
In 2010, her comedy/music album "Cho Dependent" earned her a Grammy nomination for Comedy Album of the Year. It included tunes with Fiona Apple, Andrew Bird, Tegan & Sarah and Ben Lee.
"I have a lot of really great people I've collaborated with," she
said. "It's certainly a great passion."
Margaret Cho follows politics
"It's something that I have a lot of history with," she said. "I worked on the Obama campaign before. I plan to be there again this year."
She attended the Democratic National Convention in 2008 - a year she said was full of excitement as a female candidate, Hilary Clinton, was in the race. This presidential election, she added, is just as important.
"It's a big year," she said. "Nobody knows what's going to happen. (It's) something I talk about in my act."
Margaret Cho is a globetrotter
Comedy, she said can be universal, but she does transform her show to fit different cultural expectations overseas.
"In England, they use comedy as a social instigator," she said. "It's not a spectator thing. A lot of comedians get to talk to the audience and do improv."
Cho will visit Europe later this month. She said performing in different countries helps her improve her craft.
"It's something that makes me better," she said. "It's something that I can just go back to ... and work on."
Margaret Cho: www.margaretcho.com
Selene Luna: www.seleneluna.com
Read more celebrity interviews: www.yorkblog.com/flipside/celebrity-interviews
Check out photos and social media buzz from the 2012 Primetime Emmys: storify.com/flipsidepa