In her lengthy career, comedian Margaret Cho has ventured into a variety of mediums. Stand-up, television, movies, books, music; Cho has done it all.
Cho will perform material for a new comedy tour at Northern Quest Resort and Casino on Thursday, but the next project on the busy comedian’s plate brings her back to television.
Two days before she spoke with The Spokesman-Review, it was revealed that TNT has ordered a pilot for “Highland,” a drama Cho wrote and executive produced with Liz Sarnoff.
This news is a long time coming for Cho, who will also star in “Highland.” The show has been in the works for two years, bouncing from one network to another before finding a home at TNT.
“Highland” is about two dysfunctional Korean-American families with a shared patriarch who must come together in the wake of a tragedy. As it turns out, Cho’s just-out-of-rehab character is the most reliable person in both families.
Cho is no stranger to television, having appeared in “Sex and the City,” ” ‘Til Death,” “30 Rock” and “Dr. Ken,” and, in a main role, as Teri Lee in “Drop Dead Diva.” She also competed on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2010.
But “Highland,” which is inspired by Cho’s experience with substance abuse, is only her second time in a starring role after “All-American Girl,” her sitcom that ran for one season in the mid-’90s.
Hopes were high when the sitcom aired, but “All-American Girl,” of which Cho had no creative control, failed to connect with audiences and critics.
That hasn’t deterred Cho in her work to get “Highland” off the ground though, as she said television has changed considerably since “All-American Girl” was on the air.
“It was a really old-fashioned era of television that had been invented in the ’40s and ’50s,” she said. “It still stayed that way until the explosion of cable later in the ’90s and certainly now, it’s a totally different world.
“I’ve grown up along with television, and I’m excited to finally return with another form of an Asian-American family, one that we haven’t seen before.”
Like her return to television, Cho’s most recent release, last year’s “American Myth,” marked a return to music.
The album, like Cho’s first musical release “Cho Dependent,” is not a typical comedy album, with a live set broken into individual tracks, but rather a collection of songs with the bite of Cho’s onstage material.
Cho pays tribute to her friend on “Anna Nicole” and to those lost to AIDS in “Ron’s Got A DUI,” covers “Beautiful in L.A.” by Garrison Starr, who also worked on the album, and sings with her parents on “We So Worry.”
Cho has always been a musical person, learning to play the piano as a child and picking up the guitar as an adult.
“It’s different from what I do as a comedian, but it’s a real passion,” she said.
Growing up, Cho listened to everything from the Beatles to classical music, thanks to her parents’ diverse taste in music.
When working on her music, Cho takes inspiration from artists like singer-songwriter Patty Griffin, Ani DiFranco and Andrew Bird, all of whom she wrote with for “Cho Dependent.”
“There’s a rhythm to joke writing in the same way that there is for songs,” Cho said. “But it’s a different process, especially the kind of music that’s not necessarily traditionally comedic, whether that’s song parodies or novelty songs.”
No matter what medium she is working in, everything comes back to stand-up for Cho, who said she knew from a young age that comedy was what she was supposed to do.
“Everything is about being a stand-up comedian,” she said. “It feeds back into that, so you always want to continue doing that. I’d love to be like my heroes, like Joan Rivers or even Don Rickles, people who continued to work well into their advanced ages. I really always think back to that and want to do that.”