Edinburgh

Edinburgh Fringe Festival is over, and I barely survived.  Thanks to all who came to my shows in the beautiful and historic Dans Palais. It’s a theatrical tent that is over a hundred years old, and the ghosts haunting the venue adored my shows and helped me make my voice reach new heights. I scarcely could comprehend that the tender notes and fragile yet mellifluous country whispers emitted by the monitors and speakers were made by my very own vocal cords. I don’t think I am an amazing singer, but in the Dans Palais, the spirits of those who have sung and played and joked and danced in there before me, took pity on my flagging health and growing disillusionment at the racism/sexism/homophobia I found myself on the receiving end of on a daily basis, and made my voice sound like an angel’s – albeit a racially/sexually frustrated one. The ghosts of the Dans Palais not only helped my singing – they helped me write a shitload of pretty great jokes.

I was supported there not just by metaphysical means. I had the best crew in the entire festival, who would bring me manuka honey and lemons and ginger and sometimes other things that I wont mention here, which I needed and was most grateful for. Sometimes the technical crew are not treated well by the “stars” of the festival, but to me, the crew were my stars. They were my celebrities. I wanted to photograph them secretly and love them afar, like my favorite pop idols. I needed them as much as I worshiped them. I was ill from the moment I emerged, jetlagged and confused into the icy northern air of Scotland, and I am still not better – hopefully Australia will lift my spirits and my mucus.

Edinburgh was rough for me. My apartment was across town, and part of my illness was due to the fact I had to commute on foot about 9-10 miles a day back and forth from my venue and I could never get a cab in the frozen rain. Cabs don’t stop for people of color there, even if they are wearing obviously expensive coats. I was attacked by racial slurs and sexual harassment and odd insults about being fat during my walks through the residential areas and the parks. I finally resorted to wearing headphones so I wouldn’t have to hear people, mostly kids yelling at me. Some schoolboys screamed “thunder thighs” at me and I was so furious I chased them down with my camera phone. I got some shots and posted them on my twitpic. Not faces, because they are kids, but I just did it to scare them. Oh how they ran. It was really funny and satisfying for me, albeit undignified for a 42 year old woman running down a gang of 15 year old boys with an iphone screaming, “You think I am fat? Say it again! Say it into this camera! Say it! Say it say it!!” omg they ran! It was real good.

I just couldn’t take people screaming shit anymore, so headphones blasting Camille O’Sullivan helped me forget the ugliness of the street insults I heard trying to walk through the Meadows 10 times a day. There were lots of warnings that I shouldn’t walk through the park alone at night, that comics were targeted because we were known to have cash from late night gigs, but I was filled with so much anger, I made it a real point of pride to walk the Meadows alone, especially after midnight, my rage sparkling around me like a holy glittery aura made of razor blades and shattered glass.  I would hold a small pointed knife (yeah it’s a Corpus Christi necklace but it is fucking sharp and could take out an eye) in one hand and then a big umbrella in the other, held tight and aikido style. No one stopped me or said a thing and if I were the dishonest type I probably could have been the one relieving people of their money.

I almost had several nervous breakdowns. One was an ill advised late night show near the very beginning of the month. The show was so insanely bad, and after having to go up after many straight white male comics talking their talk of ‘race’ and ‘sexuality’, when I got up, the audience booed me on sight. I am talking about booing and hissing before I began speaking. Getting booed on the way to the microphone. Perhaps they were embarrassed because they’d been laughing at jokes about ‘asians’ and ‘gays’ and ‘women’ all night – and the subject matter they’d been on the floor in hysterics about suddenly shamed them because they saw that I was a witness to it, and now they had to face me. I bombed so badly, but in an odd way because the audience were definitely laughing, but they were stifling their laughter, hands over their mouths, for to laugh at me, meant to show that I was right. For whatever reason, they could not bear for me to be right. Because I wasn’t white. Because I was a woman. Because I was putting my sexuality out there – my gayness was not something I was ashamed of, or even explaining. I was talking about it, as this is me, that is who I am.

In the UK, I was told over and over that women aren’t funny, but for whatever reason, I am. It was like being told over and over that I am not a woman. It was a compliment wrapped up in used toilet paper. It’s dog shit in a baby blue box from Tiffany’s. I got paid handsomely for that horrible gig and spent it all on a gorgeous handbag. Also, my good friends Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman and Hari Kondabalu were at the show, and they carried me out from backstage and brought me to a local bar and poured red wine into me and administered an epidural of love and support and unequivocal praise and then we all took a pedicab home, covered in a blanket and it felt like we were in a horsedrawn carriage. They healed me sufficiently for the trip back and I got home and called a friend in Nashville and cried and screamed for two hours, which used up all my minutes for the entire month. What kept me from chartering a plane back home – which I was on the verge of doing every single day, whether it was someone making the mistake of quoting a negative thing a reviewer had said – and from now on – if you feel the need to tell me about something like this – take a breath – and then don’t do it. DON’T TELL ME WHAT REVIEWERS HAVE TO SAY. DON’T TELL ME. DON’T TELL ME BECAUSE YOU THINK IT’S COOL THAT WE HAVE THE KIND OF RELATIONSHIP WHERE YOU CAN BE ‘HONEST WITH ME’ BECAUSE NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE – WE DON’T. DON’T TELL ME. DON’T TELL ME. DON’T TELL ME. Take a breath, and DON’T TELL ME – or someone saying that they should bring back ‘queerbashing’ because they didn’t think a gay comic was funny, or fellow comics from sexual and ethnic minorities who I was thrilled to meet and immediately complimenting and praising their stamina and talent and tenacity for surviving and thriving in a place like this – being openly and unabashedly nasty to me because they thought I was some kind of threat because I am trying to do the same thing and surely in a place like this there’s not room for both of us to strive, or perhaps my success makes theirs insignificant and they go out of their way to insult me in any way they can so that they can show the white audiences that even though we are ‘the same’ it has no bearing on anything and that they are ‘better’ for insulting me, that they need to distance themselves from me because they want to be judged on their merit and not on their association with their race/sexuality/etc – etc. What kept me from coming home, defeated and sick and feeling like I had failed a nation – a few moments that kept me going….

