by Mandi Bierly
On Aug. 24, Margaret Cho will release a comedy music album, Cho Dependent, featuring collaborations with the likes of Fiona Apple, Ani DiFranco, Patti Griffin, and Ben Lee. “It’s funny songwriting, but it’s not song parody,” Cho told us recently while sitting down with EW and her Drop Dead Diva costar Brooke Elliott. Then, she launched into the story behind her favorite track on the album, “I’m Sorry,” co-written by Andrew Bird.
MARGARET CHO: I fell in love with a guy who worked on All-American Girl, which was my first TV show, and he didn’t like me back at all. He didn’t like me back. And it broke my heart. I was early 20s, really in love with him. I was in love with him for 17 years, and I never Googled him, because I didn’t want to know what had happened. In my mind, I thought I’m sure he’s married and livin’ in a white house with a wife and kid, this fantastic life that I had imagined for him. So I never Googled him, and then finally, 17 years later, I turned 40, and I thought I should Google him and just see. [Laughs] ”˜Cause he might get divorced or something. You never know, in their 40s, people switch partners. So I Googled him, and this thing came up on Wikipedia, and it said his name, and it said American screenwriter, producer, worked on All-American Girl with Margaret Cho, and in 2007, was arrested for murdering his wife. He bludgeoned her to death and stuffed her body in the attic for a month until it had partially mummified.
[Silence, as Elliott and Entertainment Weekly look at each other, jaws dropped.]
MC: So, it’s really good that we didn’t hook up. He told her family that she was in rehab, and she was an alcoholic, so they didn’t come lookin’ for her. They had a baby. The baby he left crying in a crib. So he had just killed the mother of his child, and then was trying to take care of the baby while his wife was decomposing.
BROOKE ELLIOTT: In the attic.
MC: So I’m, like, shaking in front of my computer thinking, Well, I guess that’s not gonna work out. But I loved this man for 17 years, and always held in my mind the possibility. I mean, I loved him.
BE: Did you feel free after that?
MC: I felt free, and then when I saw his picture, he didn’t look good in orange. He lost his looks, and you know, he looked all murderous.
BE: Sure. And mean.
MC: It was horrible. I was so destroyed that all I could do was write a song. I had to talk about it because it was just so profound to me, that I could’ve loved somebody like that. [He ultimately pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 26 years in prison.] A person that was a perfect match for me was Andrew Bird. We went and wrote a fantastic murder ballad about that. It’s from the murderer’s perspective. It’s sort of a country murder ballad. It’s actually a very classic kind of song for an American country music story, so it makes sense to me. So the songs are humorous, but they’re stories from my life, which has a lot of gravity. They also help me unearth stuff that is almost impossible to talk about in stand-up comedy. Things, like, that are so terrible”¦. He’s not allowed to profit from the murder in any way. He’s a writer, so he can’t write about it. But the song gives me a lot of comfort because how do you love someone who was capable of that? He did push me one time, and we weren’t even goin’ out. He had a violence in him. I don’t know if that drew me to him or what it was. Maybe it was a fatalistic urge in myself or something. But those are the kinds of things that I write songs about.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ll play some of the album in your act though?
MC: A couple of the songs. I’m also dying to do stand-up comedy again. I’ve been working on my act in clubs around Atlanta [where Drop Dead Diva films], so I’m very like rarin’ to go. Tickets for my tour go on-sale June 11.
BE: She’s done some of her songs in her show. They’re really good.
MC: It’s about finding that good balance. My favorite is Bette Midler, because she balances comedy and music and finds a balance that is interesting.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Like a country murder ballad.
MC: Partially mummified. In the attic. I mean I loved him. I still have presents that I got him that I haven’t given to him, that I had meant to give to him, that I’ve held onto for 17 years. I’m like, Should I bake it in a cake? I don’t know. I don’t know how to deal with that.