It's no small feat to generate more controversy than a Bill Cosby rape joke, but Margaret Cho managed it at the Golden Globes award telecast on Jan. 11 with her appearance as "Cho Young Ja," a North Korean general and journalist who, hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler claimed, was the newest member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the voting body behind the annual awards show.
In a nod to her role as late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il on Fey's 30 Rock, the actor and comedian donned a military uniform, spoke in a heavy accent, and affected gruff humorlessness (and some unexpected insight into Orange Is the New Black: "It's funny, but not ha-ha funny. Also, Piper and Alex's relationship is very toxic"). She demanded a photo with Meryl Streep, and declared the show a failure due to its lack of Dennis Rodman and babies playing guitars, and goose-stepped off the stage.
The bit instantly became the most divisive aspect of the ceremony, with some calling it out as a racist caricature and others defending it as a genuinely edgy moment. Cho, speaking to BuzzFeed News on the phone from her apartment, was unapologetic, and sees it as an extension of what she's been doing in her stand-up for years.
"I'm of North and South Korean descent, and I do impressions of my family and my work all the time, and this is just another example of that," she said. "I am from this culture. I am from this tribe. And so I'm able to comment on it.
"I can do whatever I want when it comes to Koreans — North Koreans, South Korean. I'm not playing the race card, I'm playing the rice card. I'm the only person in the world, probably, that can make these jokes and not be placed in a labor camp."