She rose to fame as a loud, brutally honest comic who shattered the media's stereotypes of Asian women as polite, bow-scraping servants, and whose style and presence was once compared to comedy icon Richard Pryor. The comedienne would go on to star on the short-lived series "All-American Girl" (1994-95), a harrowing experience she recounted in her concert film, "I'm the One that I Want" (2000). The show was the first in a series of many sold-out performances showcasing Cho's raunchy, in-your-face riffs about sex, bodily functions, ethnic myths, drag queens, and more. Beginning with "Notorious C.H.O." (2002), her stand-up acts tackled more political issues, but the one theme that always garnered the most laughs was Cho's hilarious impressions of her Korean mother. Cho's second foray into network television was more successful; she starred on the reality series, "The Cho Show" (VH1, 2008), and was a regular on Lifetime's hit comedy, "Drop Dead Diva" (2009- ). In 2010, Cho showed off her dancing skills on ABC's popular series "Dancing with the Stars" (2005- ), and took her act on the road with "Cho Dependent," another gut-busting concert tour from one of comedy's most talented, inspirational and fearless performers.
Moran Cho was born on Dec. 5, 1968 in San Francisco, CA. The daughter of Korean immigrants, Cho had a very colorful childhood and adolescence growing up on Haight Street in the 1970s. At 16, she started doing stand-up at The Rose & Thistle, a comedy club located above her parents' bookstore, and became a fixture on the San Francisco comedy circuit, traveling with and befriending fellow acerbic comic, Janeane Garofalo. Shortly after, Cho won a comedy contest where the first prize was opening for comedian Jerry Seinfeld. After moving to Los Angeles in the early 1990s, Cho's fan base multiplied, boosted by appearances on late-night talk shows and comedy specials such as "Bob Hope Presents the Ladies of Laughter" (NBC, 1992), "Late Show with David Letterman" (CBS, 1993- ), and "HBO Comedy Half-Hour" (HBO, 1994). Cho's stand-up act was increasingly centered on destroying ethnic myths, particularly the media's portrayal of Asian women as meek, humble and polite. On stage, the self-possessed Cho was loud but not obnoxious, and crude without being vulgar. Mainstream audiences were just starting to get a taste of Cho's humor when she began starring on her own series, "All-American Girl," the first sitcom to feature an all Asian-American cast.
ABC touted "All-American Girl" as based on Cho's own life and stand-up routine, yet it ended up promoting the very same stereotypes she sought to tear down. Cho starred as a rebellious college student living at home with her conservative Korean parents (Jodi Long and Clyde Kusatsu), her brother (B.D. Wong), who works as a doctor, and her grandmother (Amy Hill), a grumpy old woman who keeps reminiscing about living in Korea. To play the TV version of herself, the network reportedly forced her to lose weight. Cho starved herself, and became addicted to diet pills and alcohol in order to get thin for the pilot episode. The ill-fated show also failed to represent Cho's raucous, often blue humor, because it was watered down for mainstream consumption. After airing only 19 episodes, the network canceled the series, but Cho continued to struggle with the addictions brought on by pressure to look good on network TV. She eventually kicked her addictions and appeared in a number of films including "It's My Party" (1996) as the friend of AIDS patient Eric Roberts, the comedy "Fakin' D' Funk" (1997), and John Woo's action thriller "Face/Off" (1997) with John Travolta and Nicolas Cage.
Cho unleashed her pent-up rage and frustration stemming from her "All-American Girl" experience in the no-holds-barred concert film, "I'm the One that I Want." Recorded at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco, the show was ripe with Cho's candid accounts of being forced to work with a consultant on how to act "more Asian," her extreme weight loss, and addiction to drugs and alcohol. Some of Cho's funniest material came from imitating her mother's reaction as she opened up boxes of gay porn at the bookstore they used to own. Cho, who once dated musician Chris Isaac and director Quentin Tarantino, earned rave reviews for her second concert film, "Notorious C.H.O.," where she addressed the September 11 terrorist attacks, and went on extended rants about her sexual escapades. Her third sold-out performance, "CHO Revolution" (2004), showcased Cho's comic physicality - cheeks puffed out, eyes crinkled, and her mouth curling into a little smirk as she delivered her monologues. Cho brought the house down with her witty stories, including her experience on an airplane with a steward who offered "Asian chicken salad?" to all of the passengers, until he got around to her and, looking unsure, offered "chicken salad?" In her next concert film, "Margaret Cho: Assassin" (2005), the comedian served up her usual raunchy, drug-induced sex stories and body image issues, but also condemned the U.S. government for its conservative social policies, a running theme through all her work, along with her commitment to fight homophobia, sexism, racism and other social inequities.
In 2008, Cho starred on the reality series "The Cho Show" (VH1), a semi-scripted show featuring her parents and an eccentric group of friends as they navigated a series of outrageous adventures, including hosting their own beauty pageant and fending for themselves in the wilderness. Plenty of hilarious moments ensued, like the time Cho - who appeared naked in every episode as a statement to her "All-American Girl" producers - considered a variety of cosmetic procedures as she approached her 40th birthday. In 2009, she starred on Lifetime's hit comedy, "Drop Dead Diva," which explored the events after an after-life accident transports the soul of a clueless fashion model into the body of a shy, overweight attorney (Brooke Elliott). Cho played the lead character's personal assistant who always keeps her on track while she deals with her new life as a curvy woman. That same year, she tackled body image issues in her concert film, "Margaret Cho: Beautiful," by sharing her own story of self-acceptance. In 2010, she kicked off her concert tour, "Cho Dependent," which coincided with the release of her comedy album of the same name, and featured laugh-out-loud songs about sex, drugs, rock & roll and lice. That same year, she joined the cast of "Dancing with the Stars," along with singer Brandy, actress Florence Henderson, and former NBA star Rick Fox, among others. She went to deliver an hilarious guest starring turn as an incognito Kim Jong-il - the dead supreme leader of North Korea - on an episode of "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006- ), which earned her an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series in 2012.