Remember Tony Bennett's Duets ? Well, this is kind of like that, but Margaret Cho's style. The comedian recently put out an album of funny songs titled Cho Dependent, for which she collaborated with artists such as Tegan & Sara, Fiona Apple and even Tommy Chong, and she's taking the show on the road, stopping in L.A. this week. We caught up with her via e-mail to discuss how the new gig is going.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you begin writing songs?
MARGARET CHO: I started writing songs in 2003, but didn't really devote myself to it until 2006. Since then I've been writing a lot of lyrics, and I've found it's not so different from joke writing. There's rhythm and cadence and brevity– all things I'm good at already from being a comedian for so long.
Who were your favorite artists to work with on Cho Dependent?
Jon Brion, the greatest musician of all time– seriously. I love him. He taught me so much and gave me supreme confidence in my singing and playing.
Ani DiFranco, who appears on your album, once claimed, “I'm not angry anymore.” Did you find that to be true?
I had never found her to be angry, only extremely truthful, which people often interpret as anger in women. She's a genius whether she's mad or not. I love Ani so much.
Are you preferring musical performance to stand-up these days? What's different?
My music is still stand-up comedy to me, because it's jokes in song form. To me it feels very much the same. And I will always be a stand-up comic first and foremost. It's my first love.
How have you enjoyed the music-video-making process?
I loved making music videos with Liam Sullivan ( Eat Shit and Die , I'm Sorry , Lice , Intervention and Baby I'm With the Band coming soon) and with my husband, Al Ridenour, who is directing Hey Big Dog . Liam and of course Al are family, and my family always brings out the best in me.
Tell us how Bob Dylan influenced this album.
I'm a major Dylan fan, and the one song parody on the album is “Lice,” which is a take on “Don't Think Twice, It's All Right.” Ben Lee, who wrote the song with me and produced several tracks on Cho Dependent, came up with the idea, and I was in Morocco at the time and had a raging case of head lice, so it was the right time to write that song.
You've said you recently quit smoking pot. How did not being high affect this album?
There really wasn't any major difference as far as I could tell! I've smoked so much pot in my lifetime that I'm permanently high. It's in my bloodstream forever!
Imagine you and Kathy Griffin meet in a dark alley outside of a gay bar. Who would win in a fight?
I think I should probably win because I'm about twice her size, but then again, dynamite comes in small packages!
Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd.; Fri., Dec. 3, 8 p.m.; $48-$105. (213) 388-1400.–Ali Trachta
Fri., Dec. 3, 8 p.m., 2010