Margaret Cho’s “PsyCHO” draws comedy “from the palette of pain”

Margaret Cho performs at the Moore Theatre this week. (Photo by Mary Taylor.)
Margaret Cho performs at the Moore Theatre this week. (Photo by Mary Taylor.)

From Margaret Cho’s suffering, her comedy is born: being bullied, fighting an eating disorder, and experiencing sexual abuse and rape as a child.

I paint from the palette of pain,” Cho said by telephone.

What may be terrifying for most, is not for Cho, she said. “No, it’s not scary,” Cho said about sharing even her deepest secrets. “I think that as artists, we always use our lives in our work.”

Cho brings her new show to Seattle’s Moore Theatre October 24 as part of the “PsyCHO” tour. (The rest of the title is “Because there is no ‘I’ in team but there is a ‘CHO” in psycho.'”)

In “PsyCHO,” Cho taps into the things that infuriate her the most for inspiration, including injustice.

“I’m most angry at the violence against women that is happening all over the world,” she said. “It’s an outrage …. I feel like this is so wrong and we need to find a way to stop it.”

But for Cho, the show is not all about heartache. Cho sees talking about these events as a positive endeavor, she said. “This is very healing, actually, and a very joyful thing.”

Cho, 46, started writing jokes when she was 14.  

“I was bullied a lot in school as a child, and I decided to just leave and become a stand-up comedian. I left school very early — about 17. I never finished high school,” she said. “I felt very strong and very autonomous from doing that, and that’s how comedy saved me.”

Cho enjoys performing and writing music, which she incorporates into her shows, she said.

“For me music is like going to a concert, like going to church,” she said.” It’s like a spiritual center.”

At the end of the show, Cho sets her anger on the abuser from her past. It’s the most difficult part of the show, she said.

“It’s called ‘Kill My Rapist,’ and it’s a very hard-hitting cathartic anthem. I’m very proud of it, and yet it’s very emotional,” Cho said. “I think when I do perform it, people really do experience a great catharsis … a lot of people have so much anger inside them from their experiences.”

But the show also incorporates joy. Cho, who is bisexual and a longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights, aims to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony at each appearance. “I think the most exciting part of the show is that I’m going to get to marry couples on stage,” she said. “That part of the show will be dedicated to marriage equality.”

Cho was “deputized” as marriage commissioner in San Francisco by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2005, she said.

“I also have an online ministry accreditation, so I’m able to perform these ceremonies all over the world. I’m thrilled that I get to do that.”

After three decades, Cho doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

“The audiences, the travel, the connection with people, the way I’m still able to produce and write comedy. I’m better at it than ever, and I’m incredibly fulfilled by it.”

If you go

Margaret Cho – The PsyCHO Tour, Because There’s No I in Team, But There’s a CHO in Psycho is at 8 p.m. Saturday Oct. 24, 2015 at The Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., Seattle, WA 98101. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are available here.