She speaks quietly and deliberately. For a second I think I’m chatting with a stand-in, a handler or perhaps her secretary.

Margaret Cho is on a short break from touring with her new show “Beautiful” when I talk with her via phone from her Los Angeles home. She’s ironing out press details for the debut of “The Cho Show,” her VH1 reality series before hitting the trail again for an Aug. 6-7 (she's doing two shows each night) performance at Zanies in Nashville, the next stop on her tour.

“I love to perform in the South,” Cho said. “My perspective is a different one. I have a very progressive voice and I’m happy to be part of that.”

Her words sound much different when not competing with the reverb of maniacal laughter. But the meaning, her perspective, her message; it all comes across loud and clear.

Her progressiveness was nurtured from adolescence in San Francisco, her hometown. The culture there is starkly different from Music City's. The people in Nashville are marvelous Cho said, and the scenery is beautiful. But Nashville doesn’t quite offer the forward-thinking, multi-cultural, ultra-liberal upbringing that Cho enjoyed growing up.

“San Francisco is so clear and integrated,” Cho said. “I feel like I have a great world view and a handle on things because of it. I’m proud to be from there.”

Her handle. That’s what makes her comedy more than stand-up. On stage, her racy act inspires belly-laughs that reduce audience members to tears, but the message behind the chuckling, the very essence of Cho, has amassed her an impressive list of awards.

She recently received the First Amendment Award from the ACLU of Southern California and the Intrepid Award from the National Organization for Women, among many others. She has been honored by numerous GLBT groups including GLAAD, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and PFLAG for “making a significant difference in promoting equal rights for all, regardless of race, sexual orientation or gender identity” according to her Web site.

Her raucous humor and advocacy for GLBT rights have garnered Cho the adoration of gays the world over. In July, Cho was deputized by the city of San Francisco to perform same-sex marriages there and married two couples during the Bay Area's gay pride festivities.

She was invited to be emcee of Cyndi Lauper's True Colors Tour which brought some of the nation's biggest celebrities together to raise awareness of discrimination against the GLBT community and helped raise money for many GLBT advocacy groups. The tour was sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG, Logo and many others.

This past February, Cho was honored as the venerable gay-queen when asked to serve as chief of the gay pride parade in Sydney, Australia, one of the largest Pride celebrations in the world. While there, Cho made an appearance on Kathy Griffin's Bravo series "The D List" and debuted her own latest comedy tour, "Beautiful."

In her new act, Cho pokes fun at all that is funny, scary and downright deadly about our culture's take on 'being pretty.' Like most of her acts, "Beautiful" was inspired by Cho's sometimes tumultuous real-life events.

While sitting in for a radio interview, Cho was asked on air by a radio DJ what she would do if she woke up one morning and was pretty.

"I said, 'What do you mean if?'" Cho said.

"He said, if you were blonde, blue-eyed, 5’11”, and weighed 100 lbs., what would you do?’” she continues. “Well, I probably wouldn’t get up in that case, because I’d be too weak to stand. After that I just pretty much went off on him. (With 'Beautiful') I wanted to break from that ideal of what it means to be pretty in our society."

When in Cho's audience, people pay for the comedy but leave the with so much more. And when "The Cho Show" premiers Aug. 21, viewers will get more than typical reality. Cho stars in the show with her assistant, her mother and father and her hair, makeup and wardrobe stylists, whom she calls her 'gays.'

"The TV show is bringing my work into a different format," Cho said. "I love what I do and I'd do it for free."

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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