Appearances matter, especially in Hollywood — a harsh fact Korean-American comedienne Margaret Cho learned the hard way. Criticized by industry execs for the “fullness of [her] face,” Cho embarked on a life-endangering crash diet during the filming of her short-lived television sitcom, ABC's All-American Girl, in 1994. She lost 30 pounds in two weeks but paid a high price, suffering kidney failure and becoming addicted to drugs, alcohol, and diet pills. Now, with her trademark combination of sharp candor and endearing self-deprecation, the boisterous San Francisco-born and -bred comic chronicles her wild ride to the top of the Hollywood A-list in her memoir I'm the One That I Want. In it, Cho retells some of the stories from her critically acclaimed one-woman show of the same name, but delves deeper into her childhood, shamelessly sharing traumatic episodes from her painful adolescence.
As in her routines, the self-proclaimed “fag hag” takes on race, gender, body image, and sexual taboos in her book, using her gift for gab and her time in the spotlight to shatter stereotypes of Asian women as meek and demure. Filled with priceless moments and amusing anecdotes — picture Cho dressed as Raggedy Ann for her job at FAO Schwarz recording phone-sex messages for her second job — the autobiography is surprisingly somber. But then, self-disclosure is a risk, and Cho never shies away from the challenge. By examining the tensions and contradictions in her own life, she uses her work to “change the way people view race and expand opportunities.” Clean, sober, and even tougher now, Cho is developing material for a new concert tour called “The Notorious C.H.O.”; she describes it as a “female-driven piece about reclaiming the self” — a subject about which Cho is definitely an expert.