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Cho Nuff 

Outspoken comic brings her all-inclusive act to Charlotte

Fag hag. Shit Starter. Girl Comic. Trash Talker. Film Star. Television Actress. Bestselling Author...

Standup comic Margaret Cho brings her complex persona and standup comedy this Saturday, April 27, to UNC-Charlotte's McKnight Hall. Cho's performance is a benefit show sponsored by Time Out Youth and UNC-Charlotte PRIDE (People Recognizing Individual Differences and Equality), and all proceeds will go to the nonprofit organization Time Out Youth (www.timeoutyouth.org), which, since 1991, has provided support, education, advocacy, affirmation and empowerment to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth, ages 13 through 23, in the greater Charlotte area. Part of the group's mission is to reach more youth who seek its help, in order to try to end their sense of isolation and confusion, and to expose and eradicate the discrimination they face.

Time Out Youth holds a special event every year, typically a goods and services auction, to raise funds and awareness. "This year, we wanted to do something to get more widespread attention, and draw a larger audience," explains Joy Pugh, the group's director of development. "This is probably the biggest event we've ever put on."

Last autumn, Time Out Youth contacted Cho's manager to ask for autographed books and videos for a silent auction fundraiser. With that door open, the group then called Cho's agent to ask if she'd bring her act to Charlotte. They negotiated an agreement for Cho to perform at less than her usual $20,000 appearance fee (although Pugh is obligated to not reveal the exact amount).

Cho, 33, is the first Korean-American to have her own (albeit short-lived and controversially cancelled) sitcom, and has been performing standup since she was 16. At the age of 23, she was asked to play herself in ABC's All-American Girl -- herself, only "more Asian," and 30 pounds lighter. In her first film and book, both titled I'm the One That I Want, she describes the hell she went through to make herself conform to some plastic Hollywood ideal -- including hospitalization for quick weight loss-related kidney failure -- until then-boyfriend Quentin Tarentino warned her that network execs were trying to take away "her voice."

During her career, Cho has received numerous awards, including the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)'s first-ever Golden Gate Award, honoring her as "an entertainment pioneer who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity." Her E! Celebrity Profile won a Gracie Allen Award from the American Women in Radio and Television organization acknowledging its "superior quality and effective portrayal of the changing roles and concerns of women." Last year, she was awarded a Lambda Liberty Award by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund for "pressing us to see how false constructions of race, sexuality, and gender operate similarly to obscure and demean identity."

Onstage, Cho openly talks about having male and female lovers, her "great appreciation for drugs and alcohol," being sexually harassed by men in power, and her one-time promiscuity. Perhaps because of her openness, her performances attract large numbers of gay fans, yet her themes are universal: self-doubt, fear of rejection, loneliness, love of family. "She really does so much for so many communities," Pugh says. "Plus, she's hilarious."

Cho's most recent tour, "The Notorious C.H.O.," ended in January. She's currently reprising parts of that show on the college circuit, including her upcoming appearance at UNCC. We caught up with her by telephone just before her appearance at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Creative Loafing: The name of your tour -- "The Notorious C.H.O." -- seemed to be a take-off of the name of the rapper The Notorious B.I.G. What does it really stand for?

Margaret Cho: Well, that's what it is. I mean, it's just a joke, taking on kind of a rapper identity and the ludicrousness of all that. It's mostly (named) after the Notorious K.I.M. CD, which was by (rapper) Lil' Kim, who I really adore. It's a kind of a rap moniker that started as an inside joke among my friends and then it became a really appropriate title for this show -- which is not about rap at all! (laughs)

We understand that when the Time Out Youth organizers were negotiating with your management team, they sent a packet of information -- including letters to the editors of our local newspapers -- showing the attitudes that some people in Charlotte have about gays, and gay teens especially. Did you get to see those?

Oh no! What did they say?

Well, people in Charlotte sometimes can be less than tolerant about homosexuality. Some people feel that an organization like Time Out Youth is just promoting homosexuality as a cause or something...

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