Published February 07, 2012
If you think of Los Angeles, synonymous with glitz and glamour, you instantly imagine palm trees, celebrities and warm sunny weather.
But for comedian Margaret Cho LA means something different: a melting pot of cultures, underground art and tattoo parlors.
Cho, 43, lives in LA but is often on the road for work --and that travel has paid off. She has made a successful career out of her sense of humor, taking her stand up to all corners of the world and turning them into successful DVDs. She has showed off her acting chops on television shows like "30 Rock" and "Sex and the City." She has even produced and acted in her own projects like "Bam Bam and Celeste" and "The Cho Show."
Stand up, producing and acting isn't enough for the ambitious Cho, who has even made satirical musical albums like "Cho Dependent," which landed her a Grammy nod for Best Comedy Album.
While many would go to LA and attempt to rub elbows with the rich and famous, drive down the coast with the top down or walk down Hollywood Boulevard, Cho says when she is in town, she likes to soak up rock 'n roll music and take a Harley out for a spin.
Margaret Cho: I consider LA a travel destination even though I have been living there for like 20 years because I am literally never there. I am in Los Angeles less than I am in pretty much any city including London, New York, Atlanta. I am everywhere but Los Angeles. I love Los Angeles.
Fox 411: What’s the personal appeal of Los Angeles to you?
Margaret Cho: I think the appeal for me of Los Angeles is because I have always wanted to live there. I grew up in San Francisco, and in the 80s there was this incredible glamour that exuded from the Valley. Everyone wanted to be a Valley girl and be really new wave, and sort of the neon really crazy hair do, new wave music, style. I would go there in the summers and it was just such an exotic place. Finally, when I moved there to pursue show business, it was such an exciting event, but then I never stayed there. I was always on the road. As a comedian you make your money by traveling, so I never really got to live there even though I live there.
Fox 411: What are the top three things that you need to do when you get home?
Margaret Cho: Two of them are going to get tattooed. Two tattoo places that I frequent in Los Angeles, incredible places, one is called “American Electric Tattoo” on Sunset where I get a lot of my work done. I work with a guy named Craig Jackman who is phenomenal; I'm like a regular. I don't have a bar that I go to, so I guess that would be like my bar. I go there so often, and if I'm not there, I go to Memoir “Tattoo” which is on Beverly Blvd. It is owned by my very good friend Kim Say and Sean Barber. I am tattooed by every single person that works there. For me, that is what I do in my down time.
If I am not doing that I am riding motorcycles in Glendale by Harley Davidson.I also have rock ‘n roll stuff that I do at Largo, which is over on La Cienega, which is my favorite live venue for comedy and music in the world. It is a city that offers me so many opportunities for fun.
Fox 411: Tell us about the food.
Margaret Cho: Los Angeles is the best place for all kinds of things. Where I live is a Middle Eastern population, so there are a lot of great Middle Eastern options. There is a really great, wonderful restaurant called “Carousel” which is in Glendale. It is also a place where you can go on the weekends and see belly dancing, which is my old job. I don't really dance anymore, but I really love the art form and studied in Cairo and I really have a strong appreciation for Middle Eastern dance, and by proxy Middle Eastern culture and food. So that’s a major restaurant for me. It’s a party place. The food is phenomenal.
If you are looking for Thai, Jitlada on Sunset is probably the best place to have Thai food outside of Bangkok. It is really authentic, unusual things that you would not expect. It is a big foodie place. It is not a really large restaurant, but the food is so good, so phenomenally good. It is really worth it.
Fox 411: For someone who has not been to LA, what would you recommend them to bring to really soak up LA?
Margaret Cho: You should bring an idea that Los Angeles is not always about Hollywood. It is a real melting pot of cultures. You have Koreans, you have a huge Armenian population, you have the hugest Latino population. So, you have a lot of different stuff that is out of Hollywood.
You have all these ethnic populations; you have this incredible art scene. There is lot more to LA then what people think of as being the Hollywood aspect of it. I don't even notice it. The Hollywood aspect, even though a lot of people are involved somehow in the film and television industry out there, it is not really the prevailing notion or feeling that I get. Mostly because I work in entertainment, but I mostly work out of town.
Fox 411: Do you recommend that people to see LA beyond Hollywood or should try to enjoy that aspect as well?
Margaret Cho: Celebrity culture is really enclosed. It is hard to get in, so you are kind of waiting. There are people that want to see celebrities. For me, I have a different view of celebrities because a lot of them I know and I am friends with, so I don't see them as being any different than anybody else. If you want that, I think that there is a lot of opportunity for that, but it is a lot of waiting and you are not really sure who you are going to see.
Everyone is a lot shorter in person, so you don't see them over everybody’s heads. If you are looking for the Hollywood sort of thing, you can go to tapings of shows, you can go see “Dancing with the Stars”, or the “Price is Right”. You can be an audience member. That is a very big deal and can be a lot of fun if you are in that mindset of “this is the tourist experience I would like to have.”
It is actually hard work because those shows take a long time to film, usually. You're sitting there and its always freezing cold, so bring a jacket because it will always be colder inside than it is outside. You can totally get into that, it takes place all over the place.
Fox 411: Any parting words on LA?
Margaret Cho: Everybody ends up there at some point or another for whatever reason. It is a place where you can see probably every bad play. Every actor will end up having to act there for some reason. Every artist will show there. It is one of the major cultural centers of the world. I think that it is just as vital and important as New York City.
For me, it is a glorious city. It is one that is filled with broken dreams and dashed hopes, which I think really makes a great city, much like New York. I feel that it is just remarkably physically very beautiful.
I always really have a heart moment whenever I am driving into the downtown, and I see the skyline. I think I am so lucky to be here. I just encourage people to come.