Welcome back to pain to purpose. I’ve been having so much fun doing this, and I appreciate your support so much. I’m excited about our show today. We’ve got the legendary Margaret Cho here. Margaret was named one of the top 50 comedians of all all time by Rolling Stone. She’s also an actress, a fashion designer, author, and a singer songwriter. She’s a true trailblazer for so many after her. I am just super grateful that Margaret would take some time to come on Pain to Purpose and tell us a little bit about her story in her life. So without further ado, here’s Margaret Cho.

Click to Read Transcript

Margaret:

Thank you. This is awesome. Thank you so much.

 

Rebekah:

There’s so much I want to talk about with you. I feel like we could just go all kinds of different ways here, but my question is, has comedy always been a part of your life growing up?

 

Margaret:

I think so. I mean, I really love comedy. I’ve always loved it. It’s something that I always was drawn to when I was growing up. I really loved SCTV and Saturday Night Live… Flip Wilson and Garry Shandling… and I love Joan Rivers. I always just loved any kind of comedy on television, whether it was Carol Burnett, or Johnny Carson or anything like that, you know. I was really alone a lot, kind of a latchkey kid, you know, I just never really did anything except watch TV. And so, and I still do that, you know, it’s interesting how it kind of became my life, and it’s still my life; I just love comedy, and I love the art form of it. It’s never left me. It’s something that I’m still always studying. It’s something that I get a lot of emotional support from it and a lot of emotional sustenance from it; I learn a lot from it, and it just gives me a lot of joy.

 

Rebekah:

Yeah, so how did you get started as far as stand up comedy?

 

Margaret:

I was in a theater class in high school. I had a teacher who was signing my comedy partner and me up. I had a partner at the time. And it was actually Sam Rockwell, who’s a very famous actor now, of course, he’s won Academy Awards and everything, but at that time he was a student at my school. And we were doing comedy sketches together at this comedy club. And we were just kids, but you know, there was something about it that really appealed to me. He ended up moving to New York with his mom, but I stuck with it, and I ended up really just falling in love with it. And I kept going. This was like 1984 and 1985. And I just kept going to comedy clubs and I just really made a life of it. I stopped going to school, which I wouldn’t advise anybody to do… but it was really the thing that I wanted to do with my life. And it was my sense of just being who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. I was working with comedians, like Brett Butler, and Paula Poundstone. I was on the road with people; I toured all over the place. I was doing television pretty early on, and so I attained a lot of success really early in my life, which is good. But it was fast. You know, I was really, I was really in love with it. So I wanted to do it as much as I could.

 

Rebekah:

Well, and you’re really funny, so I can imagine that it was fast… I can see how a lot of people caught on to that quickly. And one thing that I really respect and love about you is that you are very solid in what you believe and what you stand for, and I think that sometimes it’s very hard to be that way because you get a lot of criticism. And you also get a lot of praise for that too, but how was it in terms of when you started out and you were becoming this big comedian, and you’re in the spotlight, and you were getting both sides of it? Was there ever a time where you felt upset about some of the comments or how people were portraying you?

 

Margaret:

Oh, yes, all the time. Just because I thought when I was in comedy, just because it was the only place that I really fit in, in that you didn’t have to fit in to be a comedian. Be a comedian was like, that’s the place where you would go as an outsider because as a comedian, you also didn’t need anybody else. You were just performing alone, so it didn’t really matter. You didn’t have to fit in anybody’s expectations about who to be, you kind of do your own thing. And also, it was better if you stood out because if you are unusual, it was better for you, in general. So I thought, it’s kind of better to kind of be odd and different, kind of an oddball and a misfit. Because that makes you stand out as a comedian, and being different was an asset.

Then coming to Hollywood, suddenly, it was not the best thing… just because I didn’t look like everybody else, it was somehow a problem. Trying to fit in was really impossible. And I started to really doubt myself. Then I felt like I was too fat and people were telling me that I had the wrong body for the time… and I was trying to be thinner and it was really crazy because it was just like this obsession that comes with it… but it was this thing of trying to be something that I wasn’t. Then, I just really let other people’s opinions dictate how I was supposed to be. And that’s really unfortunate. I think it really has to do with me being so young. And when you’re young, you just want to please everyone. That’s the sad thing about being a young person and a young woman; at that time, you don’t know yourself as well, and you want to live up to other people’s expectations of you. And I was really not aware of what I was exactly doing. I just thought that was the right thing to do.

