Margaret Cho knows beauty of raunch

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      “I ended up with these huge purple scars around my nipples—it’s so disgusting,” the notorious Margaret Cho tells the Straight by phone from her home in Los Angeles. She’s discussing her recent return to off-Broadway with The Sensuous Woman, her burlesque dance show in which she spun pasties on her breasts. “It was this very intense dance. I’m sad that I’m not doing it anymore, but I’m also happy that I don’t have to wear those pasties again.”

      Cho, whose Beautiful tour comes to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre next Friday (March 28), has many reasons to be happy these days. From wrapping up the anti-homophobic True Colors tour alongside Cyndi Lauper to getting inked by renowned tattoo artist Ed Hardy, Cho is keeping herself busy. (Her tattoos feature birds, flowers, and snakes. “The goal is to do my whole body,” she explains, citing ’70s Japanese girl-gangster films as inspiration.)

      Cho was one of the first to bring the Asian American family to U.S. television, with the mid-’90s series All-American Girl, and she’s doing it again with a new reality show for VH-1, The Cho Show, which follows the comic on the road as she interacts with her family and queer fans. “It’s the uniting of my two worlds: the gay and the Asian,” says Cho, an advocate for gay rights and fag hags everywhere.

      The famous Mommy jokes return for Beautiful, having been ignored during 2005’s Assassin tour in favour of more political content. (Not that there won’t be any politics: expect discourse on the Clinton-Obama race.)

      “This show is pretty raunchy,” Cho says. “The title Beautiful is ironic because the show is almost so not. It’s more robust, hard-core, and wild, so it’s beautiful in that it’s pretty intense. Beauty is about being an individual, being unique, and feeling good. It’s about being older, wiser, and having a more concrete feeling of beauty, rather than something that’s transitory like youth. Beauty’s about permanence and feeling great about you. It’s important to feel beautiful, because when you do you’re more willing to have your voice heard and stand up for yourself.”

      Joining the tour is Liam Sullivan, best known for his alter ego Kelly and her love of shoes, thanks to a YouTube clip that’s been viewed over 13 million times. Sullivan will bring Kelly to the stage along with other characters. “My husband made the robot that’s in the ”˜Shoes’ video,” Cho declares, claiming bragging rights for discovering Sullivan.

      Despite Sullivan’s campy Valley Girl shtick, Cho outs him as a heterosexual. “This new generation of straight guys are the new fag hags,” Cho says with a laugh. “A straight-guy friend is the latest fag hag that you could have. Straight guys would rather hang out with gays, because gay guys are great, can teach straight guys a lot, and have really pretty straight girls to hang out with.”

      Cho’s crusade for gay rights will continue this summer when she joins the True Colors 2008 tour (coming to Vancouver on July 2) for a few appearances. “It’s amazing to be in that audience because it’s very queer. It’s like a rock festival but supergay and something that needs to be done”¦in order to rid the world of homophobia.”