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Comedian Margaret Cho takes over Denver

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Margaret Cho is not who you think she is.

Her latest comedy tour, dubbed Assassin, features posters of Cho dressed in black military gear, toughly wielding a microphone.

"I love the whole Patty Hearst, '70s-political victim thing. It's a fun and exciting image to play with," she said.

But the show isn't all about image. Cho walks the walk. Her comedy can be incredibly in-your-face, targeting political and social mores. This approach has earned her die-hard fans as well as some angry critics.

In an interview, Cho, who is Korean-American, was surprisingly quiet, reserved and extremely polite. Her career began at age 16 when she started performing in comedy clubs. Still, she hasn't gotten comfortable with her "funny girl" status.

"I don't feel like the funny one," she said. "It's sort of a job like that -- I'm actually pretty shy ... I'm not really that person you see on the stage."

Despite the shyness, Cho still wears several hats as a comedian, writer, activist and television star of color. Growing up in San Francisco in the '70s as the daughter of Korean immigrants, she bloomed in an environment that shaped her current beliefs.

Her sharp observances and outspokenness have won her acclaim. Her comedy and one-woman shows earn raves, and she's been honored by several groups for her activist work for Asian-Americans and gay rights (she is a proudly self-proclaimed "fag hag" -- a term that is attributed to a straight gal who enjoys the company of gay men).

Cho's forte, she believes, is writing. Her bestselling memoir I'm the One That I Want, is a funny and poignant look at the battles she has overcome as a Korean-American, as a woman, and as someone with chemical and eating issues. She's currently working on her second book, which she's test running on her blog ( href="http://www.margaretcho.com/">www.margaretcho.com ). In a recent essay about Asian martial arts films like Hero, she writes:

"We don't see Asians in film unless they have super powers, and I certainly don't have them, so where does that leave this erstwhile actor? Even with all the digital effects, it still wouldn't work. I am clumsy with a death wish ... I see Asians flying with their daggers and I feel as if I am hurtling toward extinction at the speed of light."

She's also lending her writing skills to filmmaking, having just wrapped up principle photography on the upcoming movie Bam Bam and Celeste. Cho wrote the script and stars as Celeste, in what she describes is a "fag and fag hag Dumb and Dumber."

Luckily, she's not afraid to bring her abrasive comedy to conservative Colorado. In fact, she loves it.

"People who come to the show, they need that message, that kind of consciousness and awareness," she said. "It's important to bring this into those areas, in order to have a different voice. I thrive on going to conservative areas."

And that, Cho said, is the whole point to her new show.

"In Assassin, I'm shooting down things in society that I think are unfair -- the Bush administration, different aspects of culture nowadays," she said.

Cho's comedy has always been political, but now it has a new twist. After all, the election is over -- how much more can people get out of complaining?

"I've decided to portray politics in a way that's progressive and in a way that we can get hopeful about," she said. "We need optimism within an oppressive political environment.

"So a lot of this is finding a new way to look at it, to retain a sense of power and control in our world. Because when you lose that power, that's when things become dark and depressing."

-- Kara Luger

capsule

Margaret Cho's Assassin tour

Temple Buell Theatre

1031 13th St., Denver

Thursday, March 31, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $29.50-$45, available at Ticketmaster locations or by calling 520-9090

  • Comedian Margaret Cho takes over Denver

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