Margaret Cho: Matt Damon’s Attitude on Diversity Is Common in Hollywood
A lot of people on the Internet were surprised by Matt Damon’s controversial comments about diversity on Project Greenlight, but Margaret Cho wasn’t one of them.
The comedian and actress, who performs at the Wilbur on Saturday, believes that many people in the industry share the Boston-bred actor’s attitude towards the subject.
“Matt Damon’s attitude is probably pretty common in the way that people think in Hollywood, which is unfortunate because I think diversity has to happen all around,” Cho says. “I don’t think that Matt Damon thought that he was saying anything wrong or thought that he was expressing anything that isn’t a commonly held belief.”
Check out what else the stand-up star had to say about diversity in Hollywood, what to expect from her show in Boston, and more.
What are some of the topics you plan on covering when you perform in Boston?
Everything is sort of a reaction to what’s happening. From different things like talking about Bill Cosby, or talking about the systematic use of rape by ISIS, or police brutality—a lot of this is coming from things that I’m reacting to in the news. Also, it’s the loss of my mentors, Joan [Rivers] and Robin [Williams] both, which was really devastating. This is just an overview of jokes about the year that I’ve had.
Since you’ve been commenting on issues regarding race relations for so long, do you think that things have gotten better or worse over the years?
I think we’ve always had police brutality. We’ve always had racism. Yet, we didn’t know about it because we didn’t have the same kind of coverage [that we do now]. Now everybody is a reporter. Now everybody has the potential to be the camera, the eye on the scene. Everybody has cameras on their phones and they’re using them. We just have more awareness.
What did you think about Matt Damon’s comments about diversity on Project Greenlight?
Matt Damon’s attitude is probably pretty common in the way that people think in Hollywood, which is unfortunate because I think diversity has to happen all around. We need to level the playing field everywhere. It’s great to cast a film with diversity in mind, but it’s also important to look to diversity behind the camera. I don’t think that Matt Damon thought that he was saying anything wrong or thought that he was expressing anything that isn’t a commonly held belief. Hopefully there’s sort of awareness now, because there was a terrible backlash around his comments. I think maybe that will shift the way we think about film and television.
There are a few Asian American comedians—like Ken Jeong—who are starting to get more attention on TV and owe a debt to your groundbreaking series. It must be great to see at least some progress.
My campaign right now, I really want Ken Jeong to host SNL. They’re going into their 41st year, but they’ve never had an Asian American on the show. Ever. Rob Schneider is half Filipino. Fred Armisen is one-quarter Japanese. Three-quarters of an Asian is not an Asian. They’ve never had an Asian American ever in 41 years. The closest I think is John Belushi or maybe Steven Seagal. I’m really interested in asking why that is. I just don’t understand. They totally overlooked a huge population of this country and the world and I think it’s time to address it. They really need to do this. I really think Ken’s the guy, Ken’s so talented. He’s launching his new show. It’s the perfect time for him to host and so I’m really pushing for that.
What’s the one piece of advice you wish you could go back and give yourself when you were first starting out?
Confidence. Especially when I was doing my television show All-American Girl, if I had the awareness that I was the star—I had no idea that I was the star. That’s the stupid thing, that I didn’t know that I was the star and that I could call the shots. I was so scared of everybody else. I really was scared of the white people. It felt like I was the housekeeper. I didn’t feel like I was the star, but they used that to their advantage too. That was sort of the era of very, very strong show stars who weren’t getting their way and were very demanding about what they wanted and had a lot of integrity. I think they took advantage of my youth, my insecurity, and inexperience to take this opportunity and really ruin it, unfortunately. Because of that, there was not another Asian American family show for 20 years, which is really appalling. What’s great is that ABC now has two Asian American family shows.