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INTERVIEW: Margaret Cho competes on TBS’s ‘Tournament of Laughs’

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The pandemic has led to all sorts of “alternative” programming that enables virtual content. TBS’s latest offering is a play off March Madness — but with comics.

Thirty two comedians of all shapes, sizes and levels of fame are placed in a head-to-head elimination contest called “Tournament of Laughs.” It’s the sport without the sports and is even sponsored by Bud Light.

Jason Sudeikis of “Saturday Night Live” fame is the deadpan host, with the show placing the comics in somewhat arbitrary “geographic” quartiles and seeding them loosely based on how big a deal they are.

The comedians could do stand-up jokes, sketch bits, parody songs or whatever they think might be funny.

The public votes via text or voting on tournamentoflaughs.com. A winner will be crowned August 5.

I recently spoke with Margaret Cho, the San Francisco comic and actress who spent several years in Atlanta shooting Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva” in the early 2010s. Despite her California roots, she was inexplicably placed in the “East” region. She was also given a No. 1 seed in her quartile, a certain sign of respect for her accomplishments in the comedy world the past three decades.

Others in the pool includes Gilbert Gottfried, Piff the Magic Dragon, Jeff Ross, Triumph the Insult Dog and Atlanta’s Clayton English.

In Cho’s first-round match-up, she defeated Ian Edwards pretending to be her South Korean mom befuddled by COVID-19. It’s a call-back to some of her most successful stand-up bits when she was in her 20s.

In the Round of 16, after defeating Edwards, Cho Sunday night faced off against actor Michael Rapaport.

Here are excerpts from our phone interview:

Happily single: "I was with my husband for probably about 15 years. I am really thriving being single. I'm very happy. I don't think I want to live with anybody. I'm hoping I don't. I like sleeping in the middle of the bed. I can also have the temperature where I want it in the bedroom. I can watch whatever I want and eat dinner anytime."

Loving the concept of "Tournament of Laughs": "It's really funny in a different way. It's really hard to judge comedians. It's not athletics. But it's a way for us to do something creative from home. It's really hard for all of us to quarantine. For most of us, comedy is a calling. We need to do it for our mental health."

The power of a stand-up audience: "It's a weird validation. It's creepy. Narcissists need to be validated by huge groups of people or they don't exist."

K-pop fans claiming to have purchased so many tickets at Trump's Tulsa rally as a joke: "I"m a huge K-pop fan, been following it since 2011. Big fans of one band who don't like another band would reserve tickets for shows and not go. That's what they did for Tulsa. I can't believe K-pop unleashed their furor."

The social unrest in Georgia: "It hurts my heart. It's a horrible state of affairs. I really love Georgia. I love Atlanta. It's sickening what we're going through as a country. Everybody is hurting. But I feel some hope. Seeing a picture of protests in Kennesaw, Georgia, makes me think there is real change coming."

Finishing Netflix: "I really think I've seen everything on Netflix. I've gotten to the bottom of Tubi, which is the unsung hero of streaming services. It has all those movies I wasn't allowed to rent when I was a kid. I had strict parents. I couldn't watch anything starring Vanity or anything with titles like 'Avenging Angel.' Cheech and Chong. Any big druggie movies starring Willem DaFoe. Now I can!"

ON TV

"Tournament of Laughs," 10 p.m. Sundays, TBS

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