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Korean-American Margaret Cho Stands Up for Her Brand of Comedy

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Comedy club audiences never know what to expect when, after a succession of male performers, Margaret Cho takes the stage. After all, there just aren’t that many Korean-American women stand-up comics.

This first-generation San Franciscan is a second generation comic. Her father Seung Hoon Cho is an San Francisco-based joke writer for the Korean market. Cho, 24, doesn’t think she learned her trade at his knee, however. “We never laugh at each other’s jokes,” Cho said of the generational and cultural barriers between them. “I just don’t understand them.”

Cho first tried acting but switched to stand-up four years ago when she saw the few roles offered Asian women. “So here I study drama for 10 years and audition for a movie. My only speaking line was “Rambo! No!” she quipped on Christmas Bob Hope television special “Ladies of Comedy.”

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She realized she could only find an audience for her comedy if she found her own venues and made her own show. That led her to try stand-up.

Cho’s dad was horrified when she started appearing in nightclubs. He wasn’t upset by the nightclub atmosphere, she noted. “He just wanted me to be a writer because it’s much more respectable.” With her recent appearance on Lifetime’s “Six Comics in Search of a Generation” and a just-taped Showtime “Pair of Jokers,” Cho was right to follow her instincts.

Even her Dad was won over to her stand-up work when Cho was made an honorary member of that old show-biz fraternity The Friars Club. She and her father feel a real connection to “the show business of yore,” Cho said. “All those guys from ‘Playboy After Dark’ are heroes at my house. And I was sitting at the same table with them!”

Cho may yet fulfill her father’s dream of her becoming a writer. She’s working on a sitcom pilot based on her stand-up. “I see 1993 as the year to be as unapologetically me as possible,” she said. “That’s were the real comedy comes from.”

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