Now, I realize, Oh, I was not listening to myself because I didn’t know what I should do. But it was very hard, I was really heartbroken because I thought, Oh, I just wanted to be accepted. When really, that’s not the right thing to do. You should just do your own thing, it’s why people like you to begin with; but I had a really a warped notion of what the right thing was because I didn’t really know what I was supposed to be. Nobody had told me what to do or how to do what I was doing. Nobody had done what I had done before. And when you’re kind of the first one, there’s nobody that can lead you by example and you have nobody before you that can tell you when you’re breaking ground, it’s very hard to know what to do. So now, of course, I can look back and say, Well, I see a made these different mistakes, and that’s what I did wrong. But now I realize, Oh, just it was so impossible to know at the time how to go about things. Now I know better, but obviously, I didn’t know then. It’s certainly sad because it’s like, oh, well, I wish I had been kinder to myself at that time. We’re just so unkind to ourselves and if I could do anything now, it’s just to show people, younger people especially, how to be kinder to themselves. And for them to know that their own instincts usually are the right ones.

 

Rebekah:

And I think back to when I was in middle school, and even my first couple years of high school, how awkward I felt, and I was shy and, like you, I was a people pleaser. I never wanted anyone to be upset with me. But the two things I hated most were my legs and my feet. And now here we are, I’m 33, and I’ve missing half of those. And I just want to go back and shake myself and say, why was I not kinder to who I was. And it took me not only losing my leg but almost my life, to realize that those trivial things that I had taken for granted for so long, are just that… they’re trivial, and we need to love and accept who we are because we each bring such unique gifts to the table.

 

Margaret:

Yes, and we need to appreciate those things. So much, but it’s hard to know. It’s hard to know that until you look back and realize it, then at least it’s not too late to appreciate what we have now.

 

Rebekah:

Definitely. I’m going to quote you here because you said, “Comedy is really about coping; it’s about coping with your own suffering and your own pain. How do we find a way through that? That’s what comedy is, in general, it’s a way to cope. It’s finding a way to survive with all of this happening.” I really resonate with that, Margaret, and it’s so healing sometimes to just laugh at the things that we can’t change in our lives and find that joy. And I want you to speak a little bit on that because I know that you have had some pretty significant trauma in your own life… How did you go from that pain and suffering to being able to laugh about it and find joy in those circumstances?

 

Margaret:

There’s an old quote: “Life is a tragedy for those who feel and a comedy for those who think.” And it’s really true. I think that if we think about it and can laugh at it, then it’s like we can find a way through it. It’s almost like laughter is the light that can guide you through. You can look at laughter as a kind of a torch that will illuminate the darkness. And laughter does bring light, it brings a lightness, it brings in air, even the action of laughing is breath, and it expands your chest and it expands your lungs and it brings in a kind of life into you. So I think that’s like a very important thing to do. Also, as I get older, I realize how short life is and that it’s all about perspective. And then that perspective is a decision that we make about how we feel about the things that have happened to us. And if we can decide how we feel about it, whether it’s sad or happy, that’s how it’s going to be, so perspective is everything. So the decisions that we make are really behind whether it’s a tragedy or comedy, which I would rather watch a comedy than a tragedy.

 

Rebekah:

And a comedian you definitely are, Rolling Stone named you one of the top 50 comedians of all time, how does it feel to have a title like that? I mean, it’s phenomenal. Where do you go from there? It’s like you’re done. You won at life.

 

Tune in to the episode to hear what Margaret thinks about being named one of the top comedians of all time… She also dives deep and shares about her struggles with drug and alcohol addiction and how she learned to use comedy to transform her pain into purpose.

Learn more about Margaret Cho and her future tour dates: https://margaretcho.com/

 

Custom HTML