My incredible shows at the Dans Palais. The audiences were incredible. I loved them. I needed them. They came in droves every day, rain or shine. They made me feel like I belonged. I guess I do. They loved my singing and my jokes and asked for more every night. These were some of the best shows I have ever done in my life.

After midnight backstage with Bob Downe and Camille O’Sullivan, drinking wine and being in love with each other. Camille had seen and loved “The Sensuous Woman” in NY, and couldn’t believe I knew her work. She’s one of my favorite singers of all time. She is the boss bitch.

Singing with Bob Downe at Rich Hall’s hoedown. He was my man, my Bob. We call each other “Mom” and “Dad.” One night without dad I sang Emmylou Harris and I felt like I offended the crowd with my nonwhiteness yet absolutely undeniable talent at singing country music like it should be sung as I am a bonafide country singer who records in Nashville and lives part time in Atlanta. I am fucking country. My name is listed at the Ryman Theatre in Nashville alongside Minnie Pearl, Johnny Cash, the Dixie Chicks and Elvis Costello. I know that sounds weird, but I actually really am proud I played that venue. So there. They should be proud.

Scott Capurro’s Position with David Mills every day at the Gilded Balloon at 4:15. I checked into that show every day like it was a 12 step meeting.

Trying to pursue Hannah Gadsby to no avail. Her show was stunningly funny.

Enjoying Hari Kondabalu and W. Kamau Bell’s comedy.

Semi-stalking Paul Foot until he came to my show and really enjoyed it. He’s my favorite.

Bitching at Bruce Devlin’s show with Ava Vidal, Tom Allen with W. Kamau Bell in the audience. Bruce and I also had some fine, fine fine meals together. Maybe I ate more than I should but I don’t give a shit – it was raining and I had to walk 10 miles a day in it.

Leather Jackets from All Saints – ok I bought two. I deserved them I really did.

Watching The Jane Austen Argument and Andrew O’Neill with Holly Gaiman and Bob and basically having a musically life changing evening.

Catching moments of Evelyn/Evelyn at Assembly and Amanda Palmer‘s gig at the HMV Filmhouse because we were scheduled at the same times and so I had to race across town to see one or two songs which wasn’t enough but worth everything to me.

Late dinners at Amanda and Neil’s with Eric, Superkate, Jason Webley, Holly and all various and sundry family – oh I ate so much my pants are painfully tight after this month.

Briefs, briefs, briefs, briefs and briefs. My boys…. Especially Fez and Mark. My beautiful boys.

See you next year Scotland.

Me and Bob Downe
Me and Bob Downe

Fez from Briefs and Me
Fez from Briefs and Me

Fez from Briefs and Me
Fez and Me

My Gay Family at the Dans Palais
My Gay Family at Dans Palais – Mark, Dad, Mom and Fez

My Gay Family at the Dans Palais

Bob Downe and Me
Dad and Mom

Bob Downe
Bob Downe

Mark, Bob Downe and Fez
My Boys

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18 Comments. Add To The Mix…

  1. your show was magnificent. it’s a shame that you’re trip wasn’t all great tho. It is a beautiful city tho unfortunately most of it’s inhabitants are less than so. I do hope you return tho and i shall be there again and again. Thank you

  2. I met you early one morning in Black Medicine Coffee Shop in Edinburgh. It was the first day of the Fringe and I was so nervous and surprised to run into you that I’m sure I looked like Justin Beaver fan. I was excited because someone who makes me laugh at the very worst times of my life was suddenly there in front of me. It was my first time in Scotland. I felt very isolated being of color and suddenly here is someone of diversity like me. It didn’t seem like such a different place at that moment. You were kind to me. You accepted a hug even though I’m sure you just wanted to go over your material and be left in peace. It sounds dumb but that one hug seemed to steady me and I felt like maybe I could deal with the wave of fat jokes and black jokes that I had caught in less than 24 hours. The fat and black jokes somehow stung worse there than in America. I rock the “strong black woman” thing, but sometimes the nastiness finds a hole in my armor.

