Comedian Margaret Cho couldn’t be more pleased that her TV show, “Drop Dead Diva,” which begins its second season on Lifetime June 6, has been embraced by women across the country. The show follows the life of Jane Bingum (Brooke Elliot), a personable, smart, and overweight lawyer who is actually Debbie Dobkins, a self-centered model trapped inside another body. Debbie is given a second chance at life after she dies, but is incarnated into a body much different that she is used to.
Cho plays Terri Lee, Jane’s assistant who is a bit confused as to why her boss is acting so strange, but tries to help her with things she seems to have forgotten. It turns out Debbie has inherited all of Jane’s physicial features, but not her memory.
During our interview, Cho, who is best known for her racy stand-up performances, talked about the new season of “Drop Dead Diva” and her role as Terri Lee. She also discussed why she thinks a show like this is so important to women who might feel self-conscious about the way they look.
What keeps challenging you about this role?
Well, I keep finding out new things about the character as things develop. So this year, I find out that my character is a singer, which I open the second season with a big music and dance number which is a lot of fun. I also have a soundtrack song. I made a record this year called Cho Dependent which will be out in August, and one of the songs that I wrote that didn’t make it on the album I put on the soundtrack record. So I made part of the soundtrack as well so that’s a lot of fun, too.
Hypothetically, if you were in a spot like Jane, how would you handle that?
Well, I think that if I was in that kind of an amazing situation or amazing circumstance, I would really enjoy having this whole new brain and have this whole new area of expertise. What’s wonderful about the character and about the show is that she really is much better off as Jane than she was as Deb, because as Deb her world view was pretty limited and it was very selfish. But with Jane she is such a magnanimous character, you know she has a very big heart and a very big mission to save the world. So I think that is a really wonderful thing. So I would be enjoying all of the great expanse of that.
Sometimes the word diva can have a negative connotation. How would you define that word?
Diva to me is always positive because I come from a long line of divas and working with divas. I have worked with Cyndi Lauper who is of course without question a diva. I have worked with Rosie O’Donnell who is also a great diva. To me diva never has a negative connotation. It’s always positive. It always means somebody who is strong and grand and powerful and important. You know somebody that is the center and star of the show to the depth of their being. So I always look at diva as a good thing. It’s a good word.
If you were given another chance in life, what kind of person would you like to come back as, assuming that you couldn’t come back as yourself.
Maybe Kim Kardashian. That wouldn’t be so bad. I think that would be a pretty good life for me, as Kim Kardashian. I think I would be pretty happy. I don’t know. I like her.
I love your Lil Wayne song (see it at margaretcho.com). I was wondering how do you decide who you’re going to write songs about? Are they artists that you like? Are they artists that you kind of just want to make fun of? How does that work for you?
Well, I really love Lil Wayne. That song came about because I was recording and writing with one of my producers, who is just fabulous, Ben Lee, who is an incredible singer/songwriter. So he and I would get together for our writing sessions, and for several months every time we get together we would end up talking about Lil Wayne, who we are both big fans of. So when Lil Wayne was going to prison, I thought we should write a song about it. We should do something very romantic and beautiful and simple. So we put down the song, we recorded it very quickly. It was really, really fun. For my writing – as a musician – I kind of approach it as I would as a comedian. If I want to write something about somebody or if something strikes me as funny, then I’ll write about it and sometimes it’ll become a song or sometimes it’ll become a joke, but it’s a very similar writing process.
As you proved in your second appearance on the “Ghost Whisperer,” you know your comics pretty well. What kind of super hero would you like to be if given the chance to do something like that?
Wow. Well, I to me it’s a simple skill and it should be basic for a super hero is flying. I would like to fly just so that I could be away from any kind of, you know, airport delays. That to me would be so fabulous if you could just actually physically fly yourself to New York or L.A. or wherever you need to go. I would love to be able to do that.
“Drop Dead Diva” is great in its acceptance of curvy women and helping to empower women. Why do you think it’s so important for a show like this to be on air?
Well, I think that it’s important because we just don’t have any images of beautiful, full-figured women, that we don’t have role models out there that really look like real people. I think that that is so important. If we have more representations of real-looking women on TV, you would have fewer problems with anorexia and bulimia and all of this that exists within the world today. I think in a lot of ways because of television, because you have these unnaturally thin ideals of beauty, you are really neglecting a very big section of society that needs to feel like they are important and that they matter. I think this show really does that. So I am proud of what we are and what we are to women. I am glad that this show is so successful because it’s a very important message to have out there.