    I saw your show the next night and I felt stronger afterward. Perhaps it was because you gave so much. I wish that I could have repaid the favor. If I could have sent back to you a protective shield from the assholes in the Meadows, I would have. If I could have changed the way they think I would.

    From one fat, sassy, black girl that found strength from a sassy Asian woman in a rainy racist/sexist/homophobic place, let me just say, I feel ya. Your fans feel ya. If the rest of them are like me, we’re sending back the love as much as we can and we’ll stand right next to you ready to chase down some punk ass kids and slap the mouths of any homophobic, racist, dickhead.

  3. Ouch. Ouch for the bigoted assholes who were mean to you, and ouch for me, the white girl who thinks you rock. Call them bigots, ok? Not all white people are.

  4. Sadly, those bigots do exist, much to all of our disgust!
    Your show was fantastic, and despite the fact that I hadn’t known of you until that night, I am so glad I came along with friends that night. You are fantastic performer, wonderfully funny, strong, sassy and incredibly sexy woman! Let no ignorant, stupid little person tell you other wise. Thanks Margaret, you made my Edi festival! you rock

  5. Ever the fucking victim. You use act like you hate the attention but you use it constantly in your asian-jihad against straight white men. Wimminz like you are the reason feminism is destroying everything that is good. Remember, most of everything that keeps you sisters from squatting in caves and picking fleas out of eachothers hair is a product of a white man’s brain.

    Don’t forget it, bitch.

  6. I hope you really take my words to heart, you have never “failed” our nation.

    You’re responsible for inspiring so many needed voices and blazing trails where for now, so few dare to travel.

    You’re one of kind and a blessing if I’ve ever seen one.

    Walk in Beauty,

    Charlie Ballard

  7. I hate that when you came to my country that was how you were treated. Unfortunately there are so many idiots around, i know this through experience too. People shouting at me for the way i dress wearing neon coloured trousers seems to be ammunition and then the gay thing.
    When i heard you were coming to Scotland i was so excited i have been a fan of yours since the first time i heard your Notorious C.H.O back in 2005 after reading about you in a forum.
    I went to see you on the 6th of august at the fringe , i have to say i worried for you ( even though i knew/know you are so strong.) Come the night it pissed it down with rain but i couldnt wait to see my fav comedian. My girlfriend kindly stood in the rain with me so we were first in the que to get good seats. I got to sit at the front on the right side mega excitement. You came on and just blew me away , you were amazing. I really enjoyed myself and so did my gf. All of august I thought Margaret Cho is Edinburgh i want to go see her again and again but lack of funds put a stop to it but not to my thoughts of wishing you well. You have been a huge inspiration to me in my life and have got me through my toughest times .Also your album is amazing i love it! I may have listened to it thousands of times. I look forward to your new dvd coming out and hope your read my message and know you have a hardcore Scottish fan here who loves you.

  8. You are such an amazing, inspiring woman and I’m ashamed of how you were treated in my country. I hope you know that there are so many people who appreciate you coming all the way out here. I have tickets to see you in Glasgow in October and I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about anything! Much love to you!

  9. You rock! You bring a voice of wit to everyone who’s experienced bigotry and you make it cool to be different. Keep on rocking sister!

  10. I’m not sure why this is the first time I’ve ever read your blog, but I’m so glad I did. Sometimes I COMPLETELY forget what you must sometimes still go through as a comic. This very honest post about Edinburgh was a wake up call for me! I usually think of myself as being so savvy, but I don’t ever picture you being in uncomfortable situations anymore. Because of all your love and success, I usually think of you waking up on a bed of lovely naked bodies, with some feisty pepper pot waiting to take your food order and lick you clean while you open all your new gifts from the local designer. I get jealous thinking of how awesome your life must be at times (because like all your fans do, I think we’re alike in so many ways- especially the artist part; struggling writer here- sigh). But this Edinburgh post was a reminder of just how much you’ve earned all the kudos, love and glam in your life. That you couldn’t do your job well unless you weren’t afraid to walk among the people, no matter how shitty they behave- because those who stop doing that are the ones that forget and start sucking ass. My love to you Margaret, for everything you are and all you’ve done. Not just for your talent, but for your honesty. We wouldn’t need you if those unloved baby whores didn’t exist. But they do- and there you are facing them… with a blade and an umbrella no less. Pfft. Amazing.

  11. WHAT?! Ok, I’m going to Scotland now; the first cracka’ to say something racist/homophobic to me is gonna get some extreme facial work done then and there!

    Maybe they’re all just frustrated because their women are so darn fugly…

    And, I LOVE YOU, MARGARET!

  12. wtf!??? shocked at such horrible treatment. your so wonderful & always remember that you are loved by many : )

    ignore the dickheads. we love you.

  13. Sorry to hear you had such a hard time! If you’re in Edinburgh next year i’d love to come see you.

    Oh btw, cab hailing isn’t something that happens frequently in the UK, so the reason they didn’t stop is because they don’t really stop for anyone, unless you’re in certain busy parts of the city centre or near a taxi rank. just get the number for a taxi company and order one next year! hopefully you can avoid some of the problems you had this year